Dental Hygienists Play An Important Role In Oral Care



In recent years, an overwhelming number of studies have begun to establish a clear connection between an individual’s oral health and their overall health. The clearer this connection becomes, the more in-demand preventative oral health services become; services typically performed by dental hygienists.

As the number of dental offices begins to increase and medical and dental technologies advance, the need for qualified dental hygienists continues to rise. A position once viewed as secondary to the success of a dental office has now become viewed as vitally important, as many dentists rely on their hygienists to make patients feel relaxed, comfortable, and confident during their visits.

Expanded Roles

“Dental hygienists serve as the initial point of contact for most of our patients on a daily basis,” says Dr. Dave Matthews, a dentist in Eugene, Oregon. “Our hygienist takes all of the necessary x-rays, conduct initial oral examinations of a patient’s teeth, and help to educate patients on issues with their oral health using internal cameras and images.”

“During a typical examination, our hygienists will examine a patient’s gums for signs of disease they can then relate to me or one of our other doctors. They will then determine what a patient’s daily oral hygiene habits are like –things like diet, soda consumption, brushing habits. Whether caused by drinking coffee, tea, soda, or from smoking, our hygienists will look at the effects these types of habits have had on a patient’s teeth and make recommendations to the patient on aspects of their behavior they should consider changing for the benefit of their oral health,” said Dr. Matthews.

“They also take the lead showing our patient’s how to brush and floss properly, educating them on the dangers gum disease poses to their oral and overall health, such as the increased risk they face of developing diabetes and heart disease, and so on. Only after all of that has been handled do our hygienist turn over patient treatment to the dentist.”

Skilled Position

Like any skilled position in the medical field, becoming a dental hygienist requires graduating from a dental college accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation – a division of the American Dental Association – with a degree in dentistry or a certificate or degree in dental hygiene. Graduates will also typically be required to pass a dental hygienist exam given by the American Dental Association Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations to receive accreditation to practice in the state in which they live. However, rules for accreditation can vary from state to state.

Considering the job market in the U.S. has only recently started to improve from a recession that has made finding employment so difficult for college graduates, dental hygienists enjoy better prospects of finding a job after college when compared to many other careers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for dental hygienists will increase by 38 percent between 2010 and 2020.

“There’s a huge demand for qualified dental hygienists in not only our market, but in cities across the U.S.,” says Dr. Matthews. “Dental hygienists are like the engine for our office, and we understand how important having great hygienists are to running a successful practice.”



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