Dental Hygienist Role, Responsibilities, and the Road to Becoming A Hygienist


A dental hygienist is a dental professional responsible for a lot of tasks inside the dental clinic. This is one of the dental professions that do not require extensive training and education needed in becoming a dentist but can also be considered a full-blown career, unlike a dental assistant, which is usually a part-time or secondary practice. Being a hygienist is more than just a job position; it is a career that offers prestige and good rewards in the dental field.

The role of a hygienist in the dental clinic is very important, and he or she has many responsibilities and capabilities that cannot be handled by a dental assistant. Although becoming a dentist is definitely more complex than becoming a hygienist, dental hygienists do undergo education and training for their responsibilities. A hygienist, however, is just part of a larger dental care team, so before you become one, you should know the exact boundaries of your role.

If you are interested in a position as a dental hygienist, make sure you know the answers to these questions first.

Some Questions on Becoming and Being A Dental Hygienist

  • How to become a dental hygienist
  • What you need to become a hygienist
  • What a hygienist does in the dental clinic

1. How to become a dental hygienist

Naturally, the first question is about how to become a hygienist. Although there is no undergraduate course for becoming a hygienist, you have to complete a full hygienist course that is available from some universities or dental technical schools. You can also check your community college if a hygienist course is available. The course you take should be accredited by the ADA or American Dental Association as a proper course for hygienist education and training. Usually, the hygienist education will last for two years, after which you will be given an associate degree. The associate degree has to come with all the theoretical knowledge and skills needed in doing your job.

2. What you need to become a hygienist

To fully become a professional hygienist, you have to undergo a licensure exam. If you pass, you will be given a license to work as a hygienist and you can begin your career in the dental field. If you don’t pass, you can re-take the exam. There is no way you can practice as a dental hygienist if you don’t pass the state licensure exam because you won’t be given a license.

3. What a hygienist does in the dental clinic

The role of a dental hygienist comes with a lot of patient interaction. Dental hygienists work closely with patients. It is their responsibility to screen patients and assess the primary needs of dentists in improving their overall oral health. Dental hygienists should know how to carefully evaluate a patient’s dental history and be able to track changes in it over time to follow the development of a patient’s teeth and oral health. Dental hygienists are trained to conduct various tests and inspections as a preliminary screening of a dental patient. This naturally involves training for conducting dental x-rays.

Unlike dental assistants, dental hygienists can perform certain dental procedures and use dental instruments. However, the number of procedures they can do is pretty limited. Some of these procedures include removing plaque deposits, applying fluoride treatments, applying sealants, and conducting cleanings.

Dental hygienists also play the role of consultant. Patients can freely consult with them as to how to properly take care of one’s teeth on a regular basis. Hygienists should also know a lot about nutrition so they can inform patients of the connection between nutrition and dental health.

Where Can You Work As A Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist has plenty of work opportunities, which is why this job really offers good personal and financial rewards. As a hygienist, you can work in a dental clinic or dental practice; the larger practices usually need dental hygienists more. Aside from that, you can also be hired as the main dental consultant in school clinics and in nursing homes. Jobs in the clinic are also, of course, available in the hospital. These are just some of the job opportunities that are waiting to hire a dental hygienist.