Dental Hygienists and What They do
Last updated Tuesday, October 4th, 2022
Plopping down into the dentist’s chair may be done without much thought. You may not even realize all the work that goes into taking X-rays and cleaning teeth. Behind every successful dentist is a hardworking team of dental hygienists. Smiles by Hanna is no exception!
A dental hygienist doesn’t simply waltz in, fill out an application and learn on the job. These professionals have been taught specifically what to do. Corners aren’t cut. Your teeth are the lucky recipients of all this customized care and attention.
Your dental health is taken seriously at Smiles by Hanna. Whether you’re coming in for a routine cleaning or have a toothache, we provide exceptional service. We want to ensure you get the most out of each visit. Our team is devoted to maintaining your oral health. Your smile should look as great as we make you feel!
What is a Dental Hygienist?
No day is the same for this essential part of the Smiles by Hanna team. There are many tasks these dental darlings may need to complete. You may see these professionals in the exam rooms but they’re behind the scenes too. There are many aspects of this career.
A dental hygienist can be the first line of defense against tooth decay and oral decline. When preventative care and dental maintenance is sought, this expert likely has the answers. Primarily found in dentists’ offices, these scrub-wearing pros get things done- all for you!
What Skills Does it Take to be a Dental Hygienist?
It takes a special type of person to fill these shoes. Some abilities that help make a good dental hygienist great include:
- Commitment to Lifelong Learning. This industry is constantly changing. Dental hygienists must stay on top of technology updates and procedures that evolve.
- Communicating Clearly. All types of people come into the dentist’s office. Being able to communicate with patients as well as other team members is a must.
- Compassionate. Some patients may be in a great deal of pain. No matter the reason for such agony, kindhearted hygienists listen in hopes of understanding.
- Critical Thinking. The ability to process information and use it for the best needs of the patient is important. Bubbleheads need not apply!
- Detail-oriented. A to-do list accompanies each task. Each procedure is made up of several tasks. Being able to follow a mental checklist is quite helpful.
- Energy. This position isn’t a desk job. Most days are filled with standing, walking, handling equipment, bending and working with those hands.
- Organization Skills. Being naturally organized can help when it comes to keeping things straight. It’s important to know who needs what when.
- Patience. Not everything goes according to plan, so being able to go with the flow comes in handy. The ability to deal well with patients who have a low pain tolerance, high energy level (like children) and dental anxiety is helpful too.
- Principled. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) lays out a code of ethics. Every dental hygienist is expected to adhere to this code.
- Time Management. This job may have a seemingly neverending chore list sometimes. Getting everything done efficiently requires taking charge of every minute of each workday.
What Can Dental Hygienist Not do?
The scope of a hygienist’s work can be large. Training comes into play for many duties. There are also many things best left up to the dentist. The average dentist has spent at least double the time securing a formal education. Specialists like Dr. Mansoor have taken this quest for knowledge even further.
A dental hygienist is not qualified to:
- Diagnose a Dental Condition. Sure, these skilled workers may spot a red flag when working on teeth, but pinpointing the problem is best left to the dentist.
- Extract Teeth. While a hygienist may assist with pulling a tooth out, the dentist takes the lead. Even without complications, a tooth extraction may go off course. Advanced dental training is needed.
- Fill Cavities. Dentists handle this procedure whether the cavity is being filled with composite resin, glass ionomer, gold, porcelain or silver amalgam.
- Perform Dental Procedures. Dentists must take care of cosmetic work, like veneers. Restorative procedures such as bridges and crowns also require a dentist for best results.
- Prescribe Medications. There are times that a patient may need something more than over-the-counter medicine. The dentist must determine when antibiotics or powerful pain pills are needed before writing a prescription.
- Provide Orthodontic Treatment. Installing braces or Invisalign takes an accredited dentist. A dental hygienist can certainly help during the procedure but there is too much at stake for inexperienced hands.
- Sedate Patients. The state of Arizona offers certification for hygienists seeking to administer nitrous oxide and/or local anesthesia. If patients desire intravenous sedation before getting work done, the dentist will need to call the shots.
What is the Difference Between a Dental Hygienist and a Dentist?
These two professionals work under the same roof for one main purpose- to give you the healthiest, best-looking smile possible. While similarities exist, there are also major differences.
A dentist is akin to a medical doctor. An undergraduate degree is only the start. Those who chose to specialize in certain areas go through even more hoops. Orthodontists, endodontists, periodontists and oral surgeons are some of the specialists in this field.
While dental hygienists keep teeth clean and protected, dentists pick up the pieces. Dentists take care of procedures, surgeries and everything in between needed to prevent pain and maintain oral health. Dentists can do everything hygienists can do but their time is usually best spent elsewhere.
Dentists are also responsible for finding out what is causing the pain and developing a care plan. Once the plan is in play, the hygienist can help ensure patients get everything they need.
What Does a Dental Hygienist do on a Daily Basis?
While a day in the life of a Smiles by Hanna hygienist varies widely, there are many routine responsibilities. You may find dental hygienists:
- Advising (and Showing) How to Keep Teeth and Gums Healthy
- Applying Protective Products Like Fluoride and Sealants
- Cleaning, Flossing and Polishing Teeth
- Examining Gums for Evidence of Disease
- Taking and Presenting X-rays
- Helping the Dentist
- Maintaining Dental Equipment
- Scheduling Cleanings
- Staying on Top of Inventory
- Updating Patient Histories
How Long Does it Take to Become a Hygienist?
Earning an Associate degree in dental hygiene takes roughly two years. A Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene also takes about two years to complete if general education prerequisites are in order. If starting from scratch, this program generally takes four years.
Both programs provide a way to enter this field. The Associate degree route may be faster, but the bachelor’s degree may offer more opportunities. Each student must decide.
Dr. Mansoor understands that an incredible dental hygienist compliments her skills as a dentist. There are many ways both the entire dental team and patients can benefit from this trained professional’s assistance. Smiles by Hanna is committed to your oral health. Hiring qualified, caring staff is how we roll.