April is Oral Health Month, and it only makes sense that we spend an entire week honoring the contributions of dental hygienists, who play such an essential role in the field of dentistry.

This April 7-14 is National Dental Hygienist Week, and in celebration of the special week, we’re sharing more about the valued role of dental hygienists at Ingenious Dentistry and other dental practices across the nation. From what to expect during a dental appointment to what makes an excellent dental hygienist, keep reading to learn more about these hard-working professionals.

What Do Dental Hygienists Do?

If you have a few dental appointments under your belt, you may think that you have a pretty good idea of what dental hygienists do on a daily basis. However, you may be surprised that in addition to spending time with you during your visit, they also do a considerable amount of work “behind the scenes.”

Our dental hygienists are an integral part of our team, both in the work that they do for patients and other tasks that support our office as a whole. Here are just a few of the day-to-day responsibilities that are included in the role of dental hygienists:

  • Perform initial oral health screenings
  • Take dental x-rays
  • Complete teeth cleanings, removing plaque and tartar buildup using dental tools such as polishers and scrapers
  • Apply preventative treatments, such as sealants and fluoride
  • Assist the dentist on various procedures
  • Educate patients on proper oral hygiene, including proper teeth-brushing, flossing, nutrition, and other important elements of oral care
  • Communicate with a dentist and other dental professionals regarding patients’ oral health
  • Document patient information in patient charts
  • Office administration and management tasks, such as welcoming patients, scheduling appointments, and contacting patients for reminders and appointment confirmations

As you can see, dental hygienists are an absolute necessity to patients, dentists, and support staff alike.

How Do You Become a Dental Hygienist?

If you’re considering a job as a dental hygienist, there is a considerable amount of training and education that comes long before seeing your first patient. A dental hygienist is a specialized, skilled career field that requires a state license.

Depending on a hygienist’s specific career goals, they may choose to pursue either an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. However, regardless of the education path he or she selects, becoming a licensed dental hygienist requires participation in a program approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). CODA sets the standards for dental hygiene programs, ensuring that all meet or exceed the proper requirements to ensure patient health and safety.

Hygienists study a broad range of topics in preparation for their careers, including:

  • General education: Communication, sociology, and psychology
  • Biomedical science: Anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, chemistry, immunology, pharmacology
  • Dental science: Oral pathology, radiology, pain management, tooth morphology
  • Dental hygiene science: Oral health education, patient management, medical and dental emergencies, infection and hazard control, ethical and legal principles

These are just a few of the areas that a dental hygienist must successfully master before he or she can earn accreditation. In addition, they must complete a combination of classroom coursework and supervised clinical experience, as well as hands-on clinical practice and rigorous state exams – and that’s on top of the in-office training we require at Ingenious Dentistry.

With their extensive range of professional experiences and in-depth education, dental hygienists are highly-qualified professionals who are well-equipped to meet your oral health care needs.

What to Expect from Your Dental Hygienist During Your Next Dental Appointment

When you visit Ingenious Dentistry for a preventative dental exam, one of the first office professionals you encounter is likely to be a dental hygienist. After the hygienist brings you back into the private exam space, he or she will ask you questions about your dental and medical history. If you are a returning patient, you can expect to discuss any changes to your oral health or concerns since your last visit.

Then, the hygienist will typically take x-rays of your teeth (this is typically a once yearly practice). X-rays allow for a detailed look at the health of your teeth and jaw, allowing our team to pinpoint any potential issues and provide the appropriate care.

After x-rays are complete, your cleaning will begin. Your hygienist will use a series of dental tools to remove tartar (calculus) and plaque. During the cleaning, he or she will also assess your overall oral health and look for any areas that may require treatment. Once your teeth are cleaned, the hygienist may apply preventive treatments such as sealants or fluoride.

They will then talk to you about any suggested improvements to your oral hygiene habits. In some situations, the hygienist might recommend certain oral health products specifically suited to your needs. You might even receive a post-appointment goodie bag with complimentary product samples and a brand-new toothbrush.

At that stage, the dentist will arrive to complete his or her portion of the visit. After reviewing your information and their findings with the dentist, the hygienist may assist them in their comprehensive exam.

Thank a Dental Hygienist for National Dental Hygienist Week 2021

There are many professionals working hard to support our Houston dental office, and it is our dental hygienists that tackle everything from patient care to helping the office team. At Ingenious Dentistry, our practice simply wouldn’t be possible without our talented team of dental hygienists. We thank them and all hygienists for their contributions this National Dental Hygienist Week – and every week!

Next time you visit our dental office in Houston, we encourage you to take a moment and thank your dental hygienist for everything they do!

Looking to schedule a dental cleaning in Houston, TX? Call our office today at (713) 795-5905.