Dental hygienists remove soft and hard deposits from teeth, teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene, and provide other preventive dental care. The hygienist examines patients’ teeth and gums, recording the presence of diseases or abnormalities. Dental hygienists use an assortment of tools to complete their tasks. Hand and rotary instruments and ultrasonic devices are used to clean and polish teeth, including removal of calculus, stains, and plaque. Hygienists use x-ray machines to produce clear x-ray images. They may use models of teeth to explain oral hygiene, perform root planning as a periodontal therapy and apply cavity-preventative agents such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants. Hygienists may be required to place and carve filling materials, temporary fillings, and periodontal dressings; remove sutures; and smooth and polish metal restorations.
Hygienists also help patients develop and maintain good oral health through education, such as explaining the relationship between diet and oral health or informing patients how to select toothbrushes and demonstrate how to properly brush and floss teeth.
With instruction and supervision, hygienists may prepare clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests for the dentist to interpret and sometimes work chair side with the dentist during treatment.