Patient care is at the heart of what dentists do. But the truth is that most dental offices couldn’t run without hygienists. Hygienists are licensed oral health professionals who work hand in hand with dentists to provide excellent care. But they’re also the soul of the practice, helping run things with skill, compassion, and calm.
Hygienists build relationships with patients and play a unique role in welcoming and encouraging our youngest patients. They’re rock stars in preventive care and helping patients establish excellent oral health habits. When it comes to routine checkups and cleanings, hygienists often spend as much or more time with patients as dentists do. So they’re a vital part of the team.
What Training Do Hygienists Have?
The path to becoming a dental hygienist is a little different for every individual. Still, all hygienists pass a certification exam and earn a license from the state, just like dentists and other medical providers.
According to the American Dental Association, hygienists can go through community colleges, technical colleges, dental schools or universities. Many hygienists earn an Associate’s Degree to get the skills they need. However, some hygienists earn a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene from a four-year university-based program. Dental hygiene programs include both classroom and clinical education as students work with patients with guidance from supervisors.
To practice in a dental office or another setting, hygienists must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. In Virginia, hygienists must earn a license from the state Board of Dentistry after passing a state-specific clinical component.
What Is A Hygienist’s Role?
At a routine visit, the hygienist is usually the first provider we interact with. As you may have noticed, your hygienist often takes care of much of the legwork during checkups, including the initial screening process and cleaning. Some of the essential tasks hygienists take on include the following:
- Perform dental screenings
- Provide treatments like fluoride and sealants
- Do in-office cleanings to remove plaque and tartar
- Take X-rays
- Advise patients on oral hygiene practices and nutrition, showing patients how to brush and floss properly and providing tips for taking care of their teeth at home
- Assist the dentist and admin staff with charting and patient records
- With training, hygienists can administer local anesthetics and nitrous oxide
A hygienist doesn’t diagnose or treat dental problems and can’t do fillings, extractions or other procedures that require a dental degree. However, they can assist the dentist with these procedures and play a crucial role as an additional set of hands.
Why Are Hygienists So Important In Dental Practices?
When a patient comes in for a dental checkup, a hygienist is often the first provider they see. These caring professionals set the tone: a supportive and skilled hygienist can make a visit less stressful and more productive. Here are some reasons why hygienists are at the heart of a great dental practice:
- They have excellent people skills. They understand that dentists’ offices cause anxiety for many patients and are skilled in helping patients stay calm.
- They’re great listeners and are responsive even when patients can’t speak clearly.
- They know the ins and outs of routine care and ensure cleanings and screenings go smoothly for patients and dentists.
- They help patients communicate concerns to the dentist.
- Family practice hygienists are skilled at working with children and putting young patients at ease…and older ones, too.
Building A Top Family Dentistry Team
At Greenhill Family Dental Care, our dentists are top-notch and have earned the respect and trust of our community. But our patients also know that a practice is not just about the dentist: it’s about the team. Our outstanding staff is a big part of why we’re known for providing responsive and compassionate dental care.