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Dental Hygiene

Overview

Dental hygienists are a vital part of the team that meets the oral and overall health needs of patients. While dental hygienists are best known for cleaning teeth, they do much more. They provide treatment for early and moderate gum disease. They take, process, and interpret x-rays (radiographs); apply sealants and fluorides to teeth; and document patient care. They also play an important role as prevention specialists. They teach patients appropriate oral hygiene techniques, such as tooth brushing and flossing, and counsel patients regarding nutrition and tobacco and their impact on oral health.

Hygienists are also trained to recognize the warning signs of potentially life-threatening diseases whose early symptoms first appear in the mouth. These include oral cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, HIV, diabetes, and eating disorders. While they don't diagnose, they can guide patients on questions to ask their dentists.

Overall, dental hygienists are primarily responsible for life-long monitoring and protection of patients' oral health.

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Last Reviewed: Apr 02, 2007

Michele P Carr, RDH,  MA Michele P Carr, RDH, MA
Associate Professor of Dental Hygiene
Associate Professor of HS Nursing Quality & Research
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University