Dental Hygienist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

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Dental Assistants, or Certified Dental Assistants, are responsible for providing hands-on support to Dentists and completing prep work so they can more efficiently care for patients. Their duties include completing intake paperwork and updating patient records, sterilizing and organizing dental tools and assisting during dental procedures.

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Dental Hygienist duties and responsibilities

Dental Hygienists perform basic dental duties as well as assist with more advanced procedures. Responsibilities and duties for a Dental Hygienist include:

  • Screening patients during checkups
  • Reviewing a patient’s dental history
  • Recommending care to improve a patient’s oral health
  • Teaching patients about proper teeth cleaning techniques
  • Performing preventive dental care
  • Applying fluoride treatments
  • Taking x-rays and reviewing them for signs of dental diseases
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Dental Hygienist Job Description Examples

What does a Dental Hygienist do?

Dental Assistants work at dentist’s offices, orthodontic practices and dental surgery centers to help administer patient care during dental cleanings and oral surgery. Dental Assistants educate patients about procedures and dental maintenance, give instructions for oral care, order x-rays and other scans and reach out to patients about scheduling routine appointments. They set up dental exam tables, assist during cleanings and fillings and hold dental instruments like suction tubs and mirrors while the Dentist works. Dental Assistants also keep track of administrative duties like scheduling patients, stocking supplies and billing patients or insurance providers.

Dental Hygienist skills and qualifications

Aside from technical knowledge and skills, Dental Hygienists must have:

  • Verbal and written communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • The ability to convey complex health information in a simple way
  • The ability to interact with young and old patients
  • Excellent critical-thinking skills
  • Drive to stay up to date on latest dental tools and methods

Dental Hygienist salary expectations

A Dental Hygienist makes an average of $38.44 per hour. Pay rate may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location. 

Dental Hygienist education and training requirements

Dental Hygienists need at least an associate degree in dental hygiene, though some employers may require a bachelor’s degree. Associate programs last three years, and bachelor’s programs last four years. Each program contains a mix of classroom study and clinical training. These educational programs prepare students for a Dental Hygienist career as soon as they graduate. 

Dental Hygienists also need to have a state license, and requirements vary by state. Usually, a Dental Hygienist needs to graduate from a dental hygiene program and pass an exam. They also need to complete continuing education to keep the license current. 

Dental Hygienist experience requirements

After meeting the necessary education and training requirements, a person can start working as a Dental Hygienist. So, even though a posting may ask for an entry-level candidate with no formal experience, applicants will have gained some real-world experience during their time as a student. Employers seeking a Dental Hygienist who can perform more detailed procedures, like placing temporary crowns, might ask for at least three years of experience.

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Frequently asked questions about Dental Assistants

 

What is the difference between a Dental Assistant and a Dental Hygienist?

Dental Assistants are in charge of general patient care and administrative support while Dental Hygenists spend most of their time working one-on-one with patients during cleanings. Dental Hygenists undergo more rigorous training than Dental Assistants because they need to be able to recognize oral diseases, recommend treatment and use dental tools to scrub out stains, remove plaque and add sealants to teeth. Dental Assistants spend most of their time processing the logistics of a dental visit, offering assistance when needed and communicating with patients to answer questions and schedule future appointments.

 

What makes a good Dental Assistant?

A good Dental Assistant needs to have many technical skills and personal characteristics that allow them to focus on efficient administration and attentive patient care. Good Dental Assistants are highly focused and have a steady hand, allowing them to position dental tools correctly and hold them still throughout a procedure. They are also organized and friendly, able to act as a welcoming receptionist behind the front desk, clearly explain dental issues to patients and track patient records. Excellent Dental Assistants are careful and tidy and are able to consistently clean up during procedures to follow safety, health and sterilization standards.

 

What are the daily duties of a Dental Assistant?

One an average day, a Dental Assistant arranges the patient schedule, sends reminder texts to patients and briefs Dental Hygienists and Dentists on their list of procedures for the day. They help patients sign-in, process their insurance information, administer pre-appointment questionnaires. Before a visit, Dental Hygienists prepare exam rooms by wiping down surfaces and preparing medications. During a procedure, Dental Assistants can hand instruments to the Dentist and perform supervised cleaning activities. Afterwards, the Dental Assistant explains aftercare instructions, cleans the exam room and performs exit paperwork.

 

What are the different types of Dental Assistant?

There are several types of Dental Assistants that have different levels of responsibility based on their certifications and experience. Certified Dental Assistants, Registered Dental Assistants, Certified Orthodontic Assistants and Certified Functions Dental Assistants are some of the main certification titles available that allow Dental Assistants to specialize in a particular area of care.

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