What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

dental-hygienist Credit: Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

A dental hygienist performs the initial teeth cleaning services when a patient visits the dentist's office. The hygienist also performs basic oral care check-ups, including looking for gingivitis. When necessary, the hygienist advises the patient on more effective cleaning and oral care maintenance.

Thorough teeth cleaning is standard during routine dental visits. The hygienist uses various tools to clean and remove plaque, tartar and stains. Flossing is also commonly performed. When due, the hygienist also takes x-rays of a patient's mouth for a dentist to use in reviewing any health concerns. After basic cleaning, the hygienist providers a fluoride treatment.

At the end of the cleaning, the hygienist calls a dentist in for a more thorough oral exam. At this time, the hygienist communicates any known concerns and consults with the dentist. Following the dental exam, the hygienist may advise the patient on follow-up care and any appointments. If no follow-up treatment is needed, the hygienist may help sign the patient up for a next check-up.

The advisory role of a hygienist includes inviting a patient to ask questions about oral care. Advice may include direction on proper brushing and flossing techniques, mouthwash use and proper nutrition for maintenance of healthy teeth.