What Dental Hygienists Do*
Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventative dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.
Dental hygienists typically do the following:
- Remove tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
- Apply sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
- Take and develop dental x rays
- Keep track of patient care and treatment plans
- Teach patients oral hygiene, such as how to brush and floss correctly
Dental hygienists are skilled health care providers that specialize in the teeth and surrounding tissues of the oral cavity. Dental hygienists are trained to recognize early signs and symptoms of oral and systemic diseases and how oral and systemic health together affect the overall health of the patient. Dental hygienists are trained to use a variety of instruments to remove calculus, plaque, and stains from tooth surfaces. A series of examination and screenings gives insight to the hygienist to develop an individualized care plan to restore a person’s mouth to health. All of these tasks are done with optimal infection control procedures to provide safety to the hygienist and patient.
The median annual wage of dental hygienists was $68,250 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $45,000, and the top 10 percent earned more than $93,820.
Pay for dental hygienists may be for each hour worked, each day worked, on a regular yearly salary, or on commission. Some dental hygienists also get benefits, such as vacation, sick leave, and contributions to their retirement fund. However, benefits vary by employer and may be available only to full-time workers.
Most dental hygienists work part time. About 38 percent of hygienists worked full time in 2010.