Nature of the Work
Dental hygienists are vital members of the dental healthcare team. They are preventive oral health professionals licensed to provide educational, clinical, and therapeutic services to the public. Dental hygienists provide comprehensive care to patients in collaboration with dentists by assessing patient needs, planning for treatment and disease prevention, implementing the treatment plan, and evaluating clinical dental hygiene services.
As members of the dental team, dental hygienists are responsible for providing treatment that helps prevent oral diseases such as decay and periodontal (or gum) disease. Hygienists also educate patients to maintain optimal oral health. Dental hygienists integrate many roles in their profession depending on whether they practice in traditional or nontraditional settings to support total health through the promotion of oral health and wellness.
Preparation for the comprehensive preventive care provided by a hygienist emphasizes basic sciences, including chemistry, introductory microbiology, pathology, and anatomy and physiology. The Dental Hygiene curriculum maximizes the integration of and promotes the interrelationship between general education, biomedical science, dental science, dental hygiene science, and clinical practice components of preventative dental hygiene services.
Dental Hygiene courses build on the theoretical knowledge and clinical competencies gained each semester. Program instructors base the curriculum sequence so that students can master fundamental theory before progressing to more difficult levels of theory application. Upon mastery of fundamental theory, students begin developing the skills necessary to deliver preventative, educational, and therapeutic services to the public. The Dental Hygiene curriculum teaches the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective skills that will enable prospective dental hygienist to provide the highest quality of care to patients. Upon completing degree requirements, graduates of accredited dental hygiene programs are eligible to take the written National Board Examination for Dental Hygiene, the Central Regional Dental Testing Service clinical exam, and /or the clinical board given in the state chosen for practice. Upon successful completion of the examinations, graduates are employable as licensed registered dental hygienists.