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What is a Typical Day for a Dental Hygienist?

A person considering a new career or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene may wonder, “What is a typical day for a dental hygienist?” It is important to know what the typical job duties are for a dental hygienist so that a person can decide if this is how they want to spend their career. Understanding the usual activities in a day’s work for a dental hygienist could facilitate the choice of a person’s area of study for their degree.

Interview Patients About Their Oral Health

When a person arrives at a dental clinic or private practice dental office, the hygienist interviews them about their oral health. The hygienist typically asks questions such as whether the person brushes and flosses daily, which oral care products they use at home and whether or not any of their teeth are bothering them. The dental hygienist may also ask about lifestyle or behavior, such as if the person uses tobacco, vapes or consumes alcohol.

Clean Teeth

A dental hygienist spends a lot of their time cleaning the teeth of patients. They remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and gums. They polish and floss the teeth, making use of ultrasonic tools, lasers or special preparations of products that lift stains from enamel. In many cases, a dental hygienist will assist the dentist with procedures such as a dental filling or extraction. They may prepare the medications used to numb the patient. The dental hygienist also documents all of the care and procedures performed for the patient.

Perform Routine Preventive Care Procedures

Dental hygienists perform routine preventive care and diagnostic procedures for patients. They take traditional or digital X-rays of a patient’s teeth and jaws. They may take impressions of a person’s teeth so that a crown, bridge or denture can be made. Dental hygienists also apply treatments such as prescription-strength fluoride in order to strengthen the enamel of the teeth. On children and teenagers, the dental hygienists may apply sealants, which lessen the risk of a cavity in the molars. In some states, dental hygienists are licensed to extract primary teeth and place temporary crowns on any tooth.

Educate Patients About Oral Health and Self-care

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, another typical daily duty for a dental hygienist is conducting patient education. The hygienist informs patients about proper techniques for brushing and flossing teeth. Dental hygienists may make recommendations about which type of toothbrush or toothpaste to select. They also educate patients about foods, drinks and behaviors that are harmful to oral health. By explaining the relationship between diet and oral health or lifestyle behaviors and oral health, a dental hygienist can reduce a patient’s risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease or oral cancer.

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Knowing what a typical day is like for a dental hygienist is important to anyone interested in entering this career. A person’s expectations for the job might not always be in line with what an average day is like, so knowing the usual activities of a dental hygienist may make it easier to choose a career path. Familiarity with what is a typical day for a dental hygienist also could help a person decide which job setting they may want to work in throughout their career.