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Dental Hygiene Overview

Dental hygienists are a vital part of the team that meets the oral and overall health needs of patients. While dental hygienists are best known for cleaning teeth, they do much more.  They:

  • provide treatment for early and moderate gum disease. 
  • take, process, and interpret x-rays – also called “radiographs”
  • apply sealants and fluorides to teeth
  • document patient care. 


Dental hygienists also play an important role as prevention specialists. They:

  • teach patients appropriate oral hygiene techniques, such as tooth brushing and flossing
  • counsel patients regarding nutrition and tobacco and their impact on oral health.


Hygienists are also trained to recognize the warning signs of potentially life-threatening diseases whose early symptoms first appear in the mouth. These include:

  • oral cancer
  • osteoporosis
  • cardiovascular disease
  • HIV
  • diabetes
  • eating disorders.


While they don’t diagnose, they can guide patients on questions to ask their dentists.

Overall, dental hygienists are primarily responsible for life-long monitoring and protection of patients’ oral health.


For more information:

Go to the Dental Hygiene health topic.