Dental hygienists remove soft and hard deposits from teeth, teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene, and provide other preventive dental care. Hygienists examine patients’ teeth and gums, recording the presence of diseases or abnormalities. Although hygienists may not diagnose diseases, they can prepare clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests for the dentist to interpret.
An associate degree is required for practice in a private dental office. A bachelor’s or master’s degree is usually required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs. Dental hygienists must be licensed by the State in which they practice. An applicant for licensure as a dental hygienist must be at least 19 years of age, graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program, and pass the exams.