So, You Want to be a Dental Hygienist?

So, You Want to be a Dental Hygienist?

What is a Dental Hygienist?

A Dental Hygienist is one of a team of professionals that ensure you have healthy teeth, gums and sweet smelling breath. The alternative is bad breath and rotten teeth.

What exactly does a Dental Hygienist do?

A dental hygienist is an oral health professional trained specifically to examine patients and identify signs of oral disease, clean teeth and educate the patient on their oral health.
Their daily duties include:

  • Examine the patient’s mouth, teeth, gums and jaw and assess the patient’s oral health including taking and developing x-rays, making initial diagnoses of gum disease if it exists and report the findings to the dentist
  • Document the patient’s care and treatment
  • Educate the patient on the current condition of their mouths and the best oral hygiene techniques – brushing, flossing, diet, equipment needed to improve and then maintain their own oral health
  • Provide preventative care to combat tooth decay including removing tartar, stains and plaque above and below the patient’s gumline
  • Whiten teeth
    • Apply sealants and fluorides to help protect the patient’s teeth
    • Outside of the dentists’ office a dental hygienist may also teach on the requirements and subjects of the profession, carry out research or work in public or school health programs. If this sounds appealing, you will need to have a Bachelor’s degree.


Does a dental hygienist get to use any cool equipment?

Oh yes, it’s not just the dentist that uses power tools! A dental hygienist has an array of hand, power and ultrasonic tools, from the air-polishing device and x-ray machines to lasers used to clean and polish teeth.  X-rays are not simply to see if the patient needs a filling but also if there are any jaw and bone level problems that need to be addressed.

Safety equipment and protocols are in place and strictly enforced. No one wants infectious diseases being passed on to anyone else. As in all medical facilities the use of X-rays has a prescribed set of rules. Safety glasses, surgical masks and gloves are worn by all dental staff. No one wants infectious diseases being passed from patient to patient.


What training do I need to become a dental hygienist?

Here’s a great link about becoming a Dental Hygienist in New Zealand  You can find a number of different courses across New Zealand and Australia.

But it’s not all about the degrees or the equipment. You must:

  • Enjoy working with people, both the patients and the rest of the team
  • Be patient, positive and understanding. Your patients are usually nervous, if not downright scared. It’s your job to make them feel at ease
  • Have good communication skills with both the patients and other team members
  • Possess physical stamina
  • Detail orientated
  • Passionate about good oral health


A great smile makes people feel better, not just physically but emotionally as well. And it’s the best recommendation your patients can give you. If you’re looking for an exceptional team of dental care professionals that you may like to work with, look no further than Team Dental

Rebecca is a hygienist in our Papamoa clinic. She has come to us from Australia and is an amazing addition to our Practice providing both hygiene and therapy treatments. She is friendly, kind and most importantly gentle.

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