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Dental Hygiene

About the Profession of Dental Hygiene

A dental hygienist is a “licensed primary healthcare professional, oral health educator, and clinician who provides preventive, educational, and therapeutic services supporting total health for the control of oral diseases and the promotion of oral health.”

Dental Hygiene Functions and Scope of Practice

The course of study in the dental hygiene program provides a broad-based education in the social, behavioral, and biological sciences with a special emphasis on teaching, community health, and research.

Although the scope of practice for dental hygienists varies from state to state, below are some of the functions routinely performed by licensed dental hygienists, which students will learn:

  • Calculus and plaque removal (hard and soft deposits) from above and below the gumline
  • Examination of the teeth and oral structure, including a soft-tissue exam
  • Exposing, processing, and interpreting dental radiographs
  • Plaque control instruction and developing personal oral hygiene programs for home care
  • Placing temporary fillings, applying periodontal dressings, removing sutures, polishing and recontouring amalgam restorations
  • Dietary and tobacco use counseling
  • Applying caries-preventive agents, such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants
  • Educating the individual patient and the general public about the importance of good oral hygiene habits
  • Oral cancer and blood pressure screening
  • Designing community dental health programs
  • Oral health care research, data collection, and tabulation
  • Working with special population groups (e.g., minority groups, geriatric patients, mentally/physically disabled persons)
  • Delivery of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide oxygen sedation

Employment Opportunities for Dental Hygienists

A dental hygienist may work in such practice settings as:

  • Private dental offices and dental clinics
  • Research
  • Public Health
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • School districts or departments of education
  • Dental Education programs
  • Corporate industry
  • Correctional facilities
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers

Faculty Employment Opportunities
To find job openings at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry (UMSOD), visit the Faculty open positions page.

Dental Hygiene Employment Opportunities
To find dental hygiene positions through the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), visit the Career Center.

Qualifications & Licensure

Dental hygienists are licensed by individual states in which they wish to practice. Each state dictates its own licensure requirements. In order to practice dental hygiene in the State of Michigan, a licensee must have graduated from an accredited dental hygiene program, and have earned passing scores on both national and regional clinical examinations. For more specific information on licensure in the State of Michigan, visit the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Career Resources

Employment opportunities for dental hygienists have never been better. Career & Professional Organizations provides links to professional organizations and other valuable information for future dental hygienists.