Dental hygiene offers a challenging and demanding educational experience and a highly valued career opportunity. Employment and compensation compares with other allied health professions. Dental hygienists are employed in a variety of professional and interprofessional settings including private dental practices, community health agencies, private industry, hospitals, health maintenance organizations, military branches, colleges and universities, Peace Corps, World Health Organization, and foreign dental practices. The dental hygienist may function in seven professional roles: Clinician, Corporate, Researcher, Educator, Entrepreneur, Public Health, and Administrator.
SCOPE OF DENTAL HYGIENE PRACTICE (18.29.050 RCW Scope of licensee's Functions)
Any person licensed as a dental hygienist in the state of Washington may remove deposits and stains from the surfaces of the teeth, may apply topical preventive or prophylactic agents, may polish and smooth restorations, may perform root planning and soft tissue curettage, and may perform other dental operations and services delegated to them by a licensed dentist. Licensed dental hygienists shall not perform the following dental operations or services:
1. Any surgical removal of tissue of the oral cavity
2. Any prescription of drugs or medications requiring the written order or prescription of a licensed dentist or physician, except placement of antimicrobials pursuant to the order of a licensed dentist
3. Any diagnosis for treatment or treatment planning
4. Taking of any impression of the teeth for the purpose of intra-oral restoration, appliance, or prosthesis.
DENTAL HYGIENE AS A PROFESSION
"As dental hygienists, we are a community of professionals devoted to the prevention of disease and the promotion and improvement of the public's health. We are preventive oral health professionals who provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services to the public. We strive to live meaningful, productive, satisfying lives that simultaneously serve us, our profession, our society, and the world. Our actions, behaviors and attitudes are consistent with our commitment to public service".
Preamble from the American Dental Hygienists Association Code of Ethics for Dental Hygienists 1995.
In the context of an evolving healthcare system for the 21st century, dental hygienists are valued members of the healthcare workforce.
Dental hygiene is the science and practice of the recognition, treatment and prevention of oral diseases. The dental hygienist is a preventive oral health professional, who has graduated from an accredited dental hygiene program in an institution of higher education, is licensed in dental hygiene, and provides educational, clinical research, administrative and therapeutic services supporting total health through the promotion of optimal oral health. In practice, dental hygienists work collaboratively with dentists and other healthcare professionals to prevent oral diseases and promote health.
The purpose of medical and dental science is to enhance the health of individuals as well as populations. Dental hygienists use scientific evidence in the oral healthcare decision making process. The dental hygienist is expected to respect the diverse values, beliefs and cultures present in individuals and groups or communities served.