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A dental hygienist or oral hygienist is a licensed dental professional, registered with a dental association, or regulatory body within their country of practice. Prior to completing clinical and written board examinations, Registered Dental Hygienists must have either an Associates or Bachelors degree in Dental Hygiene from an accredited college or university. Once registered, hygienists are primary healthcare professionals who work independently of or alongside Dentists and other dental professionals to provide full oral health care. They have the training and education that focus on and specialize in the prevention and treatment of many oral disease. The dental hygienist is a primary resource for oral cancer screening and prevention. Most importantly, they spend a large amount of time at each patient visit looking at the soft tissues of the oral cavity, where the early manifestations of oral cancer occur. They can choose to work in a range of dental settings from independent practice, private practice, and specialist practice to the public sector, and they can also work in residential aged care facilities. Dental hygienists have a specific scope of clinical procedures they provide to their patients. They assess a patient's condition in order to offer patient-specific preventative and educational services to promote and maintain good oral health. The use of therapeutic methods assists their patients in controlling oral disease, while providing tailored treatment plans that emphasize the importance of behavioral changes . In most jurisdictions, hygienists work for a dentist or dental specialist, and some are licensed to administer local anesthesia and perform dental radiography. The major role of a dental hygienist is to perform periodontal therapy which includes things such periodontal charting, periodontal debridement (scaling and root planing), prophylaxis (preventing disease) or periodontal maintenance procedures for patients with periodontal disease. In addition to these procedures, hygienists may take intraoral radiographs, apply dental sealants, administer topical fluoride, administer local anesthesia, and provide patient specific oral hygiene instruction. They are also able to work at an orthodontic clinic and can perform many tasks there such as selecting and sizing of orthodontic bands for dental braces, the removal of orthodontic appliances. They are also able to make dental impressions for the construction of study casts and mouthguards.
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