While dentists concentrate on treating tooth and gum conditions, the dental hygienist (sometimes also known as an oral health practitioner) has a vital role in helping to prevent problems from arising.
As a dental hygienist you would carry out procedures such as scaling and polishing teeth, and applying topical fluoride and fissure sealants. If you are based in a hospital , you would also help patients who are having surgery or complicated orthodontic treatment or those with particular medical conditions to maintain a healthy mouth.
Dental hygienists work in hospitals and in community dental services, but most frequently in general dental practice.
Five GCSE subjects graded A - C or equivalent, plus two A levels or a recognised dental nursing qualification.
To practice as a dental hygienist you need to have undertaken an appropriate course approved by the General Dental Council (GDC). This will allow you to register with the GDC, which is a mandatory requirement.
The course is usually two years (or up to 27 months) long on a full-time basis and is offered by dental schools and also the Defence Dental Services Training Establishment. Subjects studied include anatomy and physiology, preventive dentistry, dental health education, dental pathology and the management and care of patients. Several dental schools offer courses combining dental hygiene and dental therapy.
For information about financial support whilst taking a degree course in dental hygiene, please click here
Experienced dental hygienists can progress to become practice managers or teach on training courses. There are also opportunities to work as orthodontic therapists.
It is a requirement that all dental hygienists be registered with the GDC. You can contact the Council at:
General Dental Council
37 Wimpole Street
Telephone: 020 7167 6000
Fax: 020 7224 3294
For further information about a career as a dental hygienist, contact:
British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy
3 Kestrel Court
Waterwells Business Park
Tel: 01788 575050
Fax: 01452 886468
The British Dental Association
64 Wimpole Street
Tel: 020 7935 875
Dental hygienists are a part of the wider team of staff working in public health. For more information about other opportunities in the public health arena, visit the PHORCAST website.