The Healthcare Provider That I Am

by Paola Fonseca

During the nine years that I have been a registered dental hygienist, I have been called many different titles by patients, perhaps unaware of what I really do. Some patients have called me an “assistant”, a “nurse” or even a “doctor”. Knowing that some patients and the general public lack a precise idea of my profession, I felt inclined to elaborate on this topic.

The dental hygienist plays a significant role in the dental office and various healthcare settings such as schools, hospitals and community health centers, in addition to academic dentistry and dental education. The Dental hygiene degree offers a vast array of master’s degrees specializing in science, public health, healthcare administration and research.

An 8-hour dental board examination, a practical examination and local anesthesia exam are necessary to obtain a professional license. Dental hygienists are trained in documenting the patient’s medical history, taking vital measurements and removing plaque and calculus deposits from dental surfaces. Providing non- surgical soft tissue treatment and dental prevention treatments in addition to patient nutritional counseling and oral hygiene education are also components within our scope of practice. Dental hygienists are also expected to take CE courses to renew their license every 3 years with a minimum of 23 credits per renewal that include CPR and infection control.

One of the most important health services we provide is soft tissue management and prevention of gum disease. In simple language: we clean, maintain and condition soft tissue (gum), apply sealants to prevent the formation of cavities in young children, fluoride application, measurement of bone loss recession and bleeding points, assessment of tooth mobility, oral cancer screening and status of gum health.

As dental hygienists, our goal is to educate and create awareness in the community about the dental health-body connection. For example, diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, low birth weight and certain cancers are linked to a person’s oral health.

To learn more about our friendly, fun team, please call Herald Square Dental & The Denture Center today at Herald Square Dental Phone Number (212) 689-0024!