A dental hygienist is a licensed dental professional who specializes in preventive care. Most hygienists are licensed to administer local anesthesia, depending on the applicable regulations in their area. Cleanings, radiographs, sealants, scalings, and root planings are among some of the procedures frequently performed by a hygienist. In most states, hygienists work for a dentist, however in some locations, hygienists are allowed to practice without a dentist's supervision.
Becoming a dental hygienist requires formal education. The most common requirement for a dental hygiene degree consists of a two-year degree after science and general education prerequisites. Courses include anatomy, oral anatomy, materials science, pharmacology, periodontology, nutrition, and clinical skills. There are also four-year and six-year degrees in dental hygiene. In addition, the American Dental Hygienists' Association has defined a more advanced level of dental hygiene, the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner.
Salaries for Dental Hygienists vary depending on experience and geographic location. The average hourly wage for hygienists in 2002 in the US was $26 per hour.