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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a dental hygienist?
A registered dental hygienist (RDH) is a licensed member of the oral health team who provides treatment to prevent oral diseases such as dental caries (cavities) and periodontal disease (gum diseases). The dental hygienist also instructs patients on methods to improve and maintain optimal oral health.

What does a Dental Hygienist do?
Each state has its own specific regulations and licensure requirements. The range of services performed by a dental hygienist will vary from one to another.

Where does a Dental Hygienist work?
The dental hygienist usually works as a clinical practitioner in either general dental practices or specialty practices such as periodontics (treatment for disease of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth) and pediatric dentistry (treatment for children). They also work as educators, researchers, administrators, managers, preventive program developers, consumer advocates and consultants.

What does the “RDH” designation mean? 
The “RDH” designation is an acronym for Registered Dental Hygienist. The designation assures patients that the dental hygienist has completed a nationally accredited program, has successfully passed a state clinical examination and a national written examination, and has received a state license to provide preventive oral health care services and patient education.

Why consider Dental Hygiene as a career?
Employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow 33 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Ongoing research linking oral health to general health will continue to spur demand for preventative dental services, which are often provided by dental hygienists.

Do dental hygienists come in contact with infectious diseases/bloodborne pathogens?
Dental patients and Dental Health Care Providers (DHCP) can be exposed to pathogenic microorganisms including cytomegalovirus (CMV), HBV, HCV, herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2, HIV, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, staphylococci, streptococci, and other viruses and bacteria that colonize or infect the oral cavity and respiratory tract. These organisms can be transmitted in dental settings through 1) direct contact with blood, oral fluids, or other patient materials; 2) indirect contact with contaminated objects (e.g., instruments, equipment, or environmental surfaces); 3) contact of conjunctival, nasal, or oral mucosa with droplets (e.g., spatter) containing microorganisms generated from an infected person and propelled a short distance (e.g., by coughing, sneezing, or talking); and 4) inhalation of airborne microorganisms that can remain suspended in the air for long periods.

The MDCC Dental Hygiene Program follows the Center for Disease Control Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Health-Care Settings to reduce bloodborne exposures to patients and DHCPs.