There is a misconception that dental hygienists just clean teeth, but the job duties of a dental hygienist cover areas of both patient care and after-care treatment. When a patient makes an appointment, the dental assistant will examine his or her teeth and make recommendations on the best way to care for those teeth. Hygienists work closely with dentists to treat patients in more areas than just brushing and flossing.

Patient Screenings

Some of the job duties of a dental hygienist relate to patient screenings. Before the dentist is brought in to see the patient, the hygienist will do a quick exam to look at the overall health of the patient's teeth. Depending on his or her health, the hygienist may do a more extensive exam. This allows the hygienist to identify signs of tooth decay and gum disease. The hygienist will usually report his or her findings to the dentist before the dentist completes an examination.

Patient Education

Those looking for a dental hygienist job may not consider that patient education is one of the duties of the job. Unfortunately, not all patients learn from an early age how to properly care for their teeth. They may come in with one or more missing teeth, a number of cavities, or a serious case of gum disease. Some patients also have a fear of the dentist that keeps them from making regular appointments. Dental hygienists help to make patients feel comfortable during the appointment and educate them on how they can care for their teeth between appointments.

Patient Counseling

Patient counseling is another important component of the job. If a patient has avoided seeing the dentist for a number of years, he or she may feel uncomfortable during the appointment and worried about what the dentist will think. The hygienist can help calm the patient down and assure them that they care only about treating the problems that exist. Patient counseling can also include help after a treatment. For example, when a patient has root planing and scaling down to help with gingivitis, the hygienist will provide the patients with instructions on what he or she can and should do at home.

X-Rays and Impressions

Dental hygienist also often take x-rays. Many offices now use new x-ray machines that can take a full series of images in just a few minutes. Dental hygienists can also take impressions of individual teeth or a group of teeth for making implants, dentures and other oral appliances.

Treating Patients

Many of the dental hygienist duties surround the treatments given to patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this can include removing the build up of tartar and plaque from teeth, giving fluoride treatments to patients with weak teeth and applying sealants to cracked or damaged teeth.

Dental hygienists handle regular cleanings and do thorough exams on new and existing patients to help the dentist decide on how to treat those patients. They also offer other treatments like root planing and scaling. The job duties of a dental hygienist include taking x-rays, educating patients on how to care for their teeth at home and doing regular screenings.

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