Dental hygienist
Published on: Monday, December 06, 2021
By: K Krishnan
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YOU may have heard of dentists. They do dental fillings, implants, extract teeth and repair teeth.  You may not have heard much about dental hygienists. Sometimes they work with school children.  They take care of your teeth. They conduct examinations or x-rays as required. 

They carry out specialised dental cleaning. In schools they teach children how to brush teeth and how to take care of their teeth. 

It is not a very popular career in Malaysia. Today let us learn about Dental Hygienists and find out what role they play in society. 

According to the Malaysian Dental Council, in Malaysia there are about 12,000 registered dentists.  About 600 registered dentists work in Sabah.  

In many advanced countries, Dental hygienists work in large government dental clinics. 

Some large private dental clinics may also have dental hygienists. 

In Malaysia there are more dental nurses who work as “ dental hygienists.”  Although they are not doctors, but they are trained in the field. Many dentists also act as dental hygienist in Malaysia. However, in future there may be a demand for dental hygienists in society. 

What do Dental hygienist do?

To understand Dental hygienists better let us look at their daily routine:
  • Remove tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
  • Apply sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
  • Take and develop dental x rays
  • Assess patients’ oral health and report findings to dentists
  • Document patient care and treatment plans
  • Educate patients about oral hygiene techniques, such as how to brush and floss correctly

Dental hygienists use many types of tools – including hand, power, and ultrasonic tools – in their work. In some cases, they use lasers. 

Hygienists remove stains with an air-polishing device, which sprays a combination of air, water, and baking soda. 

They polish teeth with a power tool that works like an automatic toothbrush. Hygienists also use x-ray machines to take pictures to check for tooth or jaw problems.

Dental hygienists talk to patients about ways to keep their teeth and gums healthy. 

For example, they may explain the relationship between diet and oral health. They may also advise patients on how to select toothbrushes and other oral care devices.

Work schedules

Many dental hygienists work part time in some countries.  Dentists may hire hygienists to work only a few days a week, so some hygienists work for more than one dentist.

Dental hygienists typically need a Diploma in dental hygiene. 

Programmes usually take 3 years to complete. All states require dental hygienists to be licensed. 


Dental hygienists typically need a Diploma / degree in dental hygiene; they may also get a bachelor’s degree. 

Master’s degree programs in dental hygiene are available but are relatively uncommon. 

A bachelor’s or master’s degree usually is required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs.

Important Qualities

To be a Dental hygienist you need some important qualities:-

Critical thinking. Dental hygienists must be able to assess and evaluate patients and to develop oral hygiene care plans.

Communication skills. Dental hygienists must share information with dentists and patients about oral health status, oral hygiene care plans, and, if necessary, lifestyle counselling.

Detail oriented. Dental hygienists must follow specific rules and protocols to help dentists diagnose and treat a patient. Depending on the state in which they work and/or the treatment provided, dental hygienists may work without the direct supervision of a dentist.

Dexterity. Dental hygienists must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight spaces on a small part of the body, which requires fine motor skills using precise tools and instruments.

Interpersonal skills. Dental hygienists work closely with dentists. They also must be considerate in working with patients, especially with those who are sensitive to pain or who have fears about undergoing dental treatment.

Problem-solving skills. Dental hygienists develop and implement oral hygiene care plans to maintain or improve patients’ oral health.


Many dental hygienists work part time. Dentists may hire hygienists to work only a few days a week, so some hygienists work for more than one dentist.

In the US, Employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

Some of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the Covid-19 recession that began in 2020.

Demand for dental services will increase as the large baby-boom population ages and as people keep more of their original teeth than in previous generations.

Studies linking oral health and general health, along with efforts to expand access to oral hygiene services, will continue to drive demand for preventive dental services, including those performed by hygienists. 

In addition, demand for dental hygienists is expected to grow as state laws increasingly allow dental hygienists to work at the top of their training.


Prevention is better than cure. Many people are concerned about their teeth. They want to preserve their natural teeth if possible. They can only achieve this, if they take care of their teeth. 

The best person to teach them on how to retain their original teeth are the dental hygienists.  

So, Malaysia may need more dental hygienists in future.

Q and A

For further information on careers write to [email protected] 

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