What does a registered dental hygienist do?

Clinical Settings:

Dental hygienists who work in practice settings where they are responsible for clinical care of clients provide a wide range of educational and therapeutic services. These services are provided in an ethical manner, using evidenced-based clinical decision making in a safe environment. Best practices indicate that the Dental Hygiene Process of Care is the framework within which all dental hygiene care should be conducted. The Dental Hygiene Process of Care consists of Assessment, Diagnosis, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation.

The Dental Hygiene Process of Care includes:

  • Assessment
  • Medical and oral health history - comprehensive to assess the connection between oral and systemic health.
  • Charting: including a periodontal assessment (determine the health of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth).
  • Use of appropriate indices and recording of baseline data
  • Ordering, administering and interpreting (diagnosing) radiographs for dental hygiene services
  • Consultation/Clearance - As required, the dental hygienist may consult with other health care professionals to ensure safe and effective provision of services.

Diagnosis and Planning

In consultation with the client, a dental hygiene treatment (care) plan is completed:

The Dental Hygiene Treatment Plan for each client includes:

  1. a complete clinical assessment
  2. a dental hygiene diagnosis [e.g., diagnosis of periodontal (gum disease) and caries (cavities)]
  3. client-centred goals/objectives
  4. planned sequence of activities
  5. client participation
  6. appropriate referrals


This will include all the services included in the Dental Hygiene Treatment Plan that are appropriate for the individual and are within the dental hygiene Scope of Practice. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Periodontal debridement:
    • Removal of soft deposits - plaque biofilm
    • Removal of hard deposits - calculus (hardened plaque) from above and below the gum line through hand or mechanical debridement (also called scaling and root planing)
    • Removal of stain - polishing of the teeth
  • Use of or prescribing certain therapeutic agents:
    • antimicrobial agents, other than antibiotics,
    • desensitizing agents,
    • anticariogenic agents
  • Individualized client education:
    • Oral hygiene self care including goals and evaluation
    • Professional advice/instruction on oral health/therapeutic products
    • Other individual assistance in prevention and education to promote oral health
    • Postoperative instructions
  • Counselling:
    • Dietary Counselling for caries control and other dentally related conditions
    • Smoking Cessation Counselling
  • Impressions of the teeth and gums for the purpose of making certain oral appliances
  • Polishing of restorations 
  • With written orders
    • Placement of restorative materials (permanent fillings)
    • Administration of oral anesthetics
    • Orthodontic procedures.

An appropriate dental hygiene recall or follow up is determined based on the individual client’s needs.
At a recall appointment, a clinical re-assessment is performed; the dental hygiene treatment plan is reviewed, discussed with the client, and modified as required. This includes the use of appropriate indices, charting, and revision of goals to evaluate the client’s oral status since their last visit.