Who is a registered dental hygienist?

a dental hygienist smSection 11 (b) of the Dental Hygienists Regulations states that a member of the College of Dental Hygienists of Nova Scotia who holds a practising licence is entitled to use the title “Dental Hygienist” or “Registered Dental Hygienist”, and use the initials “D.H.” or “R.D.H.”

This title is protected under Section 24 (2) of the Dental Hygienists Act of Nova Scotia which states no person shall take or use the designation dental hygienists unless they are entitled to engage in the practice of dental hygiene under the Act.

Section 22 (1) of the Dental Hygienists Act (2007) states:
The practice of dental hygiene means the application of professional dental hygiene knowledge for the purpose of providing therapeutic, preventative and maintenance services and programs for the promotion of optimal oral health and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing,
(a) includes assessment for dental hygiene services, the planning of dental hygiene interventions to prevent oral disease and the evaluation of the progress and results of dental hygiene interventions and services, oral health practices and behaviours;
(b) includes such practices as prescribed in this Act or the regulations; and
(c) excludes such practices as prescribed in this Act or the regulations.

(2) Where appropriate in the practice of dental hygiene, a dental hygienist collaborates with other health professionals for the provision of oral health services, health education and health promotion in order to integrate preventive oral health care into general preventative care.
(3) As part of the practice of dental hygiene, a dental hygienist may act as a researcher, clinician, consultant, administrator, manager, educator or health promoter.

Additional Sections of the Dental Hygienist Regulations (2009) provide clarity on dental hygiene Scope of Practice as well (e.g., s25 and 26). Together, those two documents help to define the scope of practice for dental hygiene in Nova Scotia.     

Registered Dental Hygienists in Nova Scotia:

  • Meet specific educational and other registration criteria
  • Utilize the Dental Hygiene Process of Care Model: Assessment, Diagnosis, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation
  • Practice using a Code of Ethics and Practice Standards
  • Use an evidence-based practice model
  • Write a National Certification Exam
  • Promote wellness
  • Provide educational, preventive, and therapeutic oral health services
  • Maintain continuing competency 
  • Practice in a self-initiating manner
  • Have specific education for specific practice procedures, e.g., local anaesthetic administration
  • Are legally, ethically and professionally accountable and must recognize their individual scope of practice.

Where does a registered dental hygienist work?
As a result of legislative changes which took effect on May 15, 2009 when the Dental Hygienists Act of Nova Scotia and pursuant Regulations took effect, it was expected that new practice environments for dental hygienists in Nova Scotia would emerge. This legislation was intended to facilitate the public’s access to dental hygiene care by allowing alternatives to the practice setting in which dental hygienists have traditionally worked.
Currently in Nova Scotia, most dental hygienists practice in private dental offices as employees. A small number own and operate independent dental hygiene practices (stand-alone or mobile), work with the Department of Health in the Public Health setting, at Dalhousie University's Dental Hygiene Program, or in other settings, as outlined below.  

Practice environments include, but are not limited to:

  • Clinical practice – as an employee or self employed situation
  • Institutions (e.g. correctional facilities)
  • Public health and community health
  • Homecare and other outreach programs
  • Mobile Clinics
  • Primary health care centres
  • Hospital facilities 
  • Educational institutions (e.g. universities, community colleges)
  • The military
  • Research
  • Industries (e.g. insurance and dental supply companies)
  • Consulting firms
  • Professional presenters
  • Regulatory bodies and professional associations
  • Government (e.g. policy planning)
  • Forensic laboratories


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