What does a Dental Hygienist do?

Dental hygienists assist dentists in treating patients. They use preventive, educational and therapeutic methods for the control of oral diseases to aid individual patients and groups in achieving and maintaining oral health. They are a licensed para-professional, oral health educator and clinical operator.

Dental hygienists are trained to do specific clinical procedures which aim to prevent dental disease. They work under the supervision of a dentist.

Dental hygienists may perform the following tasks:

  • Educate and counsel children and adults on dental health, plaque control, oral hygiene and nutrition
  • Remove deposits and stains from teeth by scaling and root planing
  • Assist in the prevention and control of dental caries (decay) and gum disease
  • Select and use appropriate fluoride treatments and polish tooth restorations
  • Expose and process dental x-rays
  • Make impressions of patients' mouths for the construction of study casts and mouthguards
  • Select and size orthodontic bands (braces), and remove orthodontic wires
  • Apply and remove periodontal packs
  • Instruct patients in how to look after teeth and mouth after operations.

Personal requirements

Able to perform precise accurate work.
Good communication skills.

What training is required to become a Dental Hygienist?

La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne both offer Oral Health degree courses.

La Trobe University

Bachelor of Oral Health Science is taught for 6 semesters. Students will be trained in both dental therapy and hygiene and will undertake general science units, in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pathology and pharmacology, as well as public health units and specific oral health units.

Further information about the course can be obtained from:

Bachelor of Oral Health Science 2007 Brochure

The University of Melbourne
Bachelor of Dental Studies: 1 year

Bachelor of Oral Health Therapy: 3 years - provides training for vocations in dental hygiene or dental therapy; develops health professional team skills.

University of Melbourne, School of Dental Science - Parkville:


Dental Assisting - Certificate III: 1 year ( nominal 390 hours). Underpins knowledge and practical skills required to safely and effectively perform the roles and responsibilities of a dental assistant in general dental practice.

Dental Assisting (Dental Radiography) - Certificate IV: teaches the principles of radiation safety to be applied during the exposure of a prescribed dental radiographic image. Click here for details.

Employment Opportunities

To practice as a dental hygienist in Victoria you must be registered with the Dental Board of Victoria.Dental hygienists are not permitted to set up in private practice, but must work under the supervision and direction of a dentist. They work in private practices, community health centres, dental hospitals and regional clinics. Qualified dental hygienists should not experience difficulty in finding employment.

There is currently a shortage of hygienists for the perceived needs of the work force, due mainly to the shortage of training facilities. There are limited training places available for this course in Australia and competition is keen. The size of the Victorian dental hygienist work force should remain stable.

Dental hygienists and dental therapists must work under a Code of Practice which is administered by the Dental Practice Board of Victoria. Click here for the code.


Department of Oral Health (Bendigo), La Trobe University,  Edwards Road, Flora Hill, Bendigo 3550

Phone 03 5444-7417,fax 03 5444-7977, Email oralhealth@latrobe.edu.au

School of Life and Physical Sciences, RMIT, Building 51, Level 6, Room 13, 80-92 Victoria Street, Carlton South
Phone (03) 9925 4932, fax (03) 9925 4144.  Email: laps@rmit.edu.au 

School of Dental Science, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, 711 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne 3000. Ph: (03) 9341 0275.

Dental Hygienists Association, Victorian Branch, PO Box 96, Kew 3101. Ph: 015 336 998.

Details courtesy of the JOB GUIDE, Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. The JOB GUIDE can be viewed at http://jobguide.deewr.gov.au/

Federal ADA - Dental Team - Dental Hyienist
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