Independent Dental Hygienists

Many dental hygienists work independently outside of a traditional dental practice, and have established their own offices in convenient locations in the community or in their homes. Others use mobile equipment to deliver services to a wide variety of clients, including children, seniors, and residents in long-term care.

Dental hygienists are essential health care professionals, but they don’t just work in traditional dental offices. You will find them in independently owned dental hygiene clinics, long-term care facilities, homes, schools, and on the road, improving access to oral health care in communities across Canada.

Dental hygienists who practise independently can treat clients/patients without a dentist.

In all provinces, legislation allows dental hygienists to provide dental hygiene care without the presence of a dentist. It also allows them to own and operate their own businesses or to contract out their services. As business owners, independent dental hygienists may employ or share space with other dental hygienists, dentists, denturists, dental assistants, physiotherapists, and massage therapists to meet their clients’ needs.

Just like their dental hygiene counterparts in traditional dental offices, independent dental hygienists work in collaboration with their clients and other health professionals to provide individualized, systematic oral health care. They:

  • collect a comprehensive health history
  • assess your head, neck, and jaw joint
  • perform an oral cancer screening
  • assess the health of your mouth, oral tissues, teeth, and gums
  • identify any areas of concern
  • remove dental biofilm and calculus from your teeth and provide education on at-home oral care techniques to address gum disease.
  • place sealants or apply fluoride or other products to prevent tooth decay or treat tooth sensitivity

If, during an assessment, your independent dental hygienist identifies a health or dental concern, they will refer you to the appropriate health care professional, such as a dentist, denturist, dental specialist, speech therapist, nutritionist, or physician, for further care.

But that’s not all. Ask your independent dental hygienist about other services they can provide to maintain or improve your oral and overall health.

Independent Dental Hygienists in Your Community

While most independent dental hygienists operate storefront clinics, an increasing number have opened mobile practices (some with vans retrofitted with dental hygiene operatories) or a clinic within their home. These innovative business models allow independent dental hygienists to reach vulnerable populations, such as children, seniors, residents in long-term care and group homes, and Indigenous communities, more easily.

Long-Term Care

Meeting the oral health needs of residents in long-term care (LTC) can be challenging because of the residents’ lack of mobility or decision-making capacity, or insufficient staffing or staff knowledge of oral care. Having an organized oral care program in LTC homes is valuable. More and more independent dental hygienists are providing dental hygiene services to LTC residents using the fully equipped dental operatories within the facility or by bringing in their own mobile equipment.

Remote Communities

Independent dental hygienists often travel to northern and Indigenous communities to deliver much-needed preventive and therapeutic care to those with limited or no local access to dental or dental hygiene services.


Independent dental hygienists know that professional oral care can be costly for low-income families and may have more affordable options for their clients.

They can also provide dental hygiene care in a client’s home, reducing anxiety among those who have phobias stemming from past dental experiences. These clients may be more likely to attend regular dental hygiene appointments in such settings.

Independent dental hygienists provide oral health care to Canadians across their lifespan and are instrumental in improving access to care for underserved populations who need it the most.