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 most 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.
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.
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.