National Dental Hygiene Month

Dental_HygieneOctober is National Dental Hygiene Month, and that makes it a good time to shine the spotlight on dental hygienists, who play a vital role in helping dental patients maintain and improve their oral health.

Although dentistry began to be recognized as a profession as early as the Middle Ages, dental hygiene training has only existed for a little more than a century. Interestingly, the advances during the 20th century in dental hygiene mirror the development of the field of dentistry itself.

Dental Hygiene Milestones

1906 – Dr. Alfred Civilion Fones, a Connecticut dentist, trains Irene Newman to remove calculus from tooth surfaces and the gingival (gum tissue) margins in hopes of preventing tooth loss and periodontal (gum) disease. Newman becomes the very first dental hygienist.

1923 – Following the beginnings of state regulation of dental hygienists, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) is formed. From very early on, dental hygienists spread their message of preventive care for better oral health in public health settings as well as private practices and institutions.

1962 – The first national board exam for dental hygienists is given in April.

1965 – The first male dental hygienist graduates from the University of New Mexico, and the ADHA amends its bylaws to ensure gender equality.

1970s – Sealants and ultrasonic scalers gain popularity. The state of Washington becomes the first to allow dental hygienists to administer local anesthesia. (Now, 44 states allow this.)

1980s – During this decade, the emergence of HIV/AIDS leads to changes in dental instrument sterilization and personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of this and other diseases.

1990s – Cosmetic dental procedures, such as teeth whitening and veneers, surge in popularity during this time period.

2000s and 2010s – Current hygienists have many more prevention and treatment tools at their disposal compared to their earliest professional “ancestors.” Multiple choices for pain control, non-surgical treatment of periodontal disease and advanced anti-bacterial treatments after procedures such as scaling and root planing are just a few of the ways in which dental hygienists are able to deliver effective health care in concert with the rest of their dental team.

“Dentists rely on their entire staff to provide quality health care,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a Phoenix-based cosmetic dentist. “Our dental hygiene professionals play an irreplaceable role in keeping our patients healthy.”


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