The Dental Hygienist

What is a dental hygienist?

A dental hygienist is a paramedic trained at HBO level, who works in oral care. The profession of dental hygienist is regulated in the Individual Healthcare Professions Act (Wet BIG). This BIG Act came into effect in 1997. The BIG Act is a quality law and its purpose is to promote and monitor the quality of professional practice. The law also protects the patient against incompetent and careless actions by healthcare professionals. The area of ​​expertise for the dental hygienist is defined in the law. The title dental hygienist is a title protected by law and may only be used by those in possession of the dental hygienist diploma. The diploma is obtained after successful completion of the 3-year (from academic year 2002-2003 a 4-year) HBO course. The training requirements are also regulated by law.

What does the dental hygienist do?

The tasks performed by the dental hygienist are primarily aimed at prevention – the prevention of caries (cavities in teeth) and gum disease. In addition, the dental hygienist also performs curative tasks (= aimed at healing), such as treating gum disease. Examples of activities of the dental hygienist are: performing an oral examination and, if necessary, taking X-rays and/or dental impressions. Providing extensive information about the development of caries, gum disease and the effect of dietary habits on the teeth. Providing extensive information about dental care and performing a complete dental cleaning, during which plaque, tartar and deposits are removed. Carrying out preventive treatments including the application of dental protective agents (e.g. fluoride) the application of a ‘lacquer layer’ on (newly broken) teeth and/or molars (sealing) the polishing of fillings. In addition, the BIG Act provides that the dental hygienist, provided that he is competent and authorized, may administer anesthesia on behalf of the dentist. The dental hygienist with work experience can also do additional training, for example learning how to fill small cavities in teeth on behalf of the dentist.

When is a visit to the dental hygienist recommended?

  • the gums bleed when brushing
  • teeth or molars become loose
  • the gums are red and swollen and no longer close tightly around the teeth
  • the gums recede
  • cavities often occur, tartar or deposits often form on the teeth
  • a bad taste or bad breath is present
  • oral care is a problem for some reason
  • the accessibility of the dental hygienist is regulated in the BIG Act
  • children up to the age of 18 are fully reimbursed for the oral care treatment

Where does the dental hygienist work?

The dental hygienist can work in many different fields of oral care, including:

  • in a practice of a dentist or dental periodontist
  • in a private practice (free establishment) in a practice of a dental surgeon or orthodontist
  • in a hospital or psychiatric institution
  • in an institution for mentally and/or motor handicapped people
  • at a university or military medical service
  • at a Municipal Health Service in a nursing home
  • in an oral hygiene course at a university of applied sciences in commerce.

Are the costs reimbursed?

More and more health insurers reimburse the care provided by the dental hygienist, but sometimes set certain conditions. It is wise to inquire about this first. Also discuss the costs associated with the treatment with the dental hygienist prior to the treatment. This prevents problems afterwards.


View all brochures on oral hygiene here: