What is a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist is a regulated health professional who may work in a variety of settings in your community. This includes private practice clinics (e.g., dental or dental hygiene clinics), public health, hospitals, long-term care facilities, educational institutions, dental supply companies, government, forensic dentistry, and research. Dental hygienists are an important part of your health care team. They work with other health professionals, including dentists, denturists, pharmacists, and physicians, to ensure you get the care you need. Your dental hygienist will work with you to determine your care plan and to help you maintain proper oral health.

In Nova Scotia, in order to provide dental hygiene services, an individual must be registered and hold a practising licence with the College of Dental Hygienists of Nova Scotia (CDHNS).  These individuals are the only ones who are entitled to call themselves "registered dental hygienists" or "dental hygienists", or use the initials "D.H.” or “R.D.H” in Nova Scotia. 

Dental hygienists are educated, regulated, and expected to comply with legislation and Standards of Practice. 

As a regulated health professional, dental hygienists are required to comply with applicable legislation and standards of practice, including the Dental Hygienists Act of Nova Scotia (the Act), the Dental Hygienist Regulations (the Regulations), and CDHNS Standards of Practice.  For example, they are expected to: 

  • provide safe, effective, ethical, and competent dental hygiene care
  • maintain and improve their level of competence through continous upgrading of knowledge, skills, and judgement through the CDHNS Quality Assurance program (a combination of mandatory continuing education hours and practice hours)
  • be accountable for their actions
  • always provide care within their individual level of competence (knowledge, skills, abilities, and judgement)  

Want to know more about what dental hygienists can do in Nova Scotia ("scope of practice")?

Together, the Act and the Regulations (2009) help define the scope of practice in this province. As necessary, the CDHNS has developed additional Standards or Policies to provide further clarity on certain procedures.  

Where does a registered dental hygienist work?

Practice opportunities for dental hygienists continue to grow. Currently in Nova Scotia, most dental hygienists practice in private dental offices as employees. A small number own and operate independent dental hygiene practices (stand-alone or mobile), work with the Department of Health in the Public Health setting, at Dalhousie University's Dental Hygiene Program, or in other settings.