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F A Q

WHAT IS ​AN A I R W A Y   

H Y G I E N I S T ?

An Airway Hygienist is a dental hygienist (described below) who has completed additional training to detect and manage airway issues. Left untreated, these issues often result in abnormal growth and development of the jaws, teeth, and skull, nasal septum and turbinates, tonsils and adenoids, subpar diaphragmatic function, compromised posture and gait, digestive concerns, poor sleep quality, and affects mental wellness.


Similar to the process of becoming a Biological Dentist, Holistic Dentist, or Neuromuscular Dentist, training  to become an Airway Hygienist in the United States does not require a specific series of coursework, testing, certification, licensing, or registration with a state regulatory board pertaining to this added practice focus. Becoming an Airway Hygienist typically involves instruction in the detection and management of Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders including the tongue-tie spectrum, leading to the practice of myofunctional therapy which uses patient motivation and instruction to improve the function of orofacial muscles. Related training for the Airway Hygienist continues with breathing re-education, and many pursue complimentary courses or certification and licensure in cranial nerve integration, myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, massage therapy, lactation support or IBCLC, nutrition, and a wide variety of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine therapies. 


For more information, read a detailed description of the Airway Hygienist's procedures, processes, and actions.


Interested in becoming an Airway Hygienist? There are many educational paths to consider and several esteemed courses to help you get started. Currently, in the United States, there are at least six organizations offering introductory courses in myofunctional therapy, and more on the horizon. Some of these programs include: 


WHAT IS A H Y G I E N I S T ?

The Dental Hygienists' purpose is to recognize abnormal and normal oral anatomy and physiology, and to coach and motivate patients to achieve a healthy mouth. The majority of a dental hygienist's appointment is spent collecting and reviewing medical histories, examining, measuring, collecting diagnostic information, documenting, communicating, motivating, and sterilizing equipment. In a typical dental practice, the hygienist provides a complete assessment of the patient to the dentist and recommends a co-diagnosis and treatment recommendations for the patient. Such communication to the dentist include alerts to cracked teeth, decay/cavities, "pockets" or periodontitis, gingivitis, abnormal growth and development of the jaws and teeth, medical history and nutritional considerations, abnormal anatomy or tissue related to a variety of conditions such as vitamin deficiencies, viral infections, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. 


Depending on the extent of periodontal disease, a hygienist could spend anywhere from 25%-80% of the appointment time actually "cleaning teeth". The  process of "cleaning teeth" will differ depending on the periodontal diagnosis and can range from preventive scaling and polishing to root planing and curettage to remove diseased cementum, granulation tissue, as well as decades-old calcified bacteria imbedded in the cementum of the tooth. The act of cleaning or scaling teeth requires a refined sense of touch, fine motor skills, specialized knowledge of biology, microbiology, physics, and a gift for patience and human compassion.


In the United States, the process to become a Registered Dental Hygienist includes:

  • Completion of pre-requisite science and mathematics courses, including gross anatomy cadaver dissection and physiology, microbiology, sociology, and inorganic chemistry.
  • Passing an interview process with the directors of the hygiene program, maintaining a high GPA throughout the pre-requisite courses, and sometimes proving experience or shadowing in a dental office.
  • Completion of at least an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene from a CODA accredited college, after being accepted to the program based on GPA, interviews, and prior dental office experience. Many hygienists choose to complete a Bachelors or Masters degree, and some have a PhD in their chosen field.
  • Passing regional clinical exams, passing National Board written exams, passing state jurisprudence exams, submitting fingerprints for background checks,  registration with the state in order to be licensed to practice.
  • Maintenance of yearly or biyearly continuing education, including required CPR, jurisprudence and asepsis, and in some states, substance abuse awareness courses.

The Federal Standard Occupational Classification from the United States Office of Management and Budget classifies dental hygienists as "Healthcare Diagnosing or Treating Practitioners", which is the same classification as dentists. 

WHAT IS AN A S S I S T A N T ?

The dental assistant is the dentist's right hand. The dental assistant performs duties that assist the dentists in everyday procedures. From taking x-rays and intraoral pictures, to impressions, intraoral scanning, making temporary crowns, charting conditions, restorations, treatment plans and clinical notes. They can also assist dental hygienists with clinical charting, patient education, and with coronal polishing and sealant placements where states allow. Depending on the state requirements, dental assistants require minimal education. Some dentists hire an interested candidate and offer on the job training, and if certification or registration is required by the state, the candidate can take their exam and receive certification after the exam is mastered. For dentists who prefer not to do on the job training, there are dental assisting training programs that vary in length from 9 weeks to 6 months, as well as a 1 year certification program via a community college program. Again, depending on the state requirements the dental assistant may need to register through the state's board of dental examiners, at which point their title changes from DA to RDA, Registered Dental Assistant, or CDA, Certified Dental Assistant.

In some states, additional training is available for the RDA to perform expanded functions such as permanent crown cementation and placement of composite restorations. 

WHAT IS A  T E C H N I C I A N ?

Dental technicians make and repair dental appliances, such as dentures, crowns, bridges, implants, or braces. Dentists use these appliances to replace or improve their patients' teeth, speech, appearance, or ability to chew. They construct these devices based on impressions dentists, hygienists, and assistants take of patients' teeth. They typically have no direct contact with patients themselves, unless asked to match the shade or shape of a restoration in person.


Some dental technicians begin careers without a college degree. Formal instruction is available at some community colleges and technical schools. There are 2 year dental lab technician programs leading to an associate degree or certificate; 4 year bachelor programs are also available.


The National Board for Certification, an independent board established by the National Association of Dental Laboratories, offers the CDT (Certified Dental Technician) credential. To earn this certification, you will have to take written and practical exams that demonstrate your knowledge and skills in your chosen specialty.

WHAT IS A  D E N T I S T ?

Dentists (titled either DMD or DDS)

Graduates of dental schools in the United States of America have completed at minimum a Bachelor's degree (typically in science), a rigorous examination for admission to dental schools and 4 years of both clinical and didactic education in dental medicine. Upon completion of a dental program many go on to either do residency or continue their education with specialty training prior to establishing a practice. 

According to the American Dental Association, a licensed dentist in many states is able responsible for:

  • Diagnosing oral diseases.
  • Promoting oral health and disease prevention.
  • Creating treatment plans to maintain or restore the oral health of their patients.
  • Interpreting x-rays and diagnostic tests.
  • Ensuring the safe administration of anesthetics.
  • Monitoring growth and development of the teeth and jaws.
  • Performing surgical procedures on the teeth, bone and soft tissues of the oral cavity.

citation: https://www.ada.org/en/about-the-ada/dentists-doctors-of-oral-health


I tried to sign up to become an IAAH member, but something went wrong.

Oops! If you've encountered a payment error, form submission error, can't access the members only section, or just can't figure it out, don't fret! Just email the webmaster at [email protected]. and we will help you.

Do I have to be a dental hygienist to join the IAAH?

Yes! We welcome all dental hygienists to join and verify all applications prior to providing access to the members only section. If you're just learning about myofunctional therapy, Buteyko breathing or other breathing techniques, you can still join! No need to be practicing as an airway hygienist yet. Just sign up for the Silver Membership and enjoy the camaraderie and benefits from your association. Already practicing as an airway hygienist and utilizing alternative therapies such as myofunctional therapy, breathing education, lactation support, myofascial release, cranial nerve integration, or other related techniques? Sign up for the Gold Membership and help support your colleagues, promote your practice, and stay up to date on the latest news in the airway world.


Want to help but you're not a hygienist? You can volunteer or donate

What's in it for me? Why should I join the IAAH?

We've kept the membership fees low so that it's affordable to join. As the field of airway practice evolves, it is important for hygienists to have a centralized association focused on the specific needs of hygienists. The IAAH will support its members by listening to their needs and suggestions, either academic or political, and following through with concrete solutions and answers. We will provide camaraderie, networking, events and opportunities to list your local business or courses in our members only section. Future plans with continued membership and financial support include a legal fund, group rate malpractice insurance, mentoring exchange, guest blogs, and always the opportunity to volunteer for the IAAH to sculpt the future of airway practice.

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