Most dental diseases are preventable. This indicates that the main concept of dentistry could be changed to a situation in which the dental hygienist becomes the principal oral care professional. The competencies of dental hygienists focus on disease prevention and oral health promotion; thus referral to a dentist would only become necessary in the event of a failure in the preventive program where disease cannot be controlled. Future oral health care personnel need to be better educated to encourage people to implement healthy lifestyles rather than to treat teeth. In addition, the connection between oral health, general health and health-related quality of life will necessitate a multidisciplinary approach to prevention and oral health promotion. To focus strictly on oral health would too narrowly define the role of the dental hygienist in comprehensive prevention and health promotion. There is no precise boundary between the oral cavity and the rest of the body. Dietary advice to prevent dental caries and smoking cessation counseling to prevent periodontal disease and oral cancer also promote general health. Consequently the focus on prevention and health promotion makes the dental hygienist a very important person in the dental team of the future.