The Dental Hygienist

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The Dental Hygienist

What is a hygienist?

Hygienists are specially trained to work with the dentist to give care to patients. They are an important part of dental health care and focus mainly on gum health – showing patients correct home care and helping to keep teeth and gums healthy.

What does the hygienist do?

The hygienist’s main job is to professionally clean your teeth. This is known and ‘scaling and polishing’. Most importantly, they show patients the best way to keep their teeth free from plaque – a sticky coating that forms constantly on your teeth. They also give advice on diet and preventing tooth decay. The hygienist works alongside your dentist to give you dental care that is tailored to your needs.

Why is this treatment important?

Regular professional cleaning by your hygienist, combined with looking after your teeth and gums properly at home, will help keep your mouth healthy. A clean and healthy mouth will improve your appearance, help you to keep your teeth and give you fresh breath.

Can a hygienist help prevent dental disease?

Yes. Carefully removing the hard deposits of tartar that build up on the teeth and teaching you how to prevent them from coming back again will do a lot to slow down the progress of gum disease.

By talking about your diet, and recommending other preventive measures, the hygienist can help you to keep a routine that will slow down the rate at which your teeth decay. Regular visits and advice will help build your confidence in keeping your mouth healthy.

What other help can adults get?

Adults who have a lot of decay can benefit from having fluoride applied. There are also anti-bacterial gels and solutions that can be applied under the gum to kill the bacteria that cause gum disease.

Another very important part of the hygienist’s work is teaching you how to properly look after your mouth at home. The hygienist may also suggest giving up smoking, as this will reduce staining. Recent research has shown that smokers have more gum disease and lose more teeth than non-smokers. Your hygienist will be able to give you advice on the various ways to give up smoking.

What other help is there for children?

Children can benefit from having their teeth polished. The hygienist can also apply fluoride gels and solutions to help prevent decay.

The permanent (or ‘adult’) back teeth can also benefit from having the biting surfaces sealed. This is done by applying a special coating to the biting surface soon after the tooth comes through.

Why doesn’t the dentist do this?

Some dentists will do this type of work. However, many now realise that the hygienist has been specially trained to carry out scaling and polishing and can spend longer with you. Often the hygienist will spend a number of appointments getting your gums healthy, ready for the dentist to restore the teeth with crowns or fillings.

Will the treatment hurt?

Scaling and polishing is usually pain free. However, if you do experience any discomfort, the hygienist can use anaesthetic creams or a local anaesthetic.

What can I do to help the hygienist?

There are many things you can do to help the hygienist between visits. Your hygienist will have shown you how to remove plaque with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. They will also have shown you the benefits of using inter-dental brushes, tape or floss, and how to do so.

There are many oral care products now available including specialist toothpastes, powered toothbrushes, and mouthwashes. Your hygienist will be able to recommend those that are best for you.

Cutting down the amount of sugar in your diet, and the number of times you eat during the day, can help reduce tooth decay. Your hygienist can help by looking at your decay problem and your diet and making some recommendations for you.

Chewing sugar free gum for 10 minutes after meals can also help prevent decay.