What is a dental hygienist?
Our dental hygienists are specially trained members of the dental team who work together with your dentist to provide fully integrated dental care. They play an important role in dental health, preventing dental disease by providing individual oral hygiene care and instruction to patients.
The dental hygienist cleans teeth by removing plaque, calculus (tartar) and staining. Both adults and children can benefit from having their teeth cleaned and polished with a dental hygienist as they are taught how dental disease occurs and how it can be prevented. To help prevent decay the dental hygienist will also apply fluoride treatments and preventive sealants (fissure sealants) to the permanent back teeth if needed.
Why doesn’t the dentist do the work?
The dental hygienist has been specially trained in the cleaning and maintenance of the mouth, teeth and gums. A dentist will refer a patient to the dental hygienist for more specialised care, while they provide complex restorative care.
Can a hygienist do anything else?
Dental hygienists are now able to take dental x-rays. The dentist will use these to help diagnose problems and decide on the possible treatment. All hygienists that take x-rays have had proper training and are qualified to do so.
Why is this treatment important?
Regular professional cleaning, combined with looking after your teeth and gums well 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?
This is what the training of the hygienist is all about.
Carefully removing the hard deposits of tartar (or "calculus") that build up on the teeth and teaching you how to prevent them coming back, will go a long way towards slowing the progress of gum disease.
By talking to you about your diet, and recommending other preventive measures, the hygienist can help you keep to a routine that will slow down the rate at which your teeth decay and work with you to ultimately prevent decay. Regular visits and advice will help build your confidence in keeping your mouth healthy.
Will the treatment hurt?
Scaling and polishing is usually pain free. However, if you do have any discomfort the hygienist can use anaesthetic creams, or give you some local anaesthetic. It is important that you let the hygienist know at the time so they can help make your treatment as comfortable as possible.
Is the treatment expensive?
Costs of treatment with a dental hygienist will vary depending on what is being done, and the time that is required to complete the treatment. More than one visit may be required to maximise results and the hygienist may suggest ongoing regular maintenance appointments to help prevent reoccurrence of gum problems. It is important to find out the cost before you start, by getting a written quotation.
What can I do to help the hygienist?
You can do a great deal to help yourself and the hygienist, as you are in control of your mouth between visits to the practice. Your hygienist will have shown you how to remove plaque with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
They will also have shown you how to clean between your teeth with interdental brushes, floss or tape.
There are many oral care products now available including specialist toothpastes, powered toothbrushes, and mouthwashes. Your hygienist will recommend those that are best for you.
We recommend you follow three simple steps to help keep your teeth and gums healthy:
- brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1350ppm (parts per million) of fluoride
- cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks
- visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend
Cutting down the amount of sugar in your diet, and the number of times that you eat during the day, can help to reduce decay. Your hygienist can help you by looking at your decay problem and your diet, and by making some recommendations for you to consider.
Chewing sugar-free gum for 10 minutes after meals can also help to prevent tooth decay. Chewing gum makes your mouth produce more saliva, which in turn cancels out the acid produced in your mouth after drinking and eating.