What is a hygienist?
Dental hygienists are specially trained to work with the dentist to give care to patients.
They play an important part in dental health care and are mainly concerned with gum health- showing people correct home care and helping to keep the teeth and gums healthy.
What does the hygienist do in the practice?
The hygienist’s main work is to professionally clean the patient’s teeth. This is usually called ‘scaling and polishing’. However, perhaps their most important role is showing people the best way to keep their teeth free of plaque. Plaque is a sticky coating that forms constantly on your teeth. They also give advice on diet and preventing dental decay. The hygienist will work with your dentist to give you care that is tailored to your needs.
Can a hygienist do anything else?
Dental hygienists are now able to take x-rays. The dentist will use these to help diagnose problems and decide on the possible treatment. All hygienists that take x-rays will have had proper training and will hold a certificate.
If the dentist suggests that you have fissure sealants, they may refer you to the dental hygienist because this is one of the treatments they are trained to carry out.
Does every practice have a hygienist?
Not all practices have a hygienist. However, more of them offer this as part of the service to patients, using part-time and full-time hygienists. Hygienists can now work when the patient has been seen by the dentist and the treatment is prescribed for the patient, and also when a dentist is not there, this is known as “Direct Access”.
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 prevent progression of gum disease.
By talking to you about your diet, and recommending other preventative measures, the hygienist can help you keep to 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.
Will the treatment hurt?
Scaling and polishing is usually pain free. However, if you do have any discomfort, they 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 with your pain.
Is the treatment expensive?
Costs of treatment with a dental hygienist will vary depending on what is being done, and from practice to practice. It is important to find out the cost before you start, by getting a written quotation. For WDP FEES CLICK HERE
What other help can adults get?
Another very important part of the hygienist’s work is showing you and telling you how to look after your mouth at home. The hygienist may also suggest giving up smoking, as this will reduce staining. Recent research has also shown that smokers have more gum disease and lose more teeth than non-smokers. Your hygienist will be able to advise you on various ways of giving up smoking.
Why doesn’t the dentist do this work?
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. They are also expert at teaching you how to look after your teeth and gums. Often the hygienist will spend several appointments getting the gums healthy ready for the dentist to restore the teeth with crowns and fillings.
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 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 food 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.