Visiting The Hygienist
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 is the hygienist's role 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 dental 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.
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. Regular visits and advice will help build your confidence in keeping your mouth healthy.
**Information courtesy of the British Dental Health Foundation**
What other help can be given to adults?
Adults who have a lot of decay can benefit from having fluoride applied. They can also have anti-bacterial gels and solutions applied under the gum to kill the bacteria causing gum disease.
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.
What help is available 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 plastic coating to the biting surface soon after the teeth come through. For more information see our ‘Tell me about' leaflet Pit and fissure sealants.
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 a number of appointments getting the gums healthy ready for the dentist to restore the teeth with crowns and fillings.