What does a dental hygienist do?
Dental hygienists are your friends and partners in achieving and maintaining good oral health. They assess your periodontal health (often called periodontal probing). Check the teeth for signs of decay, screen your mouth for oral cancer, take x-rays when needed (generally depends upon your risk for decay or gum disease). Scale and polish your teeth, apply anti-caries agents (fluoride and others), and advise you on how frequently you need to come in to maintain your oral health. Most importantly, they will counsel with you on the types of home devices (tooth brush, water flosser) that are most appropriate for you.
Why do I need to see a Dental Hygienist?
There are six good reasons for seeing a dental hygienist at least twice a year. Some of you may need to see them more often.
- Overall Health: Gum disease is associated to overall health problems in your body including: heart disease, stroke, diabetes and premature labor in pregnant women.
- Keep your teeth for a lifetime: There have been many advances in dental medicine, but, it is still best to keep your original teeth. People wearing dentures may have difficulty eating certain types of foods, and dental implants are contraindicated for many individuals.
- To Prevent Gum Disease: Gum Disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. Regular dental cleanings remove hard deposits on the teeth, assess the gums and help maintain oral health. Cars need to taken to shops to keep their engines running, if they are not cared for other problems may arise in the vehicle. It is similar with your mouth, dental cleaning prevent maintain the heath on your teeth and gums and prevent other oral complications.
- Oral Cancer Prevention: Oral cancer kills one person per hour twenty four hours a day seven days a week. Your dental hygienist will complete an oral cancer screening during each visit. Oral cancer caught in its early stages is more likely to be treatable.
- To Prevent Halitosis(bad breath): A thorough dental cleaning by a dental hygienist can help individuals with bad breath. By not having your teeth cleaned regularly, your halitosis will be worse.
- Healthy smile: Over time everyone will have plaque and tartar build up on their teeth. Cleanings by a dental hygienist will remove hard and soft deposits that you can’t remove.
Your Dental Hygienist is your prevention specialist
You might be wondering why your dentist recommends seeing a dental hygienist twice a year. Every time you eat, bacteria present in your mouth creates plaque and tartar. This plaque and tartar cause gum infections and tooth decay. It absolutely necessary to remove plaque and tartar to have a health smile. The dental hygienist’s role is to remove the infection causing bacteria that you can’t reach.
If you have great home care your visit may only need a light scraping of tartar off your teeth. Smokers, people with ill health and those who have neglected their oral care. These people find themselves with gums that are pulling away from the teeth. If this is the case then the dental hygienist may perform a root planing and scaling (RPS). This is a quick, gentle, and effective method for treating existing gum disease and preventing further infection. Most people feel absolutely no pain while this procedure is being done.
During a root planing and scaling the hygienist may numb the area with anesthetic for your comfort. They then use an ultrasonic instrument to clean the teeth below the gum line where infection is present that you can’t reach. The hygienist cleans very carefully between each tooth to prevent the spread of further infection. After this type of cleaning, many people see reduced inflammation and bleeding.
Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly helps prevent the need for more invasive procedures such as root planing and scaling.
Mouth Cancer Screening
During your bi-annual visit, a hygienist performs a screening for oral cancer. This is a very common cancer that can develop anywhere on the lips, tongue and at the back of the wisdom teeth. It can also occur in the throat, the roof of the mouth and on the tonsils. If oral cancer is detected, 90% of cases can be resolved as long as it is found in its early stages.
It is particularly important to get this screening if you are over 40 years of age or have been a heavy user of tobacco and alcohol. Keep in mind that 25% of people who do get oral cancer have never used tobacco or alcohol at all. Oral cancer affects men twice as much as women but oral cancer cases are on the rise within women in the United States.