Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist is a qualified professional who works with the dentist to help patients care for their teeth and gums.

The dental hygienist has 2 main roles:

  • To treat & prevent gum disease & tooth decay
  • To teach & motivate patients to care for their own teeth & gums

What is the role of the dental hygienist?

Clinical Tasks

At Smith Street Dental our hygienists’ primary role is to prevent and treat gum disease and tooth decay.

Each patient needs to be monitored according to his or her gum disease and tooth decay pattern, to ensure it remains stable.

At the initial visit, our hygienist will carry out a basic examination to assess how healthy your gums are by measuring and charting the depth of any pockets around teeth, and assess the level of bleeding from the gums.

We may also take x-rays if needed.

Our hygienist will then carry out a range of professional cleaning treatments specific to your particular requirements, such as scaling and polishing the teeth, and root planing (deep cleaning) under local anaesthetic.

In some cases, we may also apply medications and solutions to the teeth and gums to help prevent gum disease, tooth decay and reduce sensitivity.

An oral hygiene program, specific to your needs, will be demonstrated to you to help you keep your mouth as clean and healthy as possible.

Advice & Education

Our hygienists will advise you on a range of oral health procedures tailored to your individual needs, as well as demonstrating how to carry them out effectively. These include:

  • Cleaning between the teeth using floss or interdental brushes
  • Using a manual or electric toothbrush
  • Cleaning around braces, implants, crowns & bridges

We also recommend the most suitable products for you and can even analyse your diet and offer advice to help prevent tooth decay and enamel erosion.

Our hygienists are also qualified to advise and help with more general issues concerning oral health, such as advice to help you give up smoking.

Why should I visit the hygienist?

Visiting your dental hygienist regularly is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. Your hygienist will help you to maintain good oral hygiene, detect disease in the early stages and anticipate problems that may arise in the future.

How often should I see the hygienist?

This will vary depending on your state of oral health and is completely individual to each patient. In some cases, we may recommend that some patients see the hygienist every two, three or four weeks, until a problem is brought under control.

After that, depending on what is needed, recalls may be at monthly, quarterly or bi-annual intervals.

How to get the most benefit from seeing the hygienist:

  • Ask lots of questions & seek clarification of anything you are unclear about
  • Ask the hygienist to demonstrate any procedures that you think you may find difficult e.g. flossing
  • Tell the hygienist about any problems or concerns that you are having so that they can advise you or treat you appropriately
  • Between visits, follow the advice given to you
  • Attend recall visits as often as advised by your hygienist. This is the best way to prevent tooth decay & gum disease as your oral health can be closely monitored & any disease detected can by treated in the early stages

Poor dental hygiene leads to bacteria build-up on teeth and makes gums prone to infection. The immune system attempts to curb the infection and the gums become inflamed. The inflammation continues unless the infection is brought under control.

Over time, inflammation and the chemicals it releases eat away at the gums and bone structure that hold teeth in place. The result is severe gum disease, known as periodontitis.

Inflammation can also cause problems in the rest of the body with proven associations with diabetes and heart disease. It is also especially important to maintain exceptional gum health during pregnancy.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is the inflammation and destruction of the gums and bone that support the teeth. It is caused by plaque bacteria. Gum disease is an extremely common problem and affects over 80% of adults to some degree. Left untreated, gum disease can damage and eventually destroy the bone supporting your teeth resulting in tooth loss.

Gum disease has also been linked to other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. In its early stages, you may not be aware that you have gum disease. However, your dentist will look for any signs at your check-up.

The good news is that, with the correct treatment, gum disease in its early stages can be reversible and more advanced conditions can be treated and kept under control.

Symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Gums that bleed when you brush
  • Gums that look red & puffy
  • Gums that have come away from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or changing position

What our hygienist can do to help:

  • An assessment to record & measure the extent of any gum problems
  • Scaling & polishing to remove any plaque & tartar from the teeth
  • Root planing, a special procedure for more advanced gum disease, which involves cleaning the root surface
  • Review & maintenance; once gum disease is under control regular visits for cleaning & monitoring are very important

In addition to treating gum disease our hygienists can offer advice on:

  • Brushing, flossing & dental hygiene products
  • Bad breath treatments
  • Fluoride treatments
  • Sensitive teeth treatments
  • Dietary advice & saliva analysis—for adults & children particularly prone to dental decay
  • Fissure sealants
  • Quitting smoking
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