What is a dental hygienist?
A dental hygienist is a clinical professional who has trained for three years to become a qualified expert in the health of soft tissue in the mouth, in particular the gums. Your dental hygienist will help you to maintain good oral hygiene which is an important aspect of your dental health
The health of your gums can also be a barometer for your general health and wellbeing and your dental hygienist will be able to offer you advice and instruction to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. Scaling and polishing will reduce staining caused by smoking and some food and drinks, and help you to remove plaque, calculus and tartar.
Your dental hygienist can also provide valuable oral hygiene instruction to children and to carry out fissure sealant treatment which is a very effective method of preventing decay in the teeth of young children.
Why does my dentist refer me to the dental hygienist?
There are a number of reasons why your dentist will refer you to a dental hygienist. When your dentist carries out your regular examination, he or she will measure the depth of spaces or pockets that can form between your gums and your teeth. Pockets can form as a result of the presence of harmful bacteria in your mouth which forms a sticky substance known as plaque. The presence of plaque in your mouth can lead to gums becoming inflamed which in turn can lead to gum disease. Gum disease can occur without any symptoms which is why it is important to attend for your dental examinations on a regular basis. As gum disease progresses it can cause the soft gum tissue to recede, exposing the roots of teeth to further attack by bacteria and disease. This can ultimately lead to the loss of teeth due to the root and bone around the root becoming infected with disease.
In fact 70% of all adult teeth lost are as a result of gum disease and not tooth decay, so it’s really important to visit your dentist and dental hygienist on a regular basis.
It is considered good practice for your dentist to refer you to your dental hygienist for scaling and polishing appointments according to your needs and if you want additional scale and polishes to brighten up your teeth for a special occasion, just ask your dental hygienist.
There are some more specific symptoms which may indicate an appointment with your dentist is advisable, so he or she can refer you on to the dental hygienist.
Some factors can increase the risk of gum disease:
- Bleeding gums upon brushing
- Red, swollen gums Bad taste in mouth
- Unpleasant mouth odour
- Smoking compromises healthy blood supply to the gums and can affect the fight against infection and healing
- Poor oral hygiene that allows the build up of plaque and damaging bacteria Compromised immune system – this may occur if you have an illness which makes you more susceptible to infection, or if you are receiving chemotherapy treatment
- Some medications – please check with your GP
- Any illness that may compromise the circulatory system such as diabetes
Please speak to your dentist or GP if you areconcerned.
What can I do to improve my oral hygiene?
The most important aspect of taking care of your oral health is to ensure you clean your teeth every day following this routine:
Is there anything else I can do?
- Brush teeth at least twice a day, preferably with an electric toothbrush
- Use dental floss or inter-dental brushes to clean in between your teeth
- Use a mouthwash regularly
- Brush your tongue as part of your daily routine
Why can I usually only see my hygienist on an independent basis?
- If you are a smoker, seek advise about smoking cessation
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet, limiting the amount of food and drink with high levels of sugar or acidic content
- Chewing sugar free gum between meals can help to maintain a flow of saliva in the mouth which can help to clean the mouth
There is only a limited provision to offer hygiene treatment under the terms of the new NHS contract, which means that your dentist will need to refer you to a hygienist under certain circumstances. Because of the restrictions in providing hygiene treatment under the NHS, most dental hygienists opt to work under a private only contract.
Denticare are committed to offering the best quality and best value to all its patients and aim to ensure all patients are provided with access to our dental hygiene services
What other treatments are carried out by dental hygienists?
Your dentist may also refer you or your children to the hygienist for fissure sealants. This treatment is used as a preventative measure and involves protecting the natural crevices and fissures that occur in teeth that can be susceptible to decay. The sealant material covers the fissures and protects them from both exposure to bacteria and acids, thereby reducing the risk of decay in the future.
Because dental hygienists are experts in the management of gum disease you may be referred to them for more intensive treatment such as deep scaling to help remove damaged tissue from your mouth which promotes healing and regeneration of healthy tissue.
If you play contact sports such as football or hockey, your dentist will strongly recommend that you wear a gum shield to protect your teeth against blows to your mouth, and your dental hygienist can provide you with this service.