Dental Hygiene FAQs
Dental hygienists are specially trained to work with the dentist in giving care to patients. They play an important role in dental health care and are mainly concerned with gum health, showing people correct home care and applying preventive materials to the teeth and gums.
The hygienist’s main role is to professionally clean the teeth for the patient. This is usually called scaling and polishing. However, perhaps their most important role is showing the patient the best way to keep the teeth free of plaque. The hygienist will work with your dentist to provide care tailored to your needs.
Regular professional cleaning combined with your home care 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.
This is what the training of the hygienist is all about. Carefully removing the deposits that build up on the teeth (tartar) and teaching you how to prevent it reforming again, will go a long way to slowing the progress of gum disease. By discussing your diet, and recommending other preventive measures, your tooth decay can also be slowed down.
Children can benefit from having their teeth polished. The hygienist can also apply fluoride gels and solutions to help prevent decay. The permanent 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 they come through.
Adults can also 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 giving regular instruction and advice on home care. 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.
Some dentists will carry out this type of work. However, many now recognise 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.
A Scaling and polishing is usually pain-free. However, if you do have any discomfort the 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.
You can have the treatment under the NHS or privately. It is important to find out the cost before you start, by getting a written quotation. Some practices will have a price list displayed at reception giving a guide to the prices charged for the service. Under the NHS rules, the government fixes the price.
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 remove plaque with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. You will also have been shown how to clean between your teeth with floss, tape or little brushes. There are many products now available, and your hygienist will recommend those that are best for you.
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, your diet and by making some recommendations for you to consider.