Do you hesitate before visiting your dental hygienist? Perhaps you’re afraid of what lies in store, imagining lots of scraping and poking and a stern telling off about the fact that you don’t clean your teeth properly. Alternatively, you may feel that the work of a hygienist is trivial when compared to that of a dentist, and that you already know everything you need to know about looking after your teeth and keeping them clean and healthy. Both of these views are mistaken, however, and the truth is that your hygienist is the ideal partner when it comes to making sure that you prevent dental problems and keep your teeth in the best possible shape. Whilst an orthodontist in Putney, for example, can help to fit you with the most advanced braces and alter the entire shape of your smile, a hygienist will teach you how to stop problems with decay or gum disease happening in the first place, and will be the first person to spot if any such issues are arising.
What does a dental hygienist do? The main role of a dental hygienist is to help the patient keep their teeth and gums clean and healthy. They do this in surgery by cleaning the patients’ teeth for them, a process known as ‘scaling and polishing’. Even more importantly, they offer the patient advice which will allow them to maintain the highest levels of care at home, preventing the build-up of plaque, the sticky film which coats the teeth and contains bacteria which will attack the enamel and the gums. They will show, for example, the best way to clean the teeth, demonstrating the right brushing technique and advising as to what kind of brush and paste the patient would be best served by. At all times they will work closely with your dentist, who will make sure that they are aware of any problems the patient might have or any other treatments which are being carried out.
Preventing gum disease Gum disease is a term which describes the condition through which a patients gums become sore, swollen and may bleed when brushed. If it is left untreated gum disease, or gingivitis, can become periodontal disease, a condition which, at its worst, can lead to the teeth becoming loose and even falling out entirely. Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in plaque.
The hygienist’s role The first thing your hygienist will do is carefully remove the layers of tartar, also known as calculus, which builds up on the teeth. This process is usually completely pain free but if you do suffer any discomfort then let your hygienist know and they will use some form of local anaesthetic. Once the teeth have been cleaned in this manner, your hygienist will advise as to how you can stop plaque and tartar building up again. They will show you how to brush and how to use floss or dental tape to remove plaque and food debris trapped in hard to reach spots such as between the teeth, and will offer dietary advice if they feel that your diet is having a detrimental effect upon your oral health. Amongst the other roles which might be carried out by a hygienist are the following:
If you visit your hygienist on a regular basis then the scaling and polishing they deliver will help to keep your teeth clean and healthy and make it easier for you to maintain this at home. Their treatments will also minimise the chances of gum disease setting in and help to make sure that you don’t develop bad breath. As with many areas of dental treatment, the work of your hygienist may have an effect upon your general health as well as the condition of your teeth and gums. Researchers have uncovered links between gum disease and other problems such as diabetes and heart disease, so regular visits to your hygienist will play a part in fending off such problems and helping you to stay healthy.