When you go to the dentist, you’ll first be treated to a dental exam and a thorough cleaning. However, your dentist may only make an appearance at the end of your session. It is the dental hygienist that takes care of administering the cleaning and looking at the state of your overall oral health. You may not realize how important your dental hygienist is and what it is they do to contribute to your healthy teeth and gums.
What Does A Dental Hygienist Do?
Canadian Business Magazine predicts that dental hygiene work will be one of the country’s top 10 projected growth professions by 2020. This encouraging prediction is helpful in the dental profession since the services provided by hygienists are invaluable. By providing oral health services to people of all ages, dental hygienists play an important role in our overall wellbeing.
In order to practice, dental hygienists are required to be licensed or registered by their provincial or territorial dental hygiene regulatory body. Prior to that, they must complete schooling at the college (diploma) or university (bachelor’s degree) level. In school, hygienists learn to clean teeth, take X-rays and dental impressions, proper fluoride application, pit and fissure sealant application, scaling and root planing, and perform basic dental exams.
Dental hygienists can work at a dental clinic or operate their own clinic. Those who operate their own clinic are called independent hygienists and are required to complete additional professional qualifications. There are approximately 400 independent hygienists working in Canada today. Furthermore, dental hygienists often travel to hospitals and residences for assisted living to help those who are unable to visit the dentist and receive regular teeth cleanings.
Dental hygienists are authorized by the provincial governments (everywhere except PEI, NYT and the Yukon) to provide dental hygiene to patients without the presence of a dentist.
When you visit your dentist the hygienist is responsible for:
- Cleaning your teeth by removing debris and food particles from in between the teeth
- Removing basic surface stains from the teeth’s surface
- Checking for irregularities within the mouth such as the early stages of gum disease
- Coming up with a home care routine you can follow that promotes proper oral health such as using the right type of toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash, and showing you how to floss correctly
What You Should Discuss With Your Hygienist
Your hygienist is knowledgeable about everything from gum disease to cavity prevention. Before or after your cleaning, you can ask your dental hygienist for more information about the following. (They will address most of this anyway because it is their job but asking additional questions never hurts. It’s your oral health after all!)
- Proper brushing and flossing techniques: Not all Canadians brush their teeth properly or hold floss the way they’re supposed to. Your dental hygienist will show you proper brushing and flossing techniques to ensure you are actually cleaning your teeth at home and not just lightly touching the surface with your toothbrush.
- How to fight bad breath: If you suffer from chronic halitosis, aka bad breath, it is treatable. Your hygienist will recommend the best course of action to help you get fresh breath all the time and not just after your brush.
- Gum disease prevention: Your hygienist will thoroughly clean your teeth and gums, as well as teach you how to prevent gum disease. Periodontitis has many stages and your hygienist will be able to tell which stage you’re in. From there they will create a personalized plan along with your dentist in order to reduce the symptoms and protect your gums from further damage.
- Help with dry mouth: Dry mouth has many causes ranging from certain diseases, prescription and nonprescription drugs, infections to smoking. If left untreated, dry mouth can morph into mouth sores, cracked lips, sore throat, trouble speaking, inability to taste and bad breath. Your hygienist can offer solutions you can do at home to help combat dry mouth.
- Tooth sensitivity: If your teeth are sensitive, your hygienist can come up with a treatment plan that may involve using a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, or veneers to cover damaged enamel. Once tooth enamel has severely eroded, the damage cannot be reversed. However, your hygienist will help you prevent this from happening or keep further injury to the enamel.
- Tooth-friendly foods: Not all foods are good for your oral health. You can ask your hygienist what foods they recommend. This is especially helpful if you wear braces, Invisalign or have just gotten dentures and have to be careful about chewing for the first few weeks as your mouth adjusts.
Dental hygienists play an important role in dentistry. They help your dentist by cleaning and preparing your teeth so that the dentist can do their job. For information about dental hygiene, or to book an appointment with our trained and skilled hygienists, please contact us.