What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

By Premier Dental of Ohio

teeth cleaning

Learn more about your dental hygienist

A dental hygienist is one of the most important people in a dental office!  His or her role extends far beyond “just” cleaning teeth.  The hygienist is typically your most frequent point of contact with your dental office, and this is a good thing.  A dental hygienist has an advanced education, which equips him or her to be the perfect connection between you and your dentist

Professional Teeth Cleanings

You are all familiar with this one!  The dental hygienist cleans your teeth.  Professional teeth cleanings are an essential part of your oral health.  No one, not even your dentist, is a perfect brusher or flosser!  We all have areas of bacterial buildup that we cannot remove on our own.

The dental hygienists rigorous training and education gives them the skills necessary to remove all harmful buildup from your teeth and gums.  This involves the use of specialized tools and instruments.  It also involves particular care and gentleness to do this without causing pain.

The result of consistent professional teeth cleanings is a lower risk for cavities and gum disease and a beautiful smile!  Your dental hygienist not only removes harmful bacteria during a professional teeth cleaning; he or she also removes stains that have built up over time.  This leaves you with a brighter smile and fresh breath!

Important Gum Measurements

Your dental hygienist records important gum measurements that enable both the hygienist and dentist to assess the current state of your gum health.  By taking these measurements consistently, they are able to compare and track any changes in gum health.

These measurements tell us whether or not your teeth have a healthy foundation of bone and gums surrounding them.  The measurements, called probing depths, allow us to catch gum problems early, which leads to more conservative and less expensive treatments.

Gum Disease Treatments

Dental hygienists are not limited to simple maintenance teeth cleanings.  They also perform important gum treatments for patients with gum disease of every stage.  A gum treatment called scaling and root planing is the first step in treatment mild, moderate, and severe periodontal disease.  Also called a “deep cleaning”, this procedure removes heavy accumulation of bacteria below the gums in areas of disease.  The hygienist ensures a post-treatment tooth surface that is smooth and resistant to more bacterial buildup.

The dental hygienists also performs gum treatments using dental lasers and irrigation of deep pockets with antibiotics.

Disease Risk Assessment

A dental hygienist looks beyond the health of the gums to the entire mouth.  He or she will perform screenings for cavities, tooth cracks, failing dental work, teeth grinding and oral cancer.  Dental hygienists know how to catch red flags or warning signs of impending problems.

A consistent risk assessment for dental disease is an essential part of preventing dental disease.  Not everyone is at risk for the same problems.  One person may have a very high risk for gum disease and a very low risk for cavities.  Another may have a low risk for both gum disease and cavities but be at risk for cracking his teeth and teeth grinding.

Knowing your specific areas of risk enables you to take preventive measures with the help of your dentist.  Your dental hygienist is your biggest help in the area of preventing future dental problems!

A dental hygienist also has an extensive education in how your overall health affects the health of your mouth.  Often, a hygienist is the first one to spot changes in your oral health that can point to significant medical concerns.  Don’t be surprised if your dental hygienist starts asking you about your blood sugar levels or prescription medications!  They are experts at catching important warning signs for systemic health problems that appear in the mouth.

Patient Education

One of the most important roles your dental hygienist plays is in educating you as our patient.  Your hygienist will inform you about your unique risk areas and also educate you on specific things you can do to lower those risks.  The hygienist will explain to you how the various dental diseases progress and where in that process you currently are.

An important part of each visit with your dental hygienist is your oral hygiene instructions.  Because the hygienist is closely familiar with your specific teeth and gums and your unique challenge areas, he or she is able to give you customized instructions.  Your hygienist cleans your teeth two days of the year.  You are responsible for the other 363 days!

For many people, traditional brushing, flossing and mouth rinse are adequate cleaning techniques to keep your teeth and gums healthy between visits with your hygienist.  Other people need additional help.  This can come in the form of an electric toothbrush, a specific mouthwash gear toward your individual needs, or other adjunctive tools to remove plaque, food debris and bacteria from your teeth.

We do not expect you to pick up a tool from the drugstore, like GUM SoftPicks, and know exactly how to use it.  Let your dental hygienist recommend certain oral hygiene tools based on your tough-to-clean areas and also teach you how to use them.

Did you know that flossing can actually be a huge waste of time if you do it wrong?  Let your hygienist show you the correct way to floss so that you are removing the plaque and not wasting your time!

Consistent Preventive Care

The beauty of seeing your dental hygienist on a regular basis is that you receive consistent preventive dental care.  When you have a good relationship with your hygienist, whom you have seen consistently for several years, he or she is able to take even better care of you.  This is because consistent visits allow for quicker recognition of changes in your oral health status, good follow-up on prior problem areas, and reliable identification of your areas of risk.

We know that finding a gentle dental hygienist whom you trust can be a challenge.  It is an important relationship that benefits you for the rest of your life by improving your overall health.

Are You Looking for a Great Dental Hygienist?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule an appointment with one of our dental hygienists.  We will get you on the road to a long-term relationship with a compassionate and skilled hygienist.   We are committed to helping you keep your mouth in great shape!


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