For many people a brief brush once maybe twice daily and some flossing here and there is the best of your oral health care regime. But any dentist or dental hygienist will tell you the cleaner you can keep your teeth the longer you will have them, and the health of your mouth and overall well being will benefit too. One thing you can start doing is visiting a dental hygienist on a more often so that you can get a good deep clean on a regular basis.
Getting a good dental hygienist is not guaranteed, it is like finding a dentist your trust or a family doctor. If you do not feel comfortable with the first you visit, try another until you do. A good hygienist really does care about their patients and their teeth. While it is true becoming a dental hygienist does not take as long as becoming a dentist, and so some have entered this field for that reason only, it is also true that many chose this field because they wanted to focus on prevention and education for oral health. And to become a dental hygienist a person does need to complete some studies, if they have an associate’s degree it takes two years of study and then passing state and national examinations. If they have a bachelor’s it takes four years. If you are interested to become a dental hygienist, check out BecomeDentalHygienist.org.
When choosing a dental hygienist you can check a few things to try and get the best; make sure they attended an accredited training program and that they are a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) which means they passed those examinations and are registered to practice.
Dental Hygienist Duties to expect
When you visit a dental hygienist you can expect some similarities with a dentist but there are also some differences, the main one being a dental hygienist duties are about preventing problems and maintaining a good dental hygiene regime, whereas a dentist will diagnose and treat gum and teeth problems. It makes a lot of sense to include both of them in your rotation of visits, what would be the point in getting a lot of dental work done if you are then going to just let them yellow and rot?
Each state actually has their own agreements on what a dental hygienist can do. Duties of your chosen dental hygienist would include;
- Oral examinations looking at both your gums and teeth to check for disease or any other problems. Assessing the gums is part of their periodontal training, and a check on the teeth may involve x-rays.
- Making observations and recording any abnormalities or disease – diagnosis would be the job of a dentist however. This may mean taking teeth molds.
- Deep cleaning removing tartar or calculus, soft plaque deposits and anything else that needs to be. This would involve the use of hand and rotary tools, and ultrasonic devices that can remove stains, clean and polish.
- Applying agents to seal or prevent cavities caused by decay.
- Administering local anesthesia with syringes and in certain states that can extend to other types of anesthetics also.
- A key dental hygienist duty is to educate their patients. Teach about how to prevent gum disease and tooth decay, how to brush, floss, and about nutrition. This may involve advice about smoking too.
A lot of the procedures a dental hygienist carries out involves using small tools so they need to be very dexterous. With advances in technology tools and their development change often and a good hygienist keeps up with those advancements.
Dental hygiene is a growing field for several reasons. More people are aware of the important of oral care so are making the effort to visit their dentist and a dental hygienist. Also as older dentists (who do not employ dental hygienists as much) retire, younger dentists who do hire are coming in. It makes sense to have someone in the office to take care of things like cleaning and education while they can concentrate on treatment procedures. Another fact to remember is that because more people are looking after their teeth, there is less demand for dentures and increased demand amongst older patients for continued dental care.
A dental hygienist is not a dental assistant though. An assistant can only carry out certain tasks, a dental hygienist can do a lot more. Dental assistants prepare instruments, clean rooms, perform duties in the lab and may help the dentist with procedures under close supervision. Also they get paid less. A dental hygienist is a qualified position, requires no supervision, as more responsibilities and gets paid more.