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Home > Daily Dental Care > Your Dentist Visit > Dental Hygienists Are Armed to the Teeth
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Dental Hygienists: Armed to the Teeth

Dental Hygienist - Dental hygienists fight gingivitis and periodontitis.

You should consider giving your dental hygienist "best friend forever" status.

Why? Dental hygienists are usually the first professionals to spot problems in your mouth. And if you're visiting the dentist once per year but showing up for dental cleanings every six months or so, your dental hygienist has an edge in early detection and diagnosis of disease. That generally leads to more successful cures.

You already know that dental hygienists keep oral infections from spreading by keeping gingivitis and periodontitis in check - they're trained to stop oral disease and alert you to potential problems. Though removing plaque and calculus from your teeth remains the primary duty, your dental hygienist also takes X-rays, develops the film, administers dental treatments like root planing (the scraping away of hardened deposits) or applies fluorides and sealants to prevent cavities.

So how else do dental hygienists keep you healthy? Tasks vary from state to state. But don't be surprised if your dental hygienist does the following:

Oral Health & Overall Health Assessment - Dental hygienists review your health history and dental charts; examine your mouth, head and neck; perform oral cancer screenings and evaluate you for gum disease.

X-ray Interpretation - Aside from taking and developing your radiographs, a dental hygienist might also examine them for a preliminary diagnosis.

Dental Anesthesia - Suffering from dental anxiety? Don't be surprised if your dental hygienist is the person slipping the mask over your face to help you relax with nitrous oxide. He or she may also inject you with a local anesthetic.

Oral Health Counseling - Aside from helping you choose the right tooth brushes and pastes, dental hygienists advise you on the proper way to brush your teeth and floss, administer smoking cessation programs or counsel you on nutrition information for mouth and overall health.

Model Casting - For dental treatments, not fashion shows. Dentists might send these plaster models of your teeth off to dental labs to make dentures or other devices.

How Are Dental Hygienists Trained?

Approximately 300 dental hygienist schools currently exist in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These programs (mostly two-year courses)  train dental hygienists in anatomy, microbiology, physiology and other sciences - and offer everything from a certificate to associate's, bachelor's and graduate degrees. Most dentist offices require at least an associate's degree.

In addition to the academic and clinical training, states require licensing. Generally, the American Dental Association administers the written test, and the state administers the clinical exam for dental hygienists. Most states require continuing education throughout a dental hygienist's career.

After dental hygienists acquire licenses, they add "RDH" after their names to mean "Registered Dental Hygienist", or "LDH" to signify "Licensed Dental Hygienist".

Why See Your Dental Hygienist Twice Per Year?

When Dr. Alfred Fones trained the first dental hygienists in 1913, he practiced in an age when tooth extractions remained the primary response to oral sickness - Fones became one of the first to realize the value of prevention. Your dental hygienist is specially trained to help achieve that goal and save your teeth.

Twice yearly dental cleanings serve two purposes: to keep your teeth and gums clean and to provide early detection of cavities and oral diseases like gum infections or tongue cancer. Chances are it's the dental hygienists who will first identify the source of your bad breath or spot a spreading thrush infection, both of which could be symptoms of other problems in your overall health.

If you're overdue for a dental exam, call us at 1-866-970-0441. We'll recommend a great dentist in your area with a trained dental hygienist to clean your teeth and get you on your way to good oral health.

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