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.