Q: What is a hygienist?
A: Dental hygienists are specially trained to work with the dentist in providing dental care to the patient. They play an important role in dental healthcare and are mainly concerned with gum health, education in correct home care and the application of preventive materials to the teeth and gums.
Q: What is the hygienist's role in the practice?
A: The hygienist's main role is to provide professional dental cleaning of the teeth for the patient. This is usually called scaling and polishing. However, perhaps their most important role is the education of the patient in the best way to keep the teeth free of plaque. The hygienist will work with your dentist to provide care tailored to your needs.
Q: Why is this treatment important?
A: Regular professional cleaning combined with your home care will help maintain a healthy mouth. A clean and healthy mouth will improve your appearance, help you keep your teeth and give you fresh breath.
Q: Can a hygienist help prevent dental disease?
A: The training of the hygienist is centered around preventing dental disease. Carefully removing the deposits that build up on the teeth (tartar) and teaching you how to prevent it from forming again will go a long way to slowing the progress of gum disease. By discussing your diet and recommending other preventive measures your decay rate can also be reduced.
Q: What help is available for children?
A: Children can benefit from having their teeth polished. The hygienist can also apply fluoride gels and solutions to help prevent tooth decay. The permanent back teeth can also benefit from having the fissures sealed. This is done by applying a special plastic coating to the biting surface soon after they erupt into the mouth.
Q: What other help can be given to adults?
A: Adults can also benefit from preventive measures such as the application of fluoride. They can also have anti-bacterial gels and solutions applied under the gum to kill the bacteria causing gum disease. Another very important part of the hygienist's work is the regular instruction and advice on home care. The hygienist may also suggest giving up smoking as this will reduce staining. Recent research has also shown that smokers have more gum disease and lose more teeth than non-smokers.
Q: Why doesn't the dentist do this work?
A: Some dentists will carry out this type of work. However, many now recognize that the hygienist has been specially trained to carry out scaling and polishing and can spend longer time with you. They are also experts at teaching you how to look after your teeth and gums. Often, the hygienist will spend a number of appointments getting the gums healthy and ready for the dentist to restore the teeth with dental crowns and fillings.
Q: Will the treatment hurt?
A: Scaling and polishing is usually pain-free. However, if you do experience some discomfort, the hygienist can eliminate this with the use of topical anesthetic creams or by giving you some local anesthetic. It is important that you let the hygienist know at that time so that some pain control can be given.
Q: What can I do to help the hygienist?
A: You can do a great deal to help yourself and the hygienist as you are in control of your mouth between visits to the practice. Your hygienist will have shown you how to remove plaque with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. You will also have been shown how to clean between your teeth with floss, tape or little brushes. There are many products now available and your hygienist will recommend those that are appropriate for you. Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet and the number of times that you eat during the day can help reduce decay. Your hygienist can help you by looking at your decay problem, your diet and by making some recommendations for you to consider.
Q: Does every practice have a hygienist?
A: Not all practices have a hygienist. However, an increasing number now offer this as part of their service to patients, using part-time and full-time hygienists. Hygienists can now work when a dentist is not on the premises, providing the patient has been seen by the dentist and the treatment is prescribed for the patient.
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