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Franklyn Alexander, DDS
General & Cosmetic Dentistry

Patients Choice Winner 2016

Learn How Dental Hygienists Keep Your Teeth Healthy

Many people only think about visiting a dentist’s office when there’s a problem, but this approach can mean more expenses, more trouble and possibly more uncomfortable treatments in the long run. While the idea of seeing the dentist is unpleasant for lots of people, it’s a good idea to get used to the thought of seeing your dental hygienist twice a year to help you avoid more complicated (and more expensive) dental problems.

What does a dental hygienist do?

A dental hygienist works under the supervision of a dentist to assess a patient’s oral health and performs routine maintenance and preventative care, as well as educating and working with the patient in order to make sure they’re doing everything right in their at-home hygiene routine. He or she will do a thorough check of your teeth and gums, including visual screening for oral cancer, followed by a routine cleaning to remove tartar and plaque buildup. They will also perform any x-rays you may need and make note of potential problems for your dentist to examine. Dental hygienists have an associate’s degree and are licensed in their state after passing medical exams.

Why is it important to see a hygienist regularly?

A dental hygienist will generally be the person doing your regular cleaning during your bi-annual dental visit- this makes them a VIP when it comes to keeping your teeth and gums healthy! He or she is responsible for looking at the overall health of your mouth during each visit and making you and your dentist aware of any potential problems, developing conditions or risk factors they may find.

Since a hygienist’s main role is preventative care, they are critical to helping keep your mouth disease- and decay-free. They will be able to tell how effectively you’re brushing and flossing, and will be prepared to give you tips or a refresher course on the best way to practice preventative care at home. A dental hygienist is also well-versed in the effects of diet on the teeth and gums, so feel free to bring up any dietary concerns and ask for advice about what foods are good and bad for your individual needs.

Seeing a hygienist on a regular basis can help keep you from the more extensive dental procedures not performed by hygienists, such as surgeries or conditions requiring medication.

What should you look for in a dental hygienist?

Chances are you chose your dental office based on the reputation of your dentist, not the surrounding staff. However, your hygienist will typically spend more time than your dentist looking at your teeth and assessing your oral health, so it’s important to feel comfortable with them. Since they will most likely be performing your cleaning, you need to feel confident in their abilities – don’t hesitate to ask to see accreditation. You should also feel comfortable asking questions and requesting explanations of anything you don’t understand.