Dental hygienists are highly educated dental health professionals. They play an important role in your oral health. Their services provide preventative care that helps you avoid serious issues such as periodontal disease, as well as the need for expensive dental restorations such as crowns and root canals. Without your dental hygienist, the plaque on your teeth can turn into tartar, a very hard substance that causes tooth decay and gum disease. So we’d like to take some time to honour our dental hygienists and explain why they are the unsung heroes of dental care.
What Is A Dental Hygienist?
Dental hygienists specialize in preventative dental care. They must earn a diploma or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene from a post-secondary school accredited by The Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada. They must also be registered with the dental hygiene regulatory authority to practise in Ontario. There are several professional development initiatives they must also continue to complete each year to maintain their license, as well as the mandatory quality assurance program.
Starting Off On The Right Foot
All new patients require a medical history before any treatment can be provided. Your dental hygienist performs the medical history in most cases, an important step to ensure each patient receives the proper care. Medical histories help the dentist in several ways, including:
- Understanding your previous dental work
- Recording your medical conditions and prescription medications
- Noting allergies
- Changes to your overall health
- Assessing you for oral health risks
Your dentist then has a thorough history they use during your appointments and an ongoing reference your entire dental team uses throughout your life. Histories help establish suitable treatment plans while providing insight into issues such as the tendency for tooth decay.
Ensuring Your Comfort
Your dental hygienist also considers things that impact your comfort during your visits. For example, if you suffer from dental anxiety, your dental hygienist will help ensure you are comfortable during your appointments. The information is recorded so your dentist can offer solutions such as sedation dentistry. If you suffer from TMJ issues you will be offered shorter appointments, or rests during cleanings to keep your jaw more comfortable.
Screening For Decay And Oral Disease
At each of your dental checkups, it is your hygienist who collects further information to update your dental history. They will ask about changes to your health and whether you have any dental complaints. Their job is to screen patients for tooth decay and gum disease. They are often the dental professional who helps in screening for oral cancers. All these steps are taken before you see your dentist, and they share the information in professional terms. They not only check your teeth and gums, but also your head, neck, and mouth. They help catch issues before they become serious, painful, and costly.
Keeping Your Teeth Clean And Plaque-Free
This is probably the one thing most people think of when they consider their dental hygienist. Your dental cleaning is the most important part of your preventative care. Your hygienist is trained to use proper tools to remove tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth. Your professional dental cleanings are crucial to help prevent cavities, gum disease and tooth loss. They also help you maintain that white smile.
Taking Dental X-Rays
Another essential element of preventative care, your hygienist takes x-rays to spot issues and help in the diagnosis of issues. During checkups, issues are spotted early before they become serious. At emergency appointments where you might be experiencing pain, or have a cracked or damaged tooth, x-rays confirm diagnosis so proper treatment can be provided. Last but not least, x-rays also reveal the existence of oral tumours. Other reasons x-rays might be required include orthodontic treatments, tracking wisdom teeth growth, or TMJ issues.
We’ve already mentioned preventative care a few times. This is because it is a major part of your oral health care. Your hygienist performs all the important parts of preventative care, including precautionary treatments. Fluoride, for example, helps strengthen your teeth so you are at less risk for acid erosion or tooth decay. Sealants are often recommended for kids to prevent tooth decay in molars. Many kids have pits and crevices where food gets trapped. The sealant helps repel debris, while also offering protection against bacteria.
Good Dental Hygiene Guidance
We all could use a little help now and then when it comes to our brushing and flossing. Hygienists can spot areas you tend to miss and offer advice to improve your oral hygiene regime. They offer instructions specific to your needs to help you become more effective at your brushing and flossing which in turn improves your overall oral health. They also go into more detail offering advice on the best type of toothbrush, toothpaste, and flossing tools. This can be very helpful as you become more aware of your habits and can be more attentive in your daily oral care practices at home.
Documenting Your Dental Care and Treatment
Other than receiving your actual treatment, you rarely see your dentist first. This is because hygienists are like the ambassadors of the dental office, conducting the preliminary steps to prepare you for further treatment. They assist at your first appointment taking your medical history, providing screenings at each of your checkups, providing important post-treatment steps such as x-rays or making dental molds, and also ensuring your records are up to date.
They brief your dentist, so you don’t have to repeat your complaints, and also ensure you are comfortable throughout your care. They make important discoveries about your oral health and document them to be shared with your dentist. They also record your treatment plan and keep track of treatments still outstanding.
As you can see, the importance of dental hygienists is at the heart of your care. They are a vital member of our team. They ensure you understand how to care for your teeth properly and work with your dentist to ensure you maintain optimum dental health for life.