When you look at the human body, the mouth seems relatively small. But when you delve in, you see it is a world of its own!
So what is actually in your mouth? It is comprised of not only the teeth but all that pink and squishy stuff too: the lips, cheeks, palate, tongue and gums, to name just a few. There is an awful lot to assess and much to take into account to ensure all is working properly.
Like in so many industries where maintenance and performance are attended to by a range of different people, in dentistry the wellbeing of the mouth is the realm of a number of professionals, each with different qualifications and skills but all working together towards one outcome. In so many dental practices today, you can expect to meet various practitioners and staff, all with a different but related role to play. There may be a receptionist, a dental assistant, a dentist, a specialist and – last but not at all least – a dental hygienist.
As a dental hygienist myself, I have graduated with a Bachelor of Oral Health qualifying me as a dental hygiene professional responsible for looking after the oral health of my patients. Our role involves the prevention, education and maintenance of the periodontal tissues (the gums, ligaments holding teeth, the bone and the outer root surfaces of your teeth).
Why is it important to see a dental hygienist if I’ve already seen a dentist?
Your appointment with a dental hygienist may overlap with treatments provided by your general dentist. Often you may even be referred by your dentist to a hygienist so the two practitioners can work in conjunction to ensure your mouth, as a whole, is healthy.
However, a hygienist’s time is specifically dedicated to preventing gum disease or identifying any pre-existing conditions of this kind. They use several tools and techniques to achieve this. In your dental cleaning appointment your hygienist will work with you to provide a cleaning schedule that meets the needs of your mouth and explain the importance of oral health maintenance at home. This may mean that you will need to see your dental hygienist on a regular basis.
Dental hygienists can perform some duties similar to a dentist’s to help assess and treat oral disease. Specifically, these may include:
- scaling and polishing – removal of soft and hard plaque from the teeth
- removal of stains – removal of any extrinsic markings on the teeth
- intra-oral X-rays – imagery that helps diagnose both tooth and gum disease
- diet analysis –discussions relating to risks imposed by foods and drinks
- dental hygiene instructions – an introduction to different tools and techniques to help assist you with your personalised oral health routine
- fluoride applications – the use of topical re-mineralising agents to strengthen teeth
- fissure sealing – filling in grooves and fissures of the teeth to prevent tooth decay.
So the simple answer to whether you should see a dental hygienist (and why) is that these dental professionals play a key role in the continuum of dental health maintenance and treatments. We pride ourselves on our gentle and caring manner, so you are sure to enjoy your time with us!
BOH (La Trobe)
Dental Hygienist and Therapist