You may have been referred to a dental hygienist by your dentist and wonder what they can do for your oral health that another healthcare professional cannot. In short, dental hygienists are highly-trained at specific jobs that relate to the care of your gums and teeth. They will have studied in many areas of dental healthcare including, pathology, preventative dentistry and physiology, to name but a few. Any medical referral can be a bit worrying, but there is no cause for alarm when receiving one to a dental hygienist. Here's what you can expect in most cases.
Like other dental health professionals, dental hygienists perform an educational role as a part of their duties. This commonly means helping adults to learn how to take care of their teeth properly. It might mean, for example, that they give expert advice on brushing and techniques for reaching hard-to-access parts of the mouth, such as wisdom teeth. They also offer guidance on flossing and may lead teams of other oral health educators, in some cases.
Most dental hygienists are qualified to carry out specific procedures, and it is for this reason that the majority of people get a referral to one from their dentist. Scaling teeth, sometimes known as conventional periodontal therapy, is a service that is offered by nearly all hygienists. This is effectively like a deep cleaning procedure which helps to remove deeply rooted plaque and grime from the outer parts of teeth. Dental hygienists also polish teeth which is a procedure that can make them look healthier and whiter in appearance. In addition, the application of a topical fluoride and fissure sealant is another common procedure whereby certain teeth are targeted for specific treatment. Usually conducted when an attempt is being made to save teeth from extraction, this procedure helps to harden enamel which has become weakened by exposure, for instance, to things like sugary drinks.
As well as education and carrying out certain key dental procedures, hygienists are usually responsible for preventative measures, such as treating gum disease. This problem is commonplace in Australia and can lead to the loss of teeth in severe cases. Dental hygienists are charged with improving oral health by encouraging home-based treatments like regular mouth washing to help people maintain better gums. Lastly, some dental hygienists receive referrals to assist people who want to get rid of problems like bad breath, a condition that is often associated with gum disease.