Dental Hygenist

What is a dental hygienist?

Dental hygienists are specially trained to work as part of the dental team, to give care to patients.

They play an important part in dental health care and are mainly concerned with preventive dental health and treating gum disease - showing you correct home care and helping to keep your teeth and gums healthy. 

What does the dental hygienist do in the practice?

The hygienist's main work is to prevent and treat gum disease including professionally cleaning your teeth. This is usually called ‘scaling and polishing'. However, perhaps their most important role is showing you the best way to keep your teeth free of plaque. Plaque is a sticky coating that forms constantly on your teeth. If it is not brushed away properly, this hardens to form tartar which you cannot remove yourself. They also give advice on diet and preventing dental decay. The hygienist will work alongside your dentist to give you care that is tailored to your needs.

Does every practice have a hygienist?

Not all practices have a hygienist. However, more of them now offer this as part of the service to patients, using part-time and full-time hygienists. Hygienists see patients directly as well as under the prescription of a dentist.

Why is this dental treatment important?

Regular professional cleaning, combined with looking after your teeth and gums well at home, will help keep your mouth healthy. A clean and healthy mouth will improve your appearance, help you to keep your teeth and give you fresh breath, and help to maintain your general health.

Can a hygienist help prevent dental disease?

This is what the training of the hygienist is all about. Carefully removing the hard deposits of tartar (or ‘calculus') that build up on the teeth and teaching you how to prevent them coming back, will go a long way towards slowing the progress of gum disease.

By talking to you about your diet, and recommending other preventive measures, the hygienist can help you keep to a routine that will slow down the rate at which your teeth decay.

Regular visits and advice will help build your confidence in keeping your mouth healthy.

What help is available for children?

Children can benefit from having their teeth polished. The hygienist can also apply fluoride varnishes to help prevent decay.

The permanent (or ‘adult') back teeth can also benefit from having the biting surfaces sealed. This is done by applying a special plastic coating to the biting surface soon after the teeth come through.

Why doesn't the dentist do this work?

Some dentists will do this type of work themselves. However, many now realise that the hygienist has been specially trained to carry out scaling and polishing and can spend longer with you. They are also expert at teaching you how to look after your teeth and gums. Often the hygienist will spend a number of appointments getting the gums healthy ready for the dentist to restore the teeth with crowns and fillings.

Will the treatment hurt?

Scaling and polishing is usually pain free. However, if you do have any discomfort the hygienist can use anaesthetic creams, or give you some local anaesthetic. It is important that you let the hygienist know at the time so they can help with your discomfort.

What can I do to help the hygienist?

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.

They will also have shown you how to clean between your teeth with interdental brushes, floss or tape.

There are many oral care products now available including specialist toothpastes, power or electric toothbrushes, and mouthwashes. Your hygienist will recommend those that are best for you.

We recommend you follow three simple steps to help keep your teeth and gums healthy.

  • brush your teeth last thing at night, and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks.
  • visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.