When you go to your next dental appointment, you might meet a new face. Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics recently added more than 50 new team members who all have something in common—they are all dental hygienists!
So what exactly is a dental hygienist, and what do they do? Dental hygienists make a big impact on both general dentistry and orthodontics, so let’s take a moment to learn more about what our newest team members do and what this means for you!
What is a Dental Hygienist?
Dental hygienists are licensed professionals who work with dental teams to help patients maintain and improve their oral health. They work alongside dentists to provide necessary preventative care services and streamline appointments to improve the overall patient experience.
U.S. News lists dental hygienists as high on the job satisfaction list, coming in at number five in best health care support jobs and number 32 overall. It’s a flexible role with plenty of growth potential, and dental hygienists help provide holistic dental care for patients of all ages.
In this video, Lara, the hygienist from our Pinnacle Park office in Dallas, explains more about dental hygienists.
What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?
A dental hygienist performs patient exams, offers preventative care tips, and provides education about oral health. They can use various tools and techniques, including polishing devices to remove stains and x-ray machines to take images. Dental hygienists can also:
- Clean a patient’s teeth by removing tartar, plaque, and stains.
- Apply fluoride treatment or sealants to protect teeth.
- Evaluate a patient’s oral health and share the findings with a dentist.
- Document findings and treatment plans in the patient’s record.
One of the key services a dental hygienist provides is education. They can teach you how to brush and floss properly, discuss how diet can impact your oral health, and even suggest better oral care tools for a patient’s specific needs. Are you overdue for your routine check-up and cleaning? Schedule an appointment to see the hygienist at your local office!
Responsibilities of a Dental Hygienist
Think about the last time you had your teeth cleaned at the dentist’s. A dental hygienist probably did that! They expertly remove plaque and tartar, giving your teeth that fresh feeling.
Guiding Oral Hygiene Practices
Ever been shown how to floss properly? Or which toothbrush to pick? That’s them again, guiding you towards better oral care practices.
Identifying Dental Diseases
Using their trained eyes, dental hygienists can spot the earliest signs of gum diseases or tooth decay.
They don’t just look at your teeth. They examine your entire oral cavity and neck for any signs of related diseases.
Scaling and Root Planing
Sounds technical, right? Simply put, it’s a deeper cleaning process for those with gum diseases.
Applying Fluoride Treatments
To strengthen your teeth and prevent cavities, they might apply fluoride treatments. It’s like giving your teeth a protective shield!
The Significance of Dental Hygienists in Oral Health
Benefits to Patients:
Imagine missing out on all the preventive care and education. Without dental hygienists, oral diseases might run rampant!
Collaborative Efforts with Dentists:
Working hand in hand with dentists, they ensure a holistic approach to oral care. It’s teamwork at its finest.
How Do You Become a Dental Hygienist?
Since all dental hygienists must be licensed, you must complete certain requirements. You must obtain at least an Associate’s degree through a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Many dental hygienists pursue higher degrees, especially if they want to participate in research or teaching.
No matter what degree you obtain, you must complete specific coursework, including medical ethics, anatomy, and periodontics. It takes about three years to complete the required courses.
Once you complete the required education, you can pursue licensing through written and practical exams. Additionally, licensed dental hygienists must complete continuing education to maintain their status.
Read more: Tooth Resorption: What You Need to Know
Why Is Dental Hygiene Important?
There are strong connections between oral health and overall health. Chronic health conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, put you at greater risk for developing gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss. Fortunately, these problems are preventable with proper oral care, including regular dental check-ups.
When you visit the dentist for a check-up and teeth cleaning, your hygienist clears out the bacteria in your mouth, essentially giving you a fresh start. They also look for signs of problems and advise you about steps you can take to improve your oral health. Being proactive is especially important if you have a chronic health condition that puts you at risk.
In this video, Lara from Pinnacle Park explains more about the importance of dental hygiene.
At your next preventative care appointment, you may meet one of our new dental hygienists. Our dental hygienists are ready to work with you to maintain or improve your oral health.
If you’re due for a routine check-up and professional teeth cleaning, it’s the perfect time to come in and meet one of our dental hygienists! Find the office nearest you and then schedule your appointment.
Do dental hygienists only clean teeth?
No, their responsibilities extend to educating patients, diagnosing oral diseases, and collaborating with dentists for comprehensive care.
Is it hard to become a dental hygienist?
It requires dedication and rigorous training, but the impact on patients’ lives can be deeply rewarding.
How often should I see a dental hygienist?
Typically, it’s recommended to see them every six months, but it can vary based on your oral health.
Can a dental hygienist replace a dentist?
While they play a crucial role, they work in tandem with dentists. Certain treatments and diagnoses require a dentist’s expertise.
Why does my dental hygienist ask about my general health?
Many systemic diseases have oral symptoms. A holistic understanding helps in providing comprehensive care.