Dental hygienists are essential to any dental practice and are especially important in helping patients maintain good dental hygiene throughout the year. Working alongside the dentist, these hygienists provide specialized services with skill, all based on their professional training and experience. They also commonly spend the most time with patients during dental appointments.
What Exactly Is a Dental Hygienist?
A dental hygienist is a licensed or certified professional who works with the dental practice in a specialized way. The focus, however, is always on improving and maintaining the optimal oral health of the patients.
By providing a variety of services to patients, appointments become more streamlined, the patient experience is better, and the dentist is able to focus on the specific treatments and procedures themselves in a more efficient manner. In other words, no dental office can succeed without them.
What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?
To be more specific, here are seven responsibilities of a dental hygienist to show how beneficial they are to both dentists and patients.
1. Evaluates Your Dental Health
Your dental hygienist starts by reviewing both your health record and your dental history. They will ask you about past and current conditions and help you pinpoint any troubles you might be experiencing at that moment.
Next is an oral exam, with a search for tooth decay or other issues within the mouth and teeth to gain an overall assessment of your current dental health and to identify potentially problematic areas.
2. Takes a Series of Dental X-Rays
To gain a closer look at the condition of teeth, gums, and bone structure, your dental hygienist will take a series of dental x-rays for review by the dentist as well. These x-rays play a beneficial role in a patient’s preventive care and often in restorative measures also.
The dental x-rays can identify or confirm cavities, oral infections, gum disease, and other conditions not seen by the naked eye.
Spotting issues early on and treating them accordingly is assisted by the taking of these x-rays and also saves the dentist time in diagnosing and establishing a treatment plan.
Whether your hygienist takes x-rays during your visit depends on a variety of factors, but this is one of the important tasks performed.
3. Performs Dental Cleanings
The most common task patients associate with dental hygienists is the dental cleanings, usually scheduled every six months.
Dental cleaning skills rely on the hygienist’s knowledge and experience with various tools and techniques to remove plaque, tartar, and minimal stains from a patient’s teeth. For example, one technique includes removing tartar along the gum-lines, which are often missed with regular brushing.
4. Applies Preventive Care Measures
Once a patient’s dental cleaning is complete, the dental hygienist may apply a preventive care measure. These measures often include a fluoride treatment to strengthen teeth and fortify them to prevent excessive acid erosion to the enamel. For those patients with signs of early tooth decay, a fluoride treatment may reverse the condition before it turns into more severe problems.
Another preventive care measure performed by dental hygienists is the application of a sealant. This sealant is often beneficial in protecting tooth surfaces and deterring decay, particularly in children.
5. Provides Dental Care Tips to Patients
While the dental hygienist is there to help you achieve good dental hygiene, they also inform patients on practices to take to continue to experience optimal dental health. Education is key, and your hygienist will share specific steps you can take on your own to ensure you maintain the healthiest teeth and gums for years to come.
Tips they share may include the proper way to brush and floss your teeth, gums, and tongue. Dental hygienists can also suggest dental tools to use for ease and better care. Don’t’ be surprised if they also offer tips on healthy eating and other habits to protect and maintain your dental health.
Taking care of teeth and gums is their specialty, and passing on important tips to patients is part of who they are and what they do.
6. Serves as an Intermediary with the Dentist
A key role the dental hygienist plays is being the intermediary, or bridge, between a patient and the dentist. With a complete dental evaluation, they can efficiently brief the dentist on the findings and provide x-rays or other information as needed.
In addition, the hygienist will prepare the patient for the dentist’s exam, informing them of any issues found and potential options for treatment to talk over with the dentist. They may also assist the dentist in his or her examination and any procedures.
7. Updates Patient Records
During your dental visit and afterward, your dental hygienist will update your records so that your information is always current. This way, your dental team can review the records each time you visit and quickly gain an understanding of your past experiences and treatments and any current issues still in need of attention.
Schedule an Appointment with Lifetime Dental in Columbus Today
Whether you need a preventive dental cleaning and exam or are experiencing a problematic tooth, the professional, compassionate dental hygienists here at Lifetime Dental are ready to assist you and help you achieve better dental health. Contact our Columbus office today to schedule an appointment.
The mouth is the opening to many joys in our lives. Our complex oral and periodontal system helps us eat delicious foods, stay hydrated, talk to friends and family, and even breathe in the air.
But you may not know that the mouth is full of vibrant bacteria at all times. These bacteria are considered “good” bacteria, specifically known as normal flora, that help protect the mouth from outside threats and damage. Saliva works to protect the mouth too, by neutralizing harmful acids and breaking down food.
The mouth can be particularly vulnerable, as well. Along with the nose, the mouth is one of the primary openings through which bacteria and viruses can enter. Bacteria can enter the throat, lungs, teeth, or even the gums, and can proceed to infect other areas of the body, leading to the potential for advanced infections.
Fortunately, there have been strong evidence-based connections that protecting one’s oral health, especially nurturing healthy gums, can also lead to a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system can prevent someone from getting, or getting severely sick from, bacterial infections.
First, it is important to understand the steps and foundation behind oral health.
A few important steps to help protect your oral health are listed below:
Brushing your teeth at least twice per day with fluoride-containing toothpaste
Flossing your teeth, preferably daily
Brushing your gums and tongue, preferably daily
Reaching the back of your mouth when brushing
Attending regular dental appointments, at least every 6 months
Reducing consumption of food and drink that damages tooth enamel
Treating tooth cavities, decay, damage, or infections
When you don’t protect your oral health, you’re at higher risk of bacterial infections, as mentioned earlier. Bacteria can enter through the mouth, leading to lung infections (pneumonia), heart infections (endocarditis), or cardiovascular disease. There are typically other factors that must come into play to lead to such advanced infections and diseases, however, many people have no idea that poor oral health can lead to heart disease.
Oral health can also be made more difficult if you have diabetes, are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, have osteoporosis, have dementia or Alzheimer’s, is immobile or bed-ridden, are severely ill, or cannot perform their own dental care.
Due to its connectedness to the whole body, oral health should always be prioritized when it is possible.
Fortunately, there are dental professionals, including the team at Lifetime Dental Health, who can help you to accomplish dental hygiene goals.
What is the Immune System?
The immune system is a combination of bodily features that protect the body from disease and sickness, such as bacterial invaders. There are many parts to the immune system, including external barriers and internal protective measures.
The skin is the first line of defense. Thick skin cells and antibacterial secretions from the skin prevent bacteria from entering the body
The mucosal lining of the mouth is another external barrier. Mucus is secreted by the epithelial cells of the throat to trap bacteria. Cilia, little hair-like projections from the throat, also trap bacteria. Together, these barriers push bacteria out of the body
Internal Protective measures:
Bone Marrow creates immune cells, such as lymphocytes, macrophages, B cell antibodies, T cells, and more. These immune cells are innately wired to fight off bacteria.
Immune cells are also enriched in the spleen, which helps bolster their ability to fight.
Next, immune cells need to find their way to the infected areas of the body. Sometimes immune cells travel via the bloodstream, but more often, immune cells travel via the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system acts like a highway, similar to the vascular system of blood, that allows immune cells to travel around the body. Lymph cells and lymph fluid live within this system, ready to fight off infections at any time. When bacterial infections occur in the body, lymph nodes can become swollen via a process called inflammation. This allows the swollen area to expand in size, creating room for the incoming immune cells.
How Healthy Gums Boost the Immune System
Keeping one’s gums healthy can have a very positive effect on the immune system. If a person has healthy gums, it is a sign that they have been practicing good oral hygiene and that there are no periodontal infections present.
Healthy gums will appear as normal-sized and pink, without any swelling. When gums become swollen, especially chronically swollen, or red, this is a sign that gums are unhealthy. The body’s immune system responds to bacteria through inflammation of gum tissue because all of the immune system’s internal protective measures must arrive at the location where bacteria are and begin fighting the infection.
Redness, swelling, and bleeding can be signs of this internal fight between the immune system and bacteria in unhealthy gums.
So in order to keep the immune system healthy and happy, it is important to protect one’s gums.
Some habits to keep gums healthy include:
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush
Replace your toothbrush at least every 3 months
Do not forget to floss and/or use mouthwash to remove food particles between the gums. Floss at least once daily if possible. Do not press floss too forcefully into your gums, or you might cause damage
Reduce the number of sugary foods and “added sugar” foods in your diet
Avoid tobacco use if possible
If you would like to come to Lifetime Dental Health for a cleaning or a regular check-up of your gums, please contact us today.
Most of us do it twice a day. Many of us do it at least once. You guessed it! Brush our teeth. And maybe floss. We all know how to do it, and that’s a good thing. But there’s more to a good oral hygiene regimen, regardless of how often you do it.
What is a Good Oral Hygiene Regimen?
There are four fundamental tasks for basic oral health, and you may already do them. Still, we can all use a refresher course on how to do those tasks as well as we can.
Step #1: Brushing When? Preferably twice a day – when you wake up and when you go to bed. If you can’t do this, brush at least once every 24 hours. If you have breakfast prior to your first-of-the-day brush, wait to brush for 45-60 minutes, particularly if breakfast included orange juice or grapefruit. Acidic foods like these can loosen tooth enamel and brushing may damage your teeth.
Why? The #1 reason is to prevent cavities. Brushing removes plaque (a coating of bacteria) on your teeth which, if left to settle in, causes tooth decay. Just as important is that brushing also stimulates your gums. Gum disease does more than ruin your teeth. It can lead to major health problems, including stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
How? Position your brush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth and gums and brush up and down on the front and back, and back and forth across the top. Brush for a minimum of two minutes. (You can buy electric toothbrushes that beep every 30 seconds, so you can brush each quarter of your teeth for the same length of time.) The American Dental Association recommends using a soft-bristled brush and an ADA-approved toothpaste.
Step #2: Flossing When?Before you brush. And at least once a day. Whatever is in your mouth when you fall asleep has all night to do its damage, so flossing just before bedtime is the optimal time.
Why? Flossing loosens up the bits of food that are too small to see. The ones stuck between your teeth and under your gums. Flossing loosens plaque as well, and that will help your brushing do a better job.
How? You can use dental floss wrapped around your fingers or one of the easy-to-use floss picks (a plastic holder with a piece of floss attached). Slip the floss between your teeth and guide it gently up and down along the side of each tooth and down into the space between tooth and gum. Don’t forget those molars in the back!
Step #3: Rinsing When? Every time you do Steps #1 and #2, also rinse with mouthwash. Pick a flavor you like (brand doesn’t matter) so you’ll be more likely to do it regularly.
Why? For the same reason you usually drink something after eating. Flossing and brushing are most important, but even done well, they can miss some things. Rinsing flushes out the last few bits of toothpaste and food. Not to mention that mouthwash makes your mouth feel – and taste – totally refreshed!
How? It’s simple! Fill the cap of the bottle with mouthwash and move the liquid around in your mouth for 30 seconds, then spit it out. Be sure to keep your lips closed while rinsing, so the mouthwash can do its job.
Step #4: Scraping When? You needn’t do this after every time you floss, brush, and rinse, but it’s a good idea to make scraping your tongue a regular part of your routine. And it only takes a minute!
Why? Food, bacteria, and dead cells collect on your tongue when you eat or drink. And all that debris can dull your taste buds and lead to tooth decay. While it may seem that brushing would be effective for your tongue as well as your teeth, it isn’t. In fact, one study found that using a tongue scraper can significantly reduce the number of bacteria known to cause bad breath and tooth decay.
How? Use a tongue scraper. They’re designed specifically to clean the tongue. After flossing, brushing, and rinsing, look in the mirror and stick out your tongue. Lay the rounded edge of the scraper across the back of your tongue (or start in the middle if the back activates your gag reflex). Pull the scraper gently along your tongue from the back to the tip. Never push the scraper from the tip to the back! One or two scrapes should do the job.
How Can I Tell If my Hygiene Routine Is Working?
The first indication will be almost immediate – your mouth will feel fresh, clean, and healthy. Over time, you’ll notice other conditions – and the lack of some – that demonstrate your success.
Your breath will smell fresh and your teeth will feel clean even when you first wake up
Your gums will look pink and healthy, and they won’t bleed when you floss and brush
Your mouth will flinch less when you eat or drink something hot or cold
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Here are a few extra guidelines for taking the best care of your mouth:
Eat plenty of crunchy vegetables and fruit
Limit food and drinks that are sugary or acidic
Drink plenty of water, and never chew ice
Keep your toothbrush clean and get a new one often
Don’t use tobacco
Of course, some problems and conditions can’t be seen in your bathroom mirror. So, it’s important to see us at least twice a year for a checkup and a thorough cleaning. We encourage you to contact us or make an appointment online. Your mouth will thank you!
Many of today’s adults share common memories from childhood. Sunday drives, visits to grandma and grandpa, trips to the local playground or the city zoo, and hearing the iconic phrase – do as I say, not as I do – over and over again. Why? Because children are natural mimics and will do exactly what Mom and Dad do, no matter what it is. Of course, some of the things children mimic are things they shouldn’t do. But there is one daily habit parents can be proud of modeling for their children: Good oral hygiene.
Is Good Oral Hygiene Different for Children?
While many healthful habits are different for children than for adults, taking care of teeth is almost exactly the same: floss and brush daily, avoid certain foods and drinks, see your dentist regularly. Simple, right? Right. And easy to follow. For adults and motivated teenagers.
But for younger children, especially babies and toddlers, it’s a hard act to mimic. Nearly one in every five children between the ages of 5 and 11 has untreated tooth decay. Even baby teeth (now called primary teeth) can get cavities! And if cavities in primary teeth aren’t treated, permanent teeth could be negatively affected. Untreated tooth decay, even in early childhood, can lead to other dental and medical problems in adult life. Of course, all of those primary teeth will disappear eventually, but by the time that starts – when your child is around six years old — the damage from tooth decay will have already happened.
My Child Is Still a Baby. How Soon Should I Start?
Caring for your child’s teeth should start as soon as they come home from the hospital. It’s up to you to teach good oral hygiene habits, and here’s how to start:
Until your baby is about a year old, simply wipe their teeth with a soft, damp washcloth after the morning feeding and right before bedtime. This washes away bacteria and sugars that can cause tooth decay.
Never, ever let your baby fall asleep with a bottle. (As harmless as it may seem, this simple activity often generates tooth decay.) When teeth start coming in, usually around a child’s first birthday, begin using a soft child-size toothbrush and plain water.
When your child reaches toddler age, you can add a small dab of a non-fluoride toothpaste (non-fluoride toothpaste is safe to swallow).
As soon as your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste, switch to one that has fluoride in order to give your child the extra protection fluoride provides.
You should introduce flossing — and demonstrate it — when your child starts brushing their teeth on the own. (Hint: the floss that comes on a plastic holder is easier for children.)
How Can I Make Good Oral Hygiene Habits Appealing?
Children get bored easily, we know, and caring for their teeth may not be as exciting as other things they could do. But children will understand caring for their teeth if you tell them (as one 5-year-old declared): “Plaque makes your teeth dirty, and you have to wash them.” It’s up to you, as a parent, to help make it interesting enough — even fun! — that they will establish a solid habit. Good oral hygiene habits will serve them well throughout their life. And they will look to Mom and Dad to learn what to do.
One of the most successful ways to instill oral health habits in your children is to make establishing those habits as much fun as the other things they enjoy. You know your children best, so you probably already have an idea of what will work. But just in case you’d like some fresh ideas:
Let your child choose their own toothbrush – their favorite color or a cartoon character they love. Just make sure the one they choose is a good size for their hand and has soft bristles.
If they want to, let them choose their own toothpaste, as well. They may not want the mint you like, but some companies have toothpaste with flavors like strawberry or watermelon.
Set up a system to reward your child for good oral care with something they’ll appreciate, such as staying up a little longer, watching a favorite movie, or being read a special story.
Avoid sugary treats or drinks as rewards, though. (This kind of defeats the purpose.)
Find a song your child likes and record exactly two minutes of it. Then play that two minutes when it’s time to brush. The American Dental Association advocates two minutes of brushing twice a day for both children and adults.
Best of all, let your child see you brushing your teeth correctly…and enjoying it. When children are young, anything Mom and Dad does is something they want to do, too, including brushing their teeth.
What if I Need a Bit of Help?
Come on in, and bring your child! At Lifetime Dental Health, we’ll be happy to discuss how best to handle your child’s at-home dental hygiene. We’ll explain ways to maintain your children’s teeth that are similar to how you take care of your own and explain anything you need to know based on the specific condition of your child’s teeth. In addition to setting the stage for healthy adult teeth, introducing children to dental care as early as possible can go a long way toward eliminating the fear some children experience when their first time in a dental chair includes lots of uncomfortable scraping and the scary sound of a dental drill.
To talk to one of our dental professionals or to make your first appointment, contact us. We’ll be happy to serve you and your little ones.
The holidays are upon us, and with these festivities come the feasts! You might find yourself eating more sweets than you usually do — or changing your healthy dental habits to adapt to multiple celebrations. However, even changes that only last through the holiday season are enough to do damage to your pearly whites. It’s important to take some steps to help protect your smile and ensure a healthy holiday season.
What can happen to my teeth during the holidays?
Your teeth’s number one enemy is sugar, and the holidays are a time when desserts play center stage. Buckets of Halloween candy are just the start to a season that prides itself on pies of all flavors, candy canes, and homemade cookies, cakes, fudges, and other desserts crafted specially for family gatherings. Those sweets are central in holiday traditions and memories, but you don’t want those memories tarnished by an emergency trip to the dentist during this time.
Bacteria that already live in our mouth naturally devour the sugar we eat, leaving acid behind. This acid is responsible for eroding our enamel and leading to tooth decay, cavities, and worse. Since we typically eat even more sugar than normal during the holiday season, we can really wreak havoc on the health of our teeth — not to mention rack up extra sensitivity.
Beyond the damage that sugar can do to our smile, there are a number of treats that can cause extra harm. In a worst-case scenario, highly sticky candies like taffy can yank out fillings. Hard desserts like peanut brittle can damage existing dental work or even crack or break natural teeth. Before you take a bite, ask yourself: is this item worth the risk of having to schedule an emergency appointment with the dentist? Plan accordingly!
How can I ensure healthy holiday habits for my teeth?
Don’t treat your teeth like tools. Avoid using them to open packaging, remove tags, and other similar situations. Even seemingly innocuous tasks could damage dental work — or even your natural teeth. Likewise, leave cracking nutshells to nutcrackers. You could land in an emergency dental appointment in the middle of holiday festivities, making this year certainly memorable — but not in a good way.
Whenever possible, try to brush your teeth after eating meals — particularly when those meals entail delicious desserts. Pack a travel toothbrush, floss, and travel-sized tube of toothpaste in your purse or travel bag to use between meals. There are also a number of single-use, disposable teeth-cleaning options available on the market for just these kinds of situations. That way, you can have the tools you need on hand to clean your teeth without the extra worry of transporting your toothbrush and toothpaste everywhere you go.
No matter how much you might try to be prepared for anything, a holiday meal — or treat — might just catch you unaware. If you’re caught without your teeth-cleaning tools, even rinsing with plain water is better than nothing. Doing so after meals and snacks can help neutralize the acids that the sugar-eating bacteria leave on your teeth.
In the end, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to completely restrict yourself from the treats that make the holiday fun. Everything in moderation — and rinse with water afterward.
What are some healthy holiday activities that won’t hurt my teeth?
When it comes to delicious holiday feasts, prioritize the treats that mean the most to you. For example, indulge when it comes to a meaningful dessert recipe handed down from generation to generation, but skip the soda. Trade sugary, carbonated beverages with water — especially since they’re not the stars of the show when it comes to sweets.
Also, try not to snack throughout the day. The buildup of debris in and around your teeth coupled with the accumulation of sugar and acid can harm your teeth. Strive to eat once — even with desserts — and then brush or rinse your mouth.
Think about what kinds of desserts could be good alternatives to the traditional, rich, sugary treats normally found at holiday celebrations. There are plenty of delicious low-sugar options in cookies, brownies, and bars. You can also cook these recipes in a way to ward off overly crunchy treats that might cause tooth breakages. There are even healthy options, like yogurt parfaits, fruit-based desserts, and more. Think about where you could replace syrups and whipped creams with fresh fruit toppings, like on cheesecakes and pancakes. With all the sweetener alternatives available nowadays, you don’t have to trade taste for health.
Above all, make sure you continue to brush and floss your teeth twice a day — even if you’re traveling out of town for the holidays or attending multiple gatherings. Don’t miss out on your healthy dental hygiene habits just because it’s the holidays!
If you have questions about your dental health or would like to schedule an appointment, call us today at Lifetime Dental Health at (614) 333-9442.
When you are away from home, it can be easy to forget to keep up with your regular oral care routine. Be it due to laziness or lack of daily structure, being someplace aside from your own bathroom can cause you to fall behind on brushing, forget to floss, or forgo other parts of your normal oral hygiene regimen. Along with keeping up with oral care, there are other travel tips to note that will keep your oral health in check while you are vacationing or away from home. Follow these on-the-go guidelines and you will be in great shape when you’re not running through the usual day-to-day drill. Oral care is so important no matter where you are or what you’re doing, so don’t let your trip you up.
I forgot my toothbrush…now what?
Packing is always a challenge, and most of us tend to leave something behind…even the essentials. If you forgot to pack your toothbrush, there is no need to panic. If you are staying at a hotel, go to the front desk and simply ask for one. More likely than not they will have a complimentary one for you in a pinch. Same goes for toothpaste. If your hotel does not have a toothbrush for you to use, there is sure to be a convenience store, supermarket, or pharmacy nearby. To avoid this common oversight, purchase a few travel-sized toothbrushes and leave them in your luggage or carry-on bag for your next trip. Better safe than sorry. Even if you remember to bring along your toothbrush, there’s a good chance that someone you are traveling with forgot theirs. Help them out so they can maintain their oral care too.
Do I really need to floss while I am away? Can’t I skip it ‘til I return?
Flossing is an important part of oral health. It is not advisable to skip a week or even a few days…even when you are away. In fact, when you are vacationing, you are probably more likely to indulge in foods that you normally would not eat at home. Perhaps you will give in to sticky sweets or other fares that is far more likely to get lodged between teeth, which can lead to decay. It only takes a few moments to care for your mouth. Leave the floss by the sink and get in there at least once a day while you’re away. Pack some convenient floss picks in your bag to tend to teeth during the day as well. You never know when you’re going to need one.
My schedule is all over the place when I am traveling. What if I can’t brush and floss when I want/need to?
It makes sense that you will be on a completely different schedule when you are out of town. From sleeping in to sightseeing to late suppers, your run-of-the-mill routine will be reworked. It is not necessarily important to stick to the exact same schedule you do at home as long as you find time to tend to your teeth and gums – every day, at least twice a day. You should be able to brush when you wake up and before bedtime, no matter what those times maybe. Mid-day dental care is just as important, but chances are that you will miss out unless you pre-plan. Take along a small toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste in your handbag or backpack so you can brush after lunch or snacks. If you can’t find a place to get the job done discreetly, chew on a piece of sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow to keep your mouth cleaner ‘till you are able to brush. An apple does the trick too.
Should I come into the office for a dental exam before traveling?
If you can plan ahead and schedule your general exam close to your departure date, it is a smart idea. If you have any cavities or other dental issues looming, you are best off taking care of this before heading out of town. If you require emergency care while far from home, there is no guarantee you will be able to see a dentist you can trust, one who accepts your insurance (particularly if you are traveling out of the country), or if there will be anyone available at all. You will be less worried about your oral health so you can focus on having fun.
When you are on-the-go, your teeth don’t know the difference. You may want to let loose or do things differently than you do normally, but the one thing to keep up with is oral care. It only takes a few minutes to go through the motions, so make it your mission to be good to your mouth. If you want to get an oral checkup before debarking on your trip, consider scheduling a cleaning with Lifetime Dental Health! Safe travels!
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