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.