Do I need to see a dental hygienist?
Good oral hygiene isn’t just about brushing and flossing every day; it’s also about visiting your dental team regularly. While most people know it’s important to see their dentist, they’re less sure about the role a dental hygienist plays in oral care. Here’s everything you should know about visiting a dental hygienist.
What is a dental hygienist?
If you’ve never been to a dental hygienist, you’re not alone. Dental hygienists work alongside dentists and orthodontists to provide extra care to dental patients. Their role is to focus on preventing and treating oral health problems like gum disease, inflamed gums, loose teeth, receding gums or bad breath. Part of their role is to educate patients on caring for their teeth and gums. A typical appointment may involve your hygienist cleaning your teeth and offering advice around:
- Flossing more effectively
- Choosing the right toothbrush
- Preventing plaque buildup
- Using dental aids
Why should I see a dental hygienist?
Seeing a dental hygienist regularly is essential for a few reasons. While your at-home dental routine matters, it’s hard for even the most dedicated person to clean everywhere. Bacteria and plaque can build up between your back molars, under gums or behind bonded retainers. Once plaque has hardened into tartar, removing it with a toothbrush is impossible.
Another reason to see a dental hygienist is to treat gum disease. Signs of gum disease include bad breath, bleeding gums, sore or swollen gums, a receding gum line and loose teeth. You should see a dental hygienist immediately if you have any of these signs.
A hygienist will clean and treat your teeth and advise you on improving your oral health.
What happens at a hygienist appointment?
At an appointment, your dental hygienist will ask about your dental routine, what type of toothbrush you use and if you have any specific concerns, like bleeding when you brush or floss or a buildup of tartar. They will then examine your mouth and assess the health of your teeth before performing a clean, scale and polish.
Clean, scale and polish
Your hygienist will start removing any plaque and tartar using specialised tools like an ultrasound scraper to remove the bulk of the tartar. They will then use smaller hand-held instruments to remove stubborn remains and get between the teeth.
After they have removed all the tartar, your hygienist will polish your teeth. Polishing helps smooth the surface of your teeth and makes it harder for plaque to accumulate in the future. Polishing also helps remove stains and will leave your teeth whiter and shinier. During this stage, your hygienist will apply a special gritty toothpaste to your teeth and clean them with an electric toothbrush.
Once the cleaning is finished, your hygienist will ask you to rinse your mouth. Rinsing helps to get rid of any debris and leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean.
Rather than a clean and polish, your hygienist might recommend a deep clean. A deep clean is a more intensive treatment that targets the area below the gum line. This treatment, also known as root planing and scaling, is typically recommended for people with periodontal disease. During a deep clean, your hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from the tooth surface and the root surfaces of the teeth exposed beneath the gum line.
Your hygienist will also smooth out any rough spots on the roots of the teeth to prevent bacteria from accumulating and causing further damage. A deep clean may require multiple appointments and may be performed under local anesthesia to ensure you are comfortable.
A dental hygienist will recommend a deep clean based on your oral health needs. Maintaining good oral hygiene practices will prevent the need for a deep clean in the first place.
Pocket cleaning involves cleaning the pockets between the teeth and gums when bacteria and plaque build up. This buildup causes inflammation and damage to the gums, leading to periodontal disease.
A pocket clean is usually only recommended for patients with periodontal disease. The procedure is important for maintaining good oral health and preventing further damage to the gums and teeth.
Your hygienist may recommend fluoride treatment at the end of your appointment. A fluoride gel or varnish is applied to your teeth and helps to strengthen the enamel. This will also help protect your teeth from decay.
Advice and follow-up
Finally, your hygienist may advise on oral hygiene practices and recommend any additional treatment needed to maintain good oral health. Regular visits to the dental hygienist can help prevent gum disease, cavities, and other dental issues, making it an essential part of maintaining good oral health.
Does visiting the dental hygienist hurt?
Typically, scaling and polishing are not painful procedures. You might experience discomfort if you haven’t had a cleaning for a while. More intensive treatments like deep cleaning or dental pocket cleaning, use a local anesthetic to ensure you are completely comfortable and pain-free. You may feel some sensitivity after scaling, deep clean or pocket cleaning. This usually goes away after a few hours.
If you feel any discomfort or pain during any dental hygienist procedure, tell your hygienist so that they can make you more comfortable.
How often should I see a dental hygienist?
You should see a dental hygienist at least once a year. If you have a history of gum disease, some dentists may recommend that you make an appointment every six months. In between appointments, continue to brush twice a day and floss daily. This will prevent the need for restorative procedures in the future.
Need to book an appointment with a dental hygienist? Book in with Wellington’s gentlest dentists today.