What Does a Dental Hygienist Do All Day?
It’s National Dental Hygienist Month! Hygienists are an essential part of American dental care, but do you have any idea what they’re doing?
From a patient’s-eye view, the hygiene appointment is something of a mystery. You lie on your back, try to keep your mouth open, move your tongue as directed, and try not to wince at the strange sounds and feelings. Is it really necessary?
Yes! A twice a year hygiene appointment is essential for keeping your teeth, and your body, healthy and strong. Here’s what’s happening while you’re staring up at the ceiling or taking a well-deserved nap.
Hygienists catch damage to teeth and gums before it gets out of hand
One of the things the hygienists do with their probes, those metal hooked things, is to check your teeth and gums for damage. They touch the surfaces of your teeth to ensure there aren’t any damaged places on the surface. If they find something questionable, they flag it so the dentist can give it extra attention.
They also probe your gums, looking for pockets of infection, inflammation, bleeding, pain, and places where the gums aren't properly attached to the teeth. These are all signs of gum disease. When gum disease is caught early, it's possible to reverse the disease process and save your teeth. Without these checks, gum disease can progress to the point where you lose your teeth and need dentures.
Finally, they’ll look for signs of oral cancers or infections. Spotting conditions early makes them easier to treat!
Hygienists remove bacteria from your teeth to keep your teeth and gums healthy
What about the scraping? When hygienists scrape the surface of your teeth, they’re removing dental calculus, the mineral deposits left by dead bacteria. The surface of a tooth is an ecosystem, much like a coral reef. The living bacteria that cause inflammation and damage teeth and gums live on top of the remains of previous generations.
When we remove dead coral from reefs, we kill the living coral. When a hygienist removes dental calculus from teeth, the living bacteria die. Using either a scraping tool or a sonic tool to remove calculus gives your teeth a fresh start so that they can stay healthy.
Hygienists polish and remove stains
Look, we know New York runs on coffee, and we’re not going to ask you to give up the best part of every morning. But over time, coffee and tea stain your teeth! Your hygienist polishes your teeth to take them back to their natural color, and give you a great smile.
Without hygienists, dental care as we know it would be impossible. So next time you’re in our office, thank your hygienist for keeping your teeth healthy and beautiful!