Role of a Dental Hygienist

Visiting your dental hygienist is an important part of maintaining or improving your oral and overall health. Your dental hygienist is an oral health professional whose area of expertise focuses on preventative oral health care. Dental hygienists work collaboratively with dentists and other health professionals to provide optimal oral health care to their clients.

The dental hygienist will begin by reviewing your medical history with you including documenting any medications you are currently taking. This is an important step to ensure he/she is aware of any medical conditions you may have that could influence your dental hygiene care. The dental hygienist will also inquire about your dental history such as previous dental work you have had done, your oral hygiene routine and any concerns you have with your teeth.

The next step is assessing the condition of the head and neck region, your teeth and oral tissues. This will include completing a head and neck exam to screen for oral cancer, checking the tissues in your mouth, assessing the health of the gums, and may also include taking your vital signs. The dental hygienist will discuss the findings with you and determine what dental hygiene treatment is required. Any areas of concern which the dental hygienist is unable to treat will be referred to your dentist or another health professional such as your physician.

Once you and your dental hygienist have reviewed and agreed on the treatment plan, you will need to give your permission to proceed with the proposed treatment prior to beginning. Your treatment will likely include scaling and root planning (debridement) to remove plaque and calculus from the tooth surfaces. This is done using powered instruments such as an ultrasonic instrument and/or hand instruments. The dental hygienist may also share information with you related to brushing/flossing, risk of dental decay, smoking cessation, nutrition information, and/or the link between oral-systemic health based on your individual needs.

Some of your teeth may then be polished to remove any remaining stains and if needed, you may receive a fluoride treatment to strengthen your teeth, prevent decay, and/or decrease sensitivity.

Based on the condition of your teeth and gums, the dental hygienist will determine an appropriate ongoing care schedule and will identify any further matters relating to your individual oral health condition that need to be addressed.

During your visit, the dental hygienist will practice standard infection control protocols which include wearing gloves, a mask and eye protection as well as using sterile instruments and disinfecting all surfaces between patients.