Hygienists are fully trained members of the dental team who focus on preventing and treating gum disease by promoting good oral hygiene. Gum disease causes inflammation of the tissue that surrounds teeth and if this is left untreated, it can lead to recession of the gums. This can cause pockets to develop and eventually leads to loosening of the teeth. The cleaner your teeth, the less likely you are to develop gum disease.
During a hygiene appointment, the health of your gums and teeth will be assessed. This will involve looking for any signs of swelling, inflammation or bleeding. Your hygienist will also check for signs of oral cancer.
One of the main aspects of the hygienist’s role is to carry out a ‘scale and polish’, this is a thorough cleaning of the teeth to remove plaque and tartar build-up. Scaling (removing tartar) also makes it easier to keep teeth clean as there is no longer a rough surface to attract more plaque. This deep clean will be finished off with a polish to leave teeth shiny and smooth.
If gum disease has progressed beyond the early stages, a hygienist can remove deep tartar from the root surface. This is known as debridement and as it involves deeper cleaning under the gum line, this is sometimes performed under a local anesthetic.
Hygienists also offer helpful hygiene advice and demonstrate how to keep your teeth clean and plaque-free with toothbrushes, interdental brushes and floss. They will also share handy dietary tips, making you aware of foods to avoid and letting you know about more tooth-friendly treats.
Regular visits to a hygienist help to maintain healthy teeth and gums, as well as protecting the patient’s overall well-being because poor gum health has been linked to more serious conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.