When we visit the dentist, often the first person we see is the dental hygienist. It can be helpful to know which professional does what job when you visit the dentist. This knowledge can help to reduce anxiety or nervousness about your visits. Dental hygienists play a major role in optimizing your oral health and general well-being. They work by performing some essential duties such as cleanings and treatment applications, supporting the dentist, and ensuring the comfort of each patient.
What are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Dental Hygienist?
Reviewing Dental and General Health History & Patient Screening
Before any treatments or dental work can commence, the dental hygienist must take a thorough account of the patient’s current health and any medications they may be taking, as well as their dental health history. They must also assess oral health risks and prevent medical emergencies during the patient’s visit. This information is integral to the dentist and dental hygienist’s ability to create a safe and effective treatment plan for each patient.
The dental hygienist must also screen all patients for conditions such as tooth decay and gum disease before any work begins. This may only take a few minutes but is a very important part of your dental visit.
The element of a dental hygienist’s job that most people are familiar with is the performance of dental cleanings. Hygienists employ the use of a wide variety of techniques and tools to remove stains, plaque, and tartar from the teeth. This improves the dental health of their patients by preventing cavities and tooth loss as well as helping to achieve the brightest, most beautiful smile possible. This process also helps each patient to maintain their overall health and wellbeing.
Dental x-rays play a major role in preventative care. Dental hygienists take x-rays so that problems can be identified in the early stages. This allows for treatment before the issues progress into more serious problems. Dental x-rays are also helpful in detecting gum disease, cavities, damage to the teeth, oral infections, and some types of tumors.
Application of Treatments and Preventive Care
Once the cleaning has been completed, the dental hygienist will then apply precautionary treatments such as fluoride or sealant. These preventive treatments play a vital role in maintaining and promoting excellent dental health between appointments.
One of the most important of these treatments is the fluoride treatment. Fluoride is important because it works to strengthen and fortify the teeth against acid erosion. Fluoride not only works to prevent tooth decay, but in some cases, it can even reverse early decay.
Another type of preventive treatment is the application of a sealant. Sealants can be beneficial, especially for children, in controlling or preventing decay in certain parts of the mouth. Dental sealants are made from an acrylic-like material that works to protect the chewing surfaces of the molars.
Communicating with the Patient and Documenting Treatments and Care as They are Performed
You can think of a dental hygienist as the bridge between the patient and the dentist. Once the initial screening and cleaning have been completed, the dental hygienist will report their findings to the dentist. Next, the hygienist prepares the patient for their visit with the dentist by communicating to the patient about their observations and areas of concern as well as presenting possible treatment options that may be recommended by the dentist.
Proper documentation is just as important as the actual care and treatment that the dentist and dental hygienist provide. Dental hygienists must create and maintain dental records, as it is part of their job to keep track of everything that is discussed, suggested, and performed during your appointment.
Educating and Helping Patients Improve Their Oral Health
Patient education is one of the most important aspects of a dental hygienist’s job. Through educating each patient about how to best care for their mouth and optimize their oral health, Dental Hygienists are effectively serving as oral and dental health ambassadors. Dental hygienists work with patients of all ages, demonstrating how to properly brush and floss their teeth, and also emphasize the importance of sticking to a proper oral health routine. They may also make recommendations about selecting ideal toothbrushes and other oral care instruments and products.
If you want to learn more about what a dental hygienist does or how we can help you to optimize your oral health and the appearance of your smile, contact our Guelph Dentist’s office today!