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Do You Appreciate All That Your Dental Hygienist Does?


Laura, Registered Dental Hygienist, speaking to patient at Duke N. Bui, DDS

For most people, the Dental Hygienist is someone who scrapes your teeth, pokes your gums until you bleed, and then lectures you on flossing.

It’s also easy to think that the Dental Hygienist is just there to polish teeth and guilt you into brushing better.

But your Hygienist actually plays a very important role in both the dental office and your oral health.

Who Is the Dental Hygienist?

You probably spend more time with the Dental Hygienist than any other member of a dental team, so it’s good to know who they are and what they do.

Each Hygienist has attended an ADA-approved program for learning the practice of dental hygiene. Their education could take from two to four years to complete depending on their academic programs at community or technical colleges, dental schools or universities. Their education involved taking exams and logging intensive clinical hours.

After they graduate, Hygienists are required to take a licensure examination to receive their license to provide dental hygiene care and patient education. You may have seen dental hygienists use "R.D.H" after their names to signify recognition by the state that they are a Registered Dental Hygienist.

Your Dental Hygienist is a well-educated professional who’s caught up on the latest in dental technology and research. They maintain their licenses by taking continuing education courses annually. He or she can answer patients’ questions and make everyone feel at ease during their appointment.

What Your Hygienist Does

The Hygienist spends about an hour with each patient. The time is usually spent cleaning your teeth, but this is nothing like your typical tooth-brushing routine.

Dental Hygienists have extensive education and training in oral health and the prevention of diseases like cavities and gingivitis. They use this knowledge to assess the condition of your teeth and gums.

After determining your oral hygiene needs, the Hygienist removes plaque and tartar (dental calculus) with special tools. These tools aren’t scraping off your enamel; they remove stains and gritty mineral deposits that are attached to enamel.

This cleaning reduces bacteria and debris that cause gum irritation. That’s why a regular professional cleanings by a Dental Hygienist help prevent gum disease.

There are some sharp tools involved in dental cleanings to chip away tartar. But Hygienists also use ultrasonic technology to remove stubborn deposits and irrigate the gums. Most cleanings also include enamel polishing to remove stains, to shine up teeth, and to wick away any remaining plaque.

A dental cleaning by a Hygienist shouldn’t hurt. You might feel uncomfortable if you have a lot of plaque and tartar on your teeth. Your Hygienist’s goal is to get your teeth and gums as clean as possible (without hurting you!) so that you can keep them healthy on your own. These cleanings essentially give you a blank slate to work with.

Hygienists do more than just clean teeth, however. They provide other preventative and diagnostic services such as:

● Dental sealants ● Fluoride treatments ● Intraoral photographs ● X-rays ● Periodontal charting ● Application of desensitizing medication ● Application of antibiotic to treat gum disease ● Administer local anesthetics

The Hygienist is also responsible for educating patients on proper oral hygiene technique. He or she can give you suggestions for more efficient brushing or easier flossing, according to your needs.

Struggling to floss around your braces? A Hygienist can help you out. Want a whiter smile? Your Dental Hygienist will have the best advice. Suspect that you have gingivitis? Go see a Dental Hygienist.

The next time your Hygienist “scolds” you about flossing just remember that they have your best interests at heart! Proper oral hygiene is critical to avoiding dental issues and is even linked to a healthy body overall.

Why Dental Hygienists Are Important

It’s not enough to just have someone fill teeth after they’re damaged. Whenever possible, the best route is to prevent damage and decay in the first place. Hygienists work alongside the dentist to help patients maintain optimum oral health and prevent the need for treatment like fillings.

While your dentist fixes problems with your teeth, your Hygienist is there to help you avoid problems before they start. He or she will also help you understand your treatment options when the need for care does arise.

As committed members of the dental team, Hygienists often help out with other tasks around the practice. They assist with sterilizing dental tools, restocking supplies, filing records, scheduling patients, and welcoming patients into the office.

Your Hygienist is key to your dental appointment running smoothly as well as your key to a healthier smile.

Visit a Dental Hygienist in Tacoma

Are you curious about how you can lower your cavity risk? Has it been a few years since your last dental cleaning? Want to get rid of your bad breath? Interested in a career as a Dental Hygienist?

Visit the Tacoma dentist, Duke N. Bui, DDS, PS, and schedule an appointment with Laura, our excellent Dental Hygienist, to learn more. And remember to ask for your FREE GIFT after your cleaning appointment while supplies last.

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