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. The hygienist may also take measurements where the gum attaches to the tooth and check for signs of oral cancer.
One of the main aspects of the hygienist’s role is to carry out a ‘scale and polish’, a thorough clean 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 root planing (or debridement) and, as it involves deeper cleaning under the gum line, the procedure may require an anaesthetic.
Hygienists also offer helpful hygiene advice and demonstrate how to keep your teeth clean and plaque-free with toothbrushes, interdental brushes and floss.
For younger patients, hygienists can apply fluoride varnishes to strengthen enamel or fissure sealants, which provide a protective barrier to stop bacteria settling in the narrow fissures of the back teeth. These treatments offer a protective measure for young teeth when they first start to emerge.
Regularly visiting a hygienist will help you maintain healthy teeth and gums, as well as protecting your overall well-being because poor gum health has been linked to more serious conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.