A dental hygienist is a registered health professional who works in collaboration with a wider dental team to treat dental patients. The hygienist’s optimal focus is on diagnostic, preventative methods to preserve the oral health of patients.Dental hygienists use their skills and knowledge to motivate and educate patients in oral health, tailoring methods to the needs of the individual patient.
At an appointment with the dental hygienist a thorough assessment of the patient’s oral hygiene routine will be made. This will include how many times a day the patient is brushing, type of interdental cleaning aid used and what toothbrush and toothpaste the patient has chosen. During these appointments the hygienist will be able to perform a dietary analysis and discuss the importance and relevance of diet and its relationship to oral health.
After evaluating this information and interpreting clinical data, the hygienist can classify the patient’s periodontal health and begin to manage their dental needs, whether these be simple or complex.
The hygienist’s main clinical work is to prevent and treat gum disease. This includes regular professional cleaning by removing plaque and tartar (calculus) – a process also known as a “clean, scale and polish”.
Other clinical responsibilities performed by a dental hygienist include:
- Scale teeth, debride (remove damaged tissue from) root surfaces and remove stains from teeth
- Administer pain control for dental treatment if required
- Perform root planing for non-surgical periodontal therapy
- Take intraoral radiographs and identify and interpret findings on a dental radiograph
- Apply professional tooth whitening agents and educate patient in same