Hygienists are fully trained members of the dental team who focus on preventing and treating gum disease by promoting good oral hygiene. Seeing a hygienist every six months or once a year can help prevent gum disease from progressing.
What is gum disease?
When plaque and tartar builds up on the surface of the teeth, it causes bacteria to build up. The presence of the bacteria causes the gums to become inflamed and they can eventually bleed. This stage of gum disease is called gingivitis and is perfectly treatable. A hygienist can clean away the plaque and tartar, removing the bacteria.
If gum disease is left untreated, the gums start to come under attack. The tissue eventually recedes when the bacteria spreads under the gum line. Receding gums are a symptom of the more aggressive later stage of gum disease, periodontitis. Unlike gingivitis, this condition isn’t curable. It is only treatable. Without treatment, periodontitis can destroy the bone which supports the teeth, leading to loose teeth or even tooth loss. Hygienists can manage this stage of the disease with a prescription from a dentist, but some cases may require a referral to a specialist Periodontist.
What happens during a hygienist appointment?
During a hygiene appointment, the health of your gums, bone 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.
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.
For patients with more severe gum disease, more extensive treatment is needed to keep on top of the condition. Periodontal maintenance involves removing plaque and tartar deposits from under the gum line, helping to keep the gums bacteria-free and controlling the condition.
Hygienists also offer helpful hygiene advice and demonstrate how to keep your teeth clean and plaque-free with toothbrushes, interdental brushes and floss.
Regularly visiting a hygienist will help you to maintain healthy teeth and gums, as well as protecting your overall well-being. Poor gum health has been linked to more serious conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.