How Long Are Dental Hygiene Programs?

How Long Are Dental Hygiene Programs?

Dental hygiene programs are the courses offered for people to become dental hygienists, which can vary in length depending on which course you take. Dentists will need a degree, but dental hygienists don’t perform such invasive procedures as root canals or tooth extractions, so they can opt for shorter courses. 

That doesn’t mean that dental hygienists are ineffective or that dental hygiene is not important. Let’s look at the facts.

The Importance of Dental Hygiene

Dental hygiene isn’t just important to keep your teeth healthy, it’s vital for the overall health of your body. When we don’t keep our mouths clean, bacteria start to reproduce and take over, sticking to our teeth and eating the sugars from the foods we consume. This bacteria forms a sticky substance called plaque, which eats away at the enamel covering our teeth, and eventually reaches the sensitive dental pulp under our teeth. 

Not only does this mean poor dental hygiene can cause us to lose our teeth, but bacteria can spread onto our faces causing acne, as well as bacteria causing infections in the gums that can spread throughout the body. Untreated oral infections can spread through the blood vessels and the digestive system to cause several serious illnesses, including:

More studies are needed to prove this, but there is some evidence to point to the fact that poor dental hygiene can also cause cancer. So, it’s imperative to maintain good dental hygiene throughout our lives. 

What a Dental Hygienist Can Do

While it is each of our sole responsibility to maintain good dental hygiene, we should also enlist the help of a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists help to keep our teeth and gums clean as well as advise on how best to look after our teeth. We should all be brushing our teeth twice a day as well as flossing and rinsing with mouthwash daily, but a dental hygienist can perform a check-up of your teeth and offer advice specifically on where you need to pay more attention to keep your teeth healthy. 

How Long Dental Hygiene Programs Take

Although dental hygienists can’t perform the same dental procedures as dentists, their job is equally important and requires extensive training. A dental hygiene program takes from 2 to 4 years, depending on which course is chosen. A dental hygiene degree takes 4 years, while a dental therapy and hygiene degree takes 3 years to complete. 

You can also become a dental hygienist after studying for an oral health science degree, which takes 3 to 4 years, or receiving a certificate of higher education in dental hygiene, which takes 2 years. 

If you’re interested in becoming a dental hygienist, you can choose any of these courses, however, the longer and more intensive the course, the better chances you have of getting a good job in a dental practice. 

What Happens in a Dental Hygiene Appointment

A dental hygiene appointment can involve a few items:

  • A general check-up
  • Tooth cleaning (plaque removal)
  • Advice on tooth and gum maintenance

Dental hygienists will assess your overall dental health and make note of any issues related to your teeth, gums, tongue and mouth. If you have serious tooth decay or require a dental procedure, they will recommend you see a dentist to have the procedure. 

Once they have looked at your overall dental health, they will likely scrape the plaque from your teeth. Even if you brush and floss your teeth every day, it’s natural for some plaque to build up in the gaps between your teeth that are hard to reach, especially if your teeth are closely packed together. The dental hygienist will use tools to scrape away this plaque, helping to keep your teeth healthier as well as have a brighter appearance. 

If specific teeth require more attention than others, your dental hygienist will advise you on which teeth need extra care when you’re brushing and flossing. If you have bad breath or bacteria in your mouth despite brushing your teeth, they may also recommend a specific mouthwash or tell you how to brush your tongue and gums. 

How Long Does a Dental Hygiene Appointment Take?

How long your appointment takes depends largely on how well you look after your teeth. If it’s your first time visiting a dental hygienist for a long time or you have severe plaque buildup, then a dental hygiene appointment can take up to an hour. However, if you follow dental hygiene best practices and visit your dental hygienist once every six months, your appointment doesn’t need to last more than 30 minutes. 

Even if you take care of your teeth but lack tooth enamel for genetic reasons, you smoke or have other dental issues, you should follow your hygienist’s advice and visit more regularly, usually, once every three to four months 

Before and After Your Dental Hygiene Appointment

There is no specific guidance you must follow before or after your dental hygiene appointment, however, for your, and the hygienist’s sake, it may be beneficial to take note of a few things. 

Before you go to your dental hygiene appointment, try to avoid eating or drinking sugary, acidic or strong-smelling foods or drinks for at least one hour before your appointment. These can both make your breath unpleasant and cause sugars and acids to stick in the gaps in your teeth, providing food for the bacteria to feed on. 

You should brush your teeth before attending your dental hygiene appointment to remove any traces of food from your mouth, and brushing just after eating or drinking sugary foods can push the sugars further into the gaps in your teeth rather than removing them. So, avoiding food and drink except water just before your hygiene appointment is ideal. 

Once your dental hygiene appointment is over, you can go back to eating and drinking as normal. However, after having your teeth cleaned, especially if a lot of plaque has been removed, your teeth may feel more sensitive, so you should avoid very hot or very cold food and drink. You should also follow any other advice given to you by your dental hygienist.

Should You See a Private or NHS Dental Hygienist?

While there is no real difference in the care you’ll receive from a private or NHS dentist or dental hygienist, there are many benefits of going private for your dental care. Primarily, the ability to get an appointment. 

There is a shortage of dentists on the NHS, and more and more practices closing or stopping their NHS services, so the services that still exist are overstretched. This has led to many NHS dental practices not accepting any new patients, and extensive waiting times for appointments for those already registered. If you’re not yet registered with a dental practice, you’ll have a much easier time getting a private appointment than an NHS one

The pricing of dental procedures is generally cheaper on the NHS for smaller treatments like teeth cleaning, however, due to the band system, some of the more serious procedures like tooth extractions can be the same price in a private practice. So if you’re looking for the most cost-effective dental practice, when you consider the ability to get an appointment, choice of appointment times, and price, seeing a private dentist is often in your best interests. 

Dental Hygiene Appointments at Didsbury Dental Practice

Based in Manchester and open 24 hours for emergency dentistry, Didsbury Dental Practice is here to help you keep your teeth in tip-top condition! With appointments available for affordable dental care from 9 am to midnight every day of the year, we’re sure to have an appointment available at a time that best suits you. 

What are you waiting for? Book your dental hygiene appointment today!

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