What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?
It’s clear that hygiene is important for our health, after all, we wash ourselves every day and maintain personal hygiene, so why would our mouths be any different? But we don’t employ people to keep our bodies clean, so what does a dental hygienist do?
Dental hygienists aren’t there to replace cleaning your teeth, but to help you keep your mouth clean in the places you can’t ordinarily reach with a toothbrush or mouthwash. We’ll explain what dental hygienists do, how often you should see one, and why you should be practising excellent oral hygiene.
What’s a Dental Hygienist?
A dental hygienist isn’t the same as a dentist; they don’t go to dental school and they don’t perform dental procedures such as fillings or tooth extraction. A dental hygienist is purely concerned with the health of your teeth and will clean them as well as inform you on how to best look after your teeth. They have diplomas in dental hygiene in order to practise and can also perform certain helpful tasks at the dentist’s office like taking an x-ray of your teeth and assessing the general health of your teeth.
When you see a dental hygienist, they’ll usually perform a teeth cleaning, which involves scraping away the plaque from the gaps between your teeth. Plaque is a result of the bacteria in your mouth sticking to your teeth, which is perfectly normal, however, it’s important to brush your teeth to remove as much as possible. Whatever is left behind becomes hard and contributes to tooth decay and the formation of cavities in your teeth, which is why dental hygienists remove it.
How Often Should You See a Dental Hygienist?
Most people should see a dental hygienist twice a year to keep their teeth in good condition. However, the better you look after your teeth, the less need you’ll have to see a dental hygienist; if your hygienist agrees your teeth are in excellent condition and there isn’t much plaque to be removed, they’ll advise you to just visit once a year.
But if your teeth are very close together so you can’t brush or floss easily between your teeth, you should visit a dental hygienist once every few months instead, to make sure you have the harmful plaque removed to prevent any harm to your teeth.
Are There NHS Dental Hygienists?
You can see a dental hygienist on the NHS or in a private practice, depending on which is more convenient for you. Some people don’t have to pay for NHS care, so it can be more cost-effective to see an NHS dentist for free. However, as most people have to pay for dental care in the UK, you may find some private dental practices offer more convenient appointment times for the same price, or occasionally less than the NHS costs.
At Didsbury Dental Practice, you can have a full scale and polish (plaque removal and gentle whitening) for just £20, less than the NHS £25.80 charge for all band 1 treatments.
Why Is Dental Hygiene Important?
Dentistry is a very important faculty of medicine and dental hygiene should not be dismissed out of hand. There are many reasons why maintaining excellent dental hygiene is crucial for your overall health, firstly, due to the location of our mouths. Our heart and brain are arguably the most important organs in the body and our mouths are positioned right in between, so if you have an infection in your mouth that goes untreated, it can easily spread through the major blood vessels around your head to your brain and heart.
Such infections can be fatal in serious cases, but they don’t need to be. By keeping your mouth clean and free from bacteria, you can help prevent any infections in your gums or dental pulp beneath your teeth that could be dangerous. More importantly, by regularly visiting a dental hygienist, you can prevent any oral health problems from worsening or spreading by catching and treating them quickly.
Furthermore, infections cause our bodies to react by producing white blood cells in our glands to fight off the infection. This causes our glands to swell, our body temperatures to go up, sometimes resulting in fever, and swelling and pain in the affected area. Continued or untreated infections can cause a lot of pressure on our arteries, which can lead to serious cardiovascular complications. So, dental health should always be treated quickly and carefully to prevent any serious health conditions.
How Should You Look After Your Teeth?
So now we know how important it is to keep your mouths clean, how’s best to do so? There are several oral hygiene best practices to follow to keep your teeth healthier for longer.
Brush Twice a Day
It’s common knowledge that we should all brush our teeth twice a day, every day, but unfortunately, not all of us do so. We understand that you may feel so tired you head straight to bed without brushing first, or you’re in such a rush in the morning you grab your cup of coffee and run out of the door before thinking of cleaning your pearly whites, but dental hygiene should never be neglected.
You should brush your teeth as soon as you wake up in the morning, before eating or drinking anything except clear water, to remove the bacteria that has been residing in your mouth overnight. If you eat or drink without brushing first, you’re feeding the bacteria so more grows and more plaque builds up, threatening the health of your teeth. You should also brush your teeth before bed, at least one hour after eating, to remove any food particles and bacteria so they don’t thrive in the warm and moist conditions of your mouth while you sleep.
One aspect of brushing that regularly gets missed is the tongue. When brushing your teeth you should also gently brush your tongue to remove any bacteria and prevent plaque from building up. Dentists advise using a soft toothbrush rather than a hard or medium one to avoid hurting your tongue or scrubbing away the protective enamel from the exterior of your teeth. You may want to brush harshly, particularly after a sugary meal, but it can do more harm to your teeth than good, so be gentle with your teeth and gums.
Floss and Use Mouthwash Twice a Day
As well as brushing your teeth, you should also be flossing and rinsing with mouthwash at the same time. Flossing helps stop the buildup of plaque on your teeth by reaching into the gaps where the toothbrush can’t reach, while mouthwash kills the bacteria all over your mouth. The majority of food particles and bacteria are located on your teeth, but some will be on your tongue, the roof of your mouth, your gums and in the back of your throat, so it’s essential to clear all of these areas by rinsing your mouth with mouthwash twice a day.
Brushing your teeth and cleaning your mouth is crucial for good dental hygiene, but the first step in helping your teeth is watching what we put in our mouths in the first place. Soda, fruit juices, sweets and fast food may taste good, but they’re full of sugars that stick to our teeth and contribute massively to tooth decay. Limiting the amount of sugar we consume, especially through drinks, is essential in maintaining healthy teeth and a brighter smile. Look after your body and your teeth by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Book Your Dental Hygiene Appointment Today!
Located in Greater Manchester, Didsbury Dental Practice is a private dental practice open 24 hours a day, so you can always get an appointment at a time that suits you. With emergency appointments available out of hours for urgent dental care, and affordable routine appointments available from 9 am to midnight every day of the year, there’s no excuse not to look after your teeth!
Need a checkup or teeth cleaning? Book your dental hygiene appointment today!