Dental hygienists are trained to work with dentists to help patients care for their teeth. Hygienists are mainly concerned with gum health. They can professionally clean your teeth, which involved removing plaque, tartar and stains.
If plaque is not properly cleaned off, it becomes hard and forms tartar (also known as calculus) which cannot be removed by simple brushing. If tartar is allowed to build up it can also spread under the gums, gradually destroying the ligaments and bone that hold the teeth in place, causing teeth to become loose and eventually fall out.
Tartar and staining from substances such as tobacco, red wine, tea and coffee roughen the surface of the teeth, attracting more plaque and causing bad breath. Hygienists can work with you to show you how you can keep your teeth free of plaque at home.
Many patients like to visit the hygienist on a regular basis as part of their oral hygiene routine. Some people are more susceptible to gum disease due to pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, so it is important for them to include hygiene visits as part of their overall healthcare.
Preventative care should be taken seriously. Recent research has shown that gum disease is linked to conditions such as heart disease, respiratory infections, diabetes, pancreatic cancer and severe osteopenia. It can also increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. In pregnant women it can lead to preterm birth and low weight babies.
The effects of gum disease are irreversible if not taken care of at an early stage. Do not leave it until it is too late.
Click here for more information on gum disease.
Seeing the hygienist in dental practices is not available under the NHS. A scale and polish is available under the NHS but this is not the same as seeing the hygienist. If you are an NHS patient, your dentist may refer you to the hygienist if they feel it would be of benefit. If you would like to have any staining removed your dentist can also refer you. As an NHS patient you can choose to see the hygienist regularly on top of your usual NHS care to help prevent future dental problems.