Dental Hygienists (periodontal therapist or gum therapist) are specially trained members of the dental team who work together with your dentist to treat gum diseases and help people maintain good oral health through care of their teeth and gums.
Dental Hygienists are strong advocates of the preventative approach to dentistry.
What does the qualified dental hygienist do?
- Review clinical and medical histories
- Health assessment of the supporting structures of the teeth (gum, bone and ligament)
- Observe and record changes in dental status
- Assess patients and develop a care plan so the patients have a clear understanding of disease
- Take and process x-rays
- Recognize and treat gum disease (which involves removal of plaque/tartar/stain from teeth by means of scaling and polishing.
- Polish restorative work (removal of overhangs and other plaque retaining impediments to good oral hygiene
- Provide preventative services for tooth decay (fissure sealants, fluoride treatments)
- Bleach teeth to lighten your smile
- Educate patients on the condition of their mouths and the options for improving and maintaining their oral health.
- Demonstrate and educate individuals on cleaning aids specifically for their mouth.
- Management of minor dental emergencies with the dentist’s advice
- Make study models and mouth guards for sport and/or home bleaching
- Maintain orthodontic appliances for patients
- Providing information on the effects diet, smoking etc have on oral health.
- Point out to patients any teeth that could benefit from treatment by a dentist
- Teach and/or carry out research
Frequently asked questions regarding the qualified Dental Hygienist
Why do I need to visit the dental hygienist regularly for a “clean” when I clean my own teeth every day?
No matter how well people look after their teeth and gums, very few maintain perfect oral hygiene day by day. Plaque is easily missed between teeth and around the gum line. If plaque is missed regularly, within days it can mineralise into a hard, rough, cement-like material (known as tartar). Plaque and tartar are the primary factors leading to the development and progression of periodontal (gum) disease. Regular visits with a qualified hygienist, ensures the teeth are kept free of bacterial irritants and any gum problem can be addressed promptly.
My dentist used to give my teeth a clean before, so why do I have to see the dental hygienist?
Your dentist can remove plaque and tartar from your teeth, however it is more cost effective to see the Dental Hygienist. Also the dental hygienist is able to spend a lot more time with individuals educating them on their own periodontal condition and periodontal disease in general. Tailor-made oral hygiene instruction is demonstrated in detail, which enables you to help prevent the development and/or progression of periodontal disease at home.
Qualified Dental Hygienists are now valued members if the New Zealand profession. They are specifically trained in the prevention and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease. It is now known that approximately 90% of New Zealanders suffer from periodontal disease at some point in life. Along with dental decay, periodontal disease is the main cause of premature tooth loss. Therefore, due to the prevalence of periodontal disease, hygienists have been specifically trained to provide expert knowledge and skill within this field.
I don’t want to see the dental hygienist because it hurts.
If you find it uncomfortable having the plaque/tartar removed from your teeth, it is important that you discuss this with the hygienist. It is not uncommon for individuals with periodontal disease to experience discomfort during this treatment. Just like any other infection, the area is inflamed and will often be tender when treated. Local anaesthetic will quickly remedy the problem. Knowing that you are comfortable allows the dental hygienist to work quickly, efficiently and thoroughly. The dental hygienist endeavours to provide the best and most comfortable treatment possible for you.