What do dental hygienists do?

What do dental hygienists do?

A dental hygienist – also referred to as an oral hygienist – is a licensed dental professional, registered with a dental association or relevant regulatory body.

According to Wikipedia, registered dental hygienists must have either an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene from an accredited college or university, before completing clinical and written board examinations.  In South Africa, there are several institutions where one could study to become a dental hygienist.

According to Oral Hygienists Association of South Africa, Educational Programs in Oral Hygiene are offered at the University of the Western Cape, the University of Pretoria, University of Witwatersrand, University of KwaZulu Natal and Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University.

Registered hygienists are primary healthcare professionals who work independently. They can also work alongside dentists and other dental professionals to provide a holistic oral care service.

At large dental practices, dental/oral hygienists usually see the patient first, before the dentist focuses on more specifically identified problem areas.

The hygienist will do:

  • A full oral and facial examination and usually takes X-rays, which the dentist examines.
  • The hygienist’s key focus is on preventing oral diseases, which includes dental hygiene education such as correct brushing and flossing. 
  • The hygienist will do a full mouth scale, polish and floss procedure, which helps prevent plaque formation and the inevitable gum disease and cavities.
  • Treatment for tooth sensitivity and strengthening tooth enamel will be done with a fluoride treatment.

Get a check-up every six months!

Visits to the hygienist should take place at least twice a year. These visits are especially important for children from the age of four, so that they can be taught proper brushing techniques and get to know the dental environment, De Necker Dentistry suggests.

Dieting dos and don’ts for dental health

Dental hygienists have the training and education that focus on and specialise in preventing and treating many oral diseases. Your dental hygienist will walk you through tips and practices to employ to ensure your teeth stay healthy between visits. They will explain what adjustments can be made to your current diet that is affordable and effective for optimal oral health.

Some diet tips include:

– Make water your number one drink after every meal. Drinking water will neutralise the harm that acidic or sticky foods can do to teeth between brushings. 

– Try to avoid convenient, processed and fast foods and instead stick to fresh, crunchy produce as the action of munching on high fibre apples or granola is a better choice for teeth. 

– Sugary foods such as Gummy bears, chocolates, cool drinks, tea, coffee, and acidic fruits are a definite no, as these convert to acid in the mouth, which in turn leads to erosion of teeth enamel and the formation of cavities.

Practice makes perfect.

Following your hygienist’s advice might be hard at first, but soon it will become a habit (as long as you persevere).

Your daily routine should include the following:

  • Brushing in the morning and the last thing at night.
  • Never go to bed without brushing as it rids the mouth of germs and plaque that built up during the day.
  • A good brushing takes time as you need to remove all plaque build-up. Leaving some build-up behind eventually leads to gum disease or cavities.
  • Gently move your brush in circles to reach all the problem areas where plaque grows.
  • Brush your tongue gently every time you brush as plaque builds up there too, leading to bad breath.
  • Flossing can reach small spaces that bristles can’t to remove plaque and food particles. This helps to prevent inflammation.
  • Mouthwashes can also round off the routine. There are salt-based mouthwashes or ones for sensitive teeth as well as sophisticated preparations that re-mineralise the gums. Some people use coconut oil as a gargle to pull germs and plaque from the teeth and to cleanse the throat. 

Like health insurance, dental insurance covers the cost of certain procedures, check-ups and emergencies either in their entirety or to an agreed-upon percentage, depending on the type of plan you choose. In turn, the insured pays a monthly premium. Dental insurance policies help many people to effectively budget for the cost of major dental procedures.

As for Affinity Dental, there are three tiers of dental insurance available at different price points. Each of these options covers certain specialist work to various degrees. 

Adults and children need to visit the dentist at least twice a year, and these dental maintenance appointments can really start to add up. Dental insurance will cover you for any additional treatments such as crowns, root canals or fillings, whether they are done at the dentist, or at a specialist practice.  

Usually, a dentist will refer you to a specialist, if needed. 

If you need to find an Affinity Dental approved dentist in your area, click here. 

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