What Do Dental Hygienists Know About Oral Health?
October 4, 2013
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You might think that many of the things dental hygienists are responsible for are tasks that a dentist should perform. But dental hygienists have to know a lot about oral health and are involved in direct patient care.
Dental hygienists are required to complete a post-secondary program that introduces them to a variety of oral health topics and procedures. Here, we’ve outlined a few for you to consider:
- Teeth Cleaning: If you have ever been to the dentist, you are familiar with the process. Dental hygienists must know what tools to use to effectively clean teeth. They must also know how to handle these tools to make sure they can clean the patient’s teeth without causing discomfort or gum damage.
- Sealings: After cleaning a patient’s teeth, a dental hygienist can put a dental sealant on their teeth. The sealant is a thin, plastic coating that is painted on to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant helps protect teeth from decay and can help prevent cavities. Dental hygienists must know when and how to apply the sealant. Though it is a simple procedure, it is important for dental hygiene professionals to understand how sealants work and the importance of the sealant so that they can explain it to their patients.
- Root Planing: This is a procedure that dental hygienists, rather than dentists, are responsible for. Root planing is a form of deep cleaning that helps stop the progression of gum disease, such as gingivitis. John Urquhart of Dental Fear Central describes the process: dental hygienists smooth the root surface and remove any infected areas of the tooth structure. The process allows hygienists to remove pockets of tartar that can form under the gum line.
- General Oral Hygiene: Researcher K. Ohrn published a report on the role of dental hygienists in oral health prevention. Ohrn reported that most dental diseases are preventable and that dental hygienists are often the ones responsible for educating patients on how to prevent these diseases. Dental hygienists must know about the most common oral problems, including cavities and gum disease. They must know how patients can prevent these problems through general oral hygiene practices. Dental hygienists are responsible for teaching their patients good habits, promoting good oral health and even good general health habits.
- Dietary Needs: Dental hygienists are often familiar with the dietary choices that promote good oral hygiene. It is important for patients to consider how the food they eat impacts their teeth. Hygienists should be able to recommend foods to improve teeth health, in general or in specific situations. Different foods impact different aspects of teeth health; dental hygienists must know the differences. For example, a hygienist should know that dairy products improve teeth strength because of the calcium, but that high-fiber foods promote salvia, which cleans teeth.
Interested in learning more about dental hygiene? Dental hygiene students take courses in Dental Anatomy, Histology, Morphology, Biochemistry and Microbiology. Learn more.