Linda Feehan Meagher R.D.H. (Hons.)
The hygienist’s role in the dental team is a preventative one.
A hygienist will spend time removing bacterial deposits and any stains from your teeth, as well as teaching you correct brushing and interdental techniques. How often you need to see her depends on the health of your teeth and gums. Most hygienists recommend that you visit every six months, but you may need to go more often after periodontal treatments, which involve deep scalings usually with local anaesthetic.
As bacterial deposits, ie plaque, calculus (tartar), forms along the gum line, they can release toxins, poisons, causing gums to become inflamed, bleed and move away from the teeth and if left untreated can cause the jawbone to become affected which may cause mobility, loosening of the teeth. Brushing alone cleans around 60 percent of the tooth surface and most tooth decay and gum disease start in the hard-to-clean areas, ie between the teeth, which is why flossing and/or using interdental brushes is vital. Toothbrushing needs to be carried out at least twice daily, for three minutes each time paying particular attention to the night-time brushing. ‘Worn out toothbrushes’ can damage gums and they do not clean teeth properly. Toothbrushes should be changed every two to three months or more often if the filaments become worn or splayed.
It is thought that gum disease can increase the risk of heart disease. It seems bacteria from the mouth may enter the bloodstream and cause blood clots. In turn, these may reduce normal blood flow, meaning less oxygen and nutrients reach the heart, which could eventually lead to a heart attack. Research also shows a link between oral health and the risk of strokes, diabetes, respiratory diseases and premature or low birthweight babies.
A Good Hygienist is a truly good communicator, one who feels/shows empathy with the patient, someone who is into personal growth and development and someone who can be nonjudgmental. Someone who is a team player in all aspects, and who is experienced and knowledgeable in many aspects of dentistry also has a basic knowledge of restorative, cosmetics and occlusion-with what dentistry has to offer.