When you visit the dentist, you’ll see a whole lot more people than just the dentist. We have a whole team of dedicated professionals that will make sure you get the dental care you deserve. One important role in your oral healthcare team is your registered dental hygienist, RDH.
We recently spoke with Julie, one of our own dental hygienists. She was happy to give you a better idea of what her role is at My Family Dentistry.
Dental hygienists are part of your treatment from start to finish. Dental hygienists are far from just a technical role. They work with patients to spot problems, establish their cause, and explain treatments to get your oral health back on track. For a dental hygienist, education never truly ends in an effort to provide you with the best care possible.
What does a dental hygienist do?
Dental hygienists play an important role in the dentistry process from start to finish. At My Family Dentistry, Julie starts by reviewing your dental history and any notes that were made during your previous visit. She takes note of any changes to your health, as well as any new medications you may have started taking that could affect your oral health.
Next, Julie takes X-rays to check for any bone loss. If she detects any, she will work toward understanding why it’s happening. She will also use the X-rays to check for tooth decay between your teeth that can’t be seen with the naked eye. She’ll also discuss your diet and the effect it’s having on your teeth, even examining your saliva and tongue for a full picture of how your nutrition is impacting your oral health.
Dental hygienists act as your guide throughout the oral health treatment process. Whether you’re coming in for a regular cleaning or for more serious treatment, dental hygienists will be with you every step of the way. Julie’s favorite part of her job is teaching you that caring for your teeth isn’t hopeless.
According to Julie:
It’s seeing the patient realize that it’s not a hopeless battle. I love seeing them come on board and that they trust what we’re saying. Seeing progress after they’ve trusted the promises we’ve made and followed our recommendations
What kind of education and training is required to become a dental hygienist?
You only need an associate’s degree to become a dental hygienist. However, you can always continue on to a bachelor’s degree program. On top of earning a degree, dental hygienists must also take and pass a jurisprudence exam, hands-on exam (usually in another location), and a national board exam. Hygienists can apply for their license once those steps have been completed.
But the learning process doesn’t end there. Dental hygienists must also complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years in order to keep their state license current. They can also pursue post-certifications and post-licensures. For example, Julie has had additional training in administering nitrous oxide, local anesthesia, facial aesthetics, laser therapy, and many other important tasks while you’re in the chair.
Dental Hygienists and Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is an area of particular concern for Julie and many other dental hygienists. It’s an advanced form of gum disease that can eventually lead to bone loss if left untreated for too long. As Julie puts it:
Treating periodontal disease is rewarding and fun for a hygienist. I like to treat patients with periodontal disease because it’s a personal challenge and it’s kind of like treasure hunting in a way. I like seeing a patient move from an area of disease and major pocketing into an area of health. Yes, it can be painful and it’s not the most glorious treatment, but there is a reward at the end of the race.
Periodontal disease can be limited to only one area of the mouth in its early stages. However, it can also become chronic and spread throughout the mouth if not addressed properly.
Effects of Periodontal Disease On Your Overall Health
Along with bone loss, periodontal disease has also been linked to:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
Addressing oral health problems like periodontal disease is a team effort between you and your hygienist. Julie stresses this by explaining:
We bring this to the patient and ask if they’re willing to treat it. I tell them that I’m willing to do my part, but are you willing to do your part at home? Then we’ll describe what’s going on, why it’s going on, and how we can stop it or at least slow it down. Once a patient has periodontal disease then they always have periodontal disease. Whether it’s active or not is the battle.
Dental hygienists are an essential part of your dental healthcare team. They’re with you every step of the way, from making sure your records are updated to explaining treatment options and how to do them. It takes years of education to become a dental hygienist as well as continuous education to stay on top of the latest advances in oral healthcare. This gives them the ability to aid you in anything from a regular checkup to more serious problems such as periodontitis.
Do you need help getting your dental health back on track? Contact us today to schedule an appointment!
We believe everyone deserves to have a smile they can be proud of, and we provide that to our patients using the latest techniques in comfortable dentistry. My Family Dentistry is open Monday through Thursday and every other Friday. Give us a call at (865) 947-6453 or you can schedule an appointment online.