Some people are so afraid of the dentist they won’t even come in to the clinic for a regular dental checkup and cleaning. If you know the facts, you have no reason to be scared of a dental examination, especially if it is just with a dental hygienist. If you have some anxiety about an upcoming dental appointment, let us put you at ease. Here is a list of things you should expect.

What is a Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygienists are specially trained dental professionals. They aren’t dentists because they don’t need to have a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) to be able to practice their profession. Instead, colleges and universities specifically offer Dental Hygiene programs and training courses for those who want to pursue a dental career without the years required for a doctoral education.

The main responsibilities of dental hygienists include cleaning patients’ teeth and making sure everything is functioning normally. They often assist dentists in performing major procedures and restorations and also check and examine patients’ oral health. Some dentists do this work on their own, but others who have large clinics or several branches opt to hire licensed dental hygienists because dental cleaning and oral health maintenance are their expertise.

What Happens When I Get an Appointment with a Dental Hygienist?

Here are the usual activities you can expect when you visit a dental hygienist.

1. The hygienist will update your record. Your hygienist will ask you some questions to see if anything has changed about your dental health within the time you last visited. This includes any medical history, medications, dental issues and other concerns that may affect your health. Dental hygienists aren’t only concerned about teeth, but also the overall well-being. Dental health can affect and be affected by other medical conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. This is why it is important for your hygienist to keep a record and be aware of your current health status.

2. The hygienist will get an X-ray of your teeth. An X-ray is a very useful tool to help determine the health of your teeth and gums. In reality, your teeth are twice as long as they appear on your mouth. All you see is the dental crown, but what lies below the surface of the gum line, your tooth root, is just as important. An X-ray solves the mystery of what is going on beneath the surface and illustrates the shape, size and composition of your whole tooth. If decay or infection is present, the hygienist can easily see it in the X-ray result.

3. The hygienist will examine your throat. Oral cancer starts in the throat and dental hygienists are trained to detect the early signs of this disease. By taking a close look at your neck, throat and face, a dental hygienist can give a recommendation to run more tests or clear you of any suspicions.

4. The hygienist will examine your neck. The hygienist will examine your neck to see if lumps or enlargement are present. These can be signs of other maladies and if your hygienist suspects anything, you may be required to get other tests or visit a GP.

5. The hygienist will examine your jaw. The temporomandibular joint is located right in front of the ear and your hygienist will check it to see if you have any joint problems like pain, improper alignment and malocclusion (bad bite).

6. The hygienist will examine your teeth and gums. Using sophisticated dental tools, your hygienist will check your teeth and gums, see where plaque and tartar are most prominent and assess if your tooth enamel is healthy or if some of your teeth have exposed dentin.

7. The hygienist will take measurements in your mouth. The hygienist uses a probing tool to measure the space between your teeth and gums. If your gums have a space of more than 3 millimeters between the teeth, this may mean that your gums are receding due to periodontal disease.

8. The hygienist will clean your teeth (scaling). Next the hygienist uses a scaling tool to remove the plaque and tartar from your teeth.

9. The hygienist will polish your teeth. Polishing your teeth keeps them free from stains and resistant to plaque formation. The process makes the tooth surface smoother, making it easy for bacteria to slide off when you brush.

10. The hygienist will make recommendations to improve your dental health. If your hygienist found anything wrong with your dental health, such as cavity or signs of periodontal disease, you will receive recommendations and possible treatment options to fix the issues. The hygienist might request another appointment solely for the treatment of your dental problem. If you get a recommendation like this, don’t ignore it or prolong the treatment. The earlier you fix the issue, the higher your chances of success are.

When Should I See a Dental Hygienist?

It is highly advisable to see a dental hygienist at least once every six months. This will keep your dental records updated and your dental hygienist can easily track any unusual changes in your oral condition. If you plan to visit dentists in Anchorage, AK you can search for them online and see which clinics are nearest you. Having regular dental check-ups is the key to maintaining dental health and early intervention. With them you can preserve the health of your teeth and enjoy your own natural smile your entire life.

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