The dentist gets much of the credit for fixing the teeth of patients, but dental hygienists also play a key role in the process. Most people have seen their dental hygienist more often than their dentist and may not even realize it. You may remember the dental hygienist as the person who greets patients with a smile before guiding them to the dental chair to start their appointment. Dental hygienists are a vital part of a dentist office and they maintain a wide range of responsibilities.
A good dental hygienist makes the patient feel comfortable, even in the somewhat stressful environment of a dentist office. The comfort and care of the patient is their top concern, and they will likely spend more time with the patient than anyone else in the dental practice.
Customer service isn’t the only skill of the dental hygienist. A competent dental hygienist also must be technical, able to master equipment like X-ray machines.
Dexterity is also required of a dental hygienist. With an artful touch, they must use a wide variety of dental tools to remove troublesome plaque and tartar from hard to reach parts of a patient’s mouth. Rarely does this plaque come off easily, so the dental hygienist must exercise appropriate strength in a tiny amount of space.
The job of a dental hygienist involves a variety of different tasks, each of which is crucial to successfully running a dentist office. These tasks range in scope from customer service and management to intricate dental cleanings and education. Their paramount job is ensuring that patients leave with a smile, but these are 6 specific responsibilities of a dental hygienist:
Arguably the most important function performed by dental hygienists is patient screening. Essentially, this means that they are the first line of defense for finding problems in the patient’s mouth. For example, the observational skills of the dental hygienist may lead them to find signs of oral cancer before the dentist knows about it.
In this role, the dental hygienist serves as a fully-trained, second pair of eyes for the dentist. A particularly skilled dental hygienist will be able to see whether a patient’s dental care has improved or declined, and may even spot signs of a particular problem while it’s still developing.
Another responsibility of dental hygienists is to take X-rays for patients. X-rays are a necessary part of most dental exams, and some aspects of the process are complex. First, the machine that takes x-rays has various settings and requires technical prowess. Understanding the controls are not the most challenging part. Dental hygienists also have to aim the x-ray at the perfect angles to get photos of precise parts inside the patient’s mouth.
Dental hygienists are responsible for deep cleanings, and often precede every exam with a teeth cleaning treatment for the patient. They have to use each of the dental tools at their disposal to scrape plaque away from patients’ teeth. This includes difficult to reach areas behind the teeth and in the far reaches of the mouth. These deep cleanings and plaque removal sessions account for most of the physical work done by the dental hygienist.
Dental hygienists use a variety of sealants and fluorides to protect and whiten a patient’s mouth. The application of these products requires specific training. A good dental hygienist will make the application of fluoride a pleasant experience for the patient. Knowing the exact doses and products to apply is a crucial part of the job for a dental hygienist.
Along with scheduled dental visits, the other half of maintaining oral health comes from your daily dental hygiene habits. If basic oral care is lacking, the dental hygienist is going to know it when they show up for their exam.
The dental hygienist assesses the patient’s mouth and will provide the education and guidance that they feel will help the patient. For example, patients who say they never floss may receive training from their dental hygienist about the purpose and technique involved with flossing. Ultimately, the dental hygienist takes responsibility for the patient’s knowledge of oral care, and will gladly teach them any skills in which they’re lacking.
Dental impressions are molds of a patient’s teeth that are taken to provide various information for the dentist. There is little margin for error when taking these molds, as every gap and indentation must match the patient’s teeth exactly.
Dental hygienists learn the entire process of accurately taking molds, and they may use it numerous times throughout a work day. The mixture must be blended correctly, and precise instructions must be used to ensure a perfect dental impression. Dental hygienists must be meticulous when taking dental impressions because the mold is then used to create a retainer or some other dental device.
At Thornhill Periodontics, Dr. Leonard Schwartz and his talented dental hygienists will assess your dental health, and give you a thorough cleaning. Emphasizing top-notch customer care, we take pride in putting patients’ fears to rest and watching them leave with a smile. Find out how our friendly dental hygienists can help you first hand by setting up an appointment at Thornhill Periodontics. Contact us with your questions today!
Dr. Leonard Schwartz
8500 Leslie St. Suite 540
Canada L3T 7M8
Monday: 7:30am – 4:00pm
Tuesday: 12:00pm - 8:00pm
Wednesday: 12:00pm - 7:00pm
Thursday: 7:30am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 8:30am - 4:00pm (alternates)