If you’re regularly visiting the dentist, you’ll discover there are generally two parts to a routine visit: the examination, and the cleaning. The examination is usually done by your dentist; but often, another person will handle cleaning your teeth. That person is known as a hygienist, and is more than just a helper; your professional dental hygienist is your first line of defense against oral health problems.
That’s because your hygienist will do more than just clean your teeth — although they will do that very, very well, with extensive experience in ways to perform the process efficiently and with a minimum of discomfort. Your hygienist will often also be the first one to “screen” your mouth for any oral health problems — they’ll do the initial evaluation of your teeth, noting any problem areas they want to make sure the dentist sees right away. They’ll examine your gums, and note any swelling or redness that can be the first signs of gingivitis or advanced periodontal disease. And they’ll likely perform an oral cancer screening in advance of the dentist’s examination, reporting their findings to them as a matter of routine and a “strong second set of eyes” in the dentist’s office.
Of course, your hygienist will also clean your teeth; there’s nothing quite like a good cleaning at the dentist’s office, and it feels great. But your hygienist also knows that this cleaning is the best way to reduce the bacteria count in your mouth and eliminate plaque — halting tooth decay in its tracks and removing places for bacteria to fester and cause gum disease as well. Your hygienist will likely also assist your dentist in any further procedures they deem necessary for your oral health; they’re an effective team!