Most people know that their dental hygienist rather than the dentist does their semi-annual teeth cleanings, but a hygienist can do other things as well. Here is a look at the tasks that are in the scope of a dental hygienist's capabilities, depending on your state's laws.
Dental Hygienists Can Apply Protective Agents To Your Teeth
All teeth are susceptible to cavities. Adults can certainly opt to get sealants to protect their teeth, but children are the usual candidates. Children, especially when they still have their baby teeth, are particularly susceptible. Decay that begins in baby teeth can also affect the permanent teeth even thought they haven't erupted yet.
Sealants are made from a type of plastic that coats the teeth and protects them from the bacteria in the mouth. As soon as a child's baby teeth come through, they should be treated. The teeth are first painted with a primer that helps the sealant bond. Then the sealant is applied, and a special light is used to cure it. Sealants will last several years, but normal wear and tear will break the sealant down over time. As each permanent tooth comes in, they will need to be treated as well. Sealants will protect your child's teeth until they are in their teens and old enough to have established healthy dental habits.
Fluorides can also be applied to teeth. This is a separate procedure from sealants. Fluorides help protect the teeth from cavities by making the teeth stronger and re-mineralizing the enamel. Adults who drink coffee or soda often have weakened enamel from the acid in these beverages.
Dental Hygienists Can Provide Advanced Gum Care
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. Periodontal disease is advanced gum disease that in addition to inflammation can cause a loss of gum tissue and bone, both of which keep your teeth in place. Your hygienist can do gum scaling and root planing to treat gum disease. This involves removing the plaque and tartar that is below the gum line. Because it involves the gum tissue and the teeth roots, it is usually done with anesthesia to prevent any discomfort. If the hygienist has been trained in anesthesia, they can administer local anesthetics and nitrous oxide or "laughing gas."
Dental Hygienists Can Assess Oral Health
Oral health involves more than just your teeth, and because hygienists and dentists have a better view of your mouth than anyone else, including you, they serve as the frontline of defense against more serious conditions like oral cancer. A hygienist can examine your mouth and note any sores, raised patches, tongue conditions, or swelling in the mouth or throat.