Hygienist Plays Key Role
Thursday August 5, 1999
Dear Dr. Mady: Every time I go to see my dentist, he has his hygienist see me and clean my teeth and he just comes into the room before and after for a few minutes. It seems that I spend more time with the hygienist than I do with the doctor. Does this sound normal or should I find myself a new dentist.-L. A.
Dear L. A.- From what you are telling me, I suspect that you probably take very good care of your teeth and that they are in excellent condition.
If this is in fact the case, it is perfectly normal to spend less time in the dental office and more time with the hygienist.
Most people refer to the time that they spend with a hygienist as a "cleaning appointment" but what they are not realizing is that there is a lot more to it than just scaling and polishing of the teeth.
Oral hygiene sessions whether initial visits or checkup appointments routinely include diagnostic services.
This means that not only will you have your teeth examined for decay, but the hygienist may take cavity detecting x-rays, assess your gums and thoroughly search all visible soft tissues for any sign of cancer or precancerous lesions.
The cancer checks are especially warranted if you are a smoker.
Hygienists will review your medical history, may take your blood pressure from time to time and even assist you in determining problems or warning signs that you did not even know existed.
They also will reassess your overall treatment and recommend referrals when appropriate.
If you need certain questions answered about future treatment such as orthodontics or periodontal therapy, hygienists are very well qualified to answer them.
If they cannot, they have the tools to get you responses promptly from the doctor.
Checkups with your hygienist can also involve a number of preventive services.
These include the placement of protective dental sealants or administration of fluoride agents to prevent decay and reduce sensitivity.
Also, in addition to scaling and polishing of teeth to remove plaque, tartar and stains, most hygienists are qualified to polish existing fillings.
If you thought this was everything, you were wrong. Your hygienist can provide many educational services.
The two most important of all are flossing and brushing instructions, and they may recommend certain types of oral products that suit your particular situation better.
Some patients even require nutrition counseling.
You may not receive all of these benefits and services every time you visit your dentist, but you will definitely receive all of them at one time or another.
It is obvious that a hygienist is an integral part of your dental care and your overall health, so remember that there is no such thing as "just a cleaning".
Your dentist is not neglecting you but is placing you in the very caring, responsible hands of another licensed practitioner.
Remember no matter what is done when you go to the dentist, the most important thing is how good you are with your dental home care.
Hygiene services begin in the dental office but must always be followed by proper brushing, flossing and a healthy diet!
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5