What does a dental hygienist do

direct access to a dental hygienist in London

Statistics published in December 2020 show that an amazing 49% of adults didn’t see a dentist in the previous 24 months. This increases to 55.7% of adults live in London haven’t seen the dentist in the past 2 years!

Is this necessarily a problem?

Dentists are able to spot the early warning signs of a range of diseases, such as oral cancer and gum disease, which can progress painlessly on the whole. In addition to dentists, a dental hygienist can help to keep your teeth clean which in turn, can help prevent a range of diseases.

In this blog post we take a look at the importance of visiting your dental hygienist and what can happen if you don’t!

What will a hygienist do?

A routine dental hygiene appointment usually consists of the following stages:

  • A visual scan of your teeth, mouth and gums for any obvious areas of concern.
  • Carry out an oral cancer screening.
  • An examination of each tooth, this will look at the gum and tooth health of each individual tooth. This is what is known as a basic periodontal examination , or BPE. The hygienist will walk a probe around your teeth to test how the it will go under the gum next to each tooth.
  • A score for each sextant of your mouth (Upper right, upper front, upper left, lower right, lower front, lower left) will then be calculated as follows.
    • 0 – no pockets over 3.5 mm, no calculus, no bleeding after probing
    • 1 – no pockets over 3.5 mm, no calculus, but bleeding after probing
    • 2 – no pockets over 3.5 mm, but some calculus
    • 3 – Probing depth 3.5 mm – 5.5 mm
    • 4 – probing depth over 5.5 mm
  • Your current BPE score will be compared to your previous score, this tells you hygienist whether your oral health is improving or declining.
  • Any calculus (plaque) will then be removed, either with an ultrasonic scaler or hand scaler.
  • Advice will then be given on how you can improve your oral hygiene.
  • Treatment plan will be worked out if you have a high BPE. This may involve returning for further appointments and a more detailed clean of each individual tooth, sometimes using surgical techniques.
  • Your hygienist may decide to use appropriate antimicrobial therapy to manage any plaque-related disease.
  • Notes will then be made and passed on to the dentist to ensure an integrated team approach.

Can a dental hygienist do fillings

In order to do a filling the decay will need to be drilled out. Once the decay has been completely removed the filling is replaced, this would be considered restoration of the tooth and it is not within the scope of practice of a dental hygienist.

A dental hygienist can however place temporary dressings and we cement crowns that have come out with a temporary cement. They will also be able to do this as they can provide infiltration and inferior dental block analgesia – commonly known as a numbing injection.

Dental hygiene cleaning prices

It’s always worth remembering that dentistry isn’t expensive, it’s neglect that is expensive. If you don’t visit the dentist or hygienist and neglect your teeth, in the long run, this will work out the most expensive option.

A standard hygiene visit will cost around £60-£70, you should attend twice per year.

Can I see the hygienist without seeing a dentist?

Yes, this is what is known as direct access. Direct access allows you to see the dental hygienist, for them to carry out an oral health assessment and perform limited treatments. This can be a quick and easy way to have an assessment of your oral health and to get guidance and advice on how you can keep your dental costs down by looking after your teeth well.

Why does dental cleaning hurt so much

When your hygienist carries out their initial assessment of your teeth they will be looking to see how far a probe will go under your gum, next to your tooth. This is part of a Basic Periodontal Examination (BPE). If your gums are healthy and the probe does not go down too far then the pain will be quite minimal, almost imperceptible. However, if you have the start of gum disease all the more serious periodontal disease then your gums are likely to be inflamed and more sensitive, this can then cause pain.

If your oral health routine has not been good enough to keep plaque under control then it may have a tendency to collect underneath the gum line next your tooth. As the hygienist removes this plaque it can be quite uncomfortable, sometimes painful.

The secret therefore, the having a dental cleaning not hurt is to maintain your oral health so that your gums are fit and healthy, there is then no need to do the deep probing or cleaning.

How to cure gum disease without a dentist

Gum disease is primarily caused by the buildup of dental plaque, this holds bacteria against your teeth which causes dental decay and irritate your gum, causing the gum disease. If the gum disease is not treated, it can lead to the more serious periodontal disease.

The only way to treat gum disease therefore is to remove this plaque which needs to be done by your hygienist or dentist. They will be able to see behind your teeth using their mirror and be able to reach areas in your mouth to clean which you cannot.

If your gum disease has progressed to more advanced stages then you may need surgical procedures to clean your teeth, these most definitely cannot be done at home without a dentist.

Can you die from gum disease

You cannot die solely from gum disease, however gum disease could progress to the more serious periodontal disease. This has been research which shows periodontal disease to be a contributing factor to a variety of clinically important systemic diseases, most notably endocarditis. Endocarditis is a rare but potentially fatal disease!

The Dental Centre London is very pleased to offer direct access to our dental hygienists. There is no need to visit a dentist beforehand and our friendly hygienists team is on hand to provide professional oral health advice and treatments. To request an appointment, please either call us on 020 7380 0034 or request an appointment here.

Author: Dr Kala Jones

Dr Jones qualified from the Royal London Dental Hospital in 1981 and spent time both in hospital service and general practice before being appointed by University College London in 1985 as one of their dentists. Two years later she was appointed by UCL to become the Principal Dentist and has been managing The Dental Centre for the last 24 years