What Exactly IS a Dental Hygienist?
As part of your complete oral healthcare team, a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) is a healthcare professional trained to do many of the same things your Dentist can do – they can diagnose disease, formulate treatments, administer some forms of anesthetic, and perform a wide variety of clinical procedures. Most Dental Hygienists, though, specialize in educating patients on ways to maintain good oral health, preventing oral diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis, and treating these diseases when patients develop symptoms.
What Are Some Symptoms of Oral Disease I Should Look Out For?
Periodontitis, which includes the gum disease gingivitis, has few symptoms in its early stages; often, by the time someone begins to feel discomfort, severe damage has already been done to the teeth or gums. Though one should always be on the lookout for red or swollen gums, gums that bleed after brushing your teeth, halitosis (or chronic bad breath), teeth that appear to be getting longer (as a result of receding gumlines), and loose adult teeth, the best way to prevent oral disease is by scheduling regular checkups with your Dental Hygienist – only they can spot the earliest symptoms of periodontitis and recommend periodontal therapy before the disease becomes a serious problem.
Wait, What Is “Periodontal Therapy?”
The initial phase of periodontal therapy is also the simplest, and involves scraping the “calculus” – commonly called tarter, which causes teeth to decay and look yellow – from teeth using either a sharp metal tool or an electric device called an “ultrasonic scaler.” Dental Hygienists specialize in this “scaling and rooting” process – also called prophylaxis – and oral healthcare professionals consider regular prophylaxis, along with good oral hygiene practices at home, to be the best way to prevent oral diseases like periodontitis and gingivitis from developing and advancing. Once periodontitis has reached advanced stages, however, more extreme forms of periodontal therapy, including oral surgery, may be necessary. [See more Guidelines For Periodontal Therapy from the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry.]
How Do Dental Hygienists Know All This? Do They Go To School?
Of course! All Dental Hygienists practicing in the United States must graduate with either an Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree from an American Dental Association-accredited Dental Hygiene program. After graduation, Hygienists must then pass a written board test and a hands-on, clinical exam. All this training means that, by the time you meet your Dental Hygienist for the first time, they already have years of experience using the latest dental hygiene, therapy, and oral disease prevention practices.
You also can meet Infinite Dental Wellness’s newest Dental Hygienist Anna Kiredzhyan – as well as find out more about Dentists Dr. Leon Kiraj and Dr. Liana Muradyan – by visiting our Meet The Doctors section.