Visit to a dental hygienist


What are dental hygienists and dental therapists?

Dental hygienists and dental therapists are specially trained to work with the dentist on patient care and can help you with your treatment plan. Many are qualified as both hygienists and therapists.

They play an important role in dental care.

What role does the dental hygienist play in the practice?

Dental hygienists are primarily concerned with “preventive” dental health and the treatment of gum disease – they will show you proper home care and help you keep your teeth and gums healthy. This includes professional teeth cleaning by removing plaque and tartar (usually referred to as “flaking and buffing” or prophylaxis). Perhaps your most important job, however, is showing you the best way to keep your teeth plaque free. Plaque is a sticky coating that is constantly building up on your teeth. Hygienists also provide advice on diet and how to prevent tooth decay. The hygienist works with your dental team to give you the care that is tailored to your needs.

What role does the dentist play in the practice?

Not only can a dental therapist do all of the work of a dental hygienist, but they can also perform some dental procedures that patients are more used to from a dentist. A dental therapist can make fillings, extract baby teeth, place pre-formed crowns on milk teeth, and perform treatments with any material a dentist would use. As long as an adult tooth does not require treatment of the dental nerve, a dental therapist can fill or restore any part of the tooth that needs treatment. They do not perform restorations like crowns on adult teeth.

Is there anything else a dental hygienist can do?

Dental hygienists also take Dental x-ray. The dentist will use these to diagnose problems and make decisions about possible treatments. Dental hygienists can also place and apply fissure seals fluoride Varnishes and administer fluoride treatments. Other procedures can be performed by dental hygienists, depending on the laws that apply in their workplace.

Teeth whitening is often also performed by the dental hygienist on the instructions of your dentist.

Is there a hygienist in every practice?

Not all practices have a hygienist or therapist. However, now more and more of them are offering this as part of the service to patients. They can see patients under dental prescription, as part of a separate treatment plan, or on their own as part of their own practice. If your practice doesn’t have a hygienist or therapist, your dentist can refer you to one or you can contact them directly.

Why is this dental treatment important?

Regular professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar and proper care of teeth and gums at home will help keep your mouth healthy. A clean and healthy mouth will improve your appearance, help maintain your teeth, and give you fresh breath.

Can a Hygienist Prevent Dental Disease?

This is what training to become a hygienist is all about. They will carefully remove the hard buildup of tartar (or “tartar”) that builds up on your teeth and show you how to keep them from coming back. This will go a long way in slowing the progress of Inflammation of the gums.

By talking to you about your diet and recommending other preventive measures, the hygienist can help you follow a routine that will slow tooth decay. Regular visits and advice will help build your confidence in keeping your mouth healthy.

What other help can adults be given?

Adults who have a lot of tooth decay can benefit fluoride applied. You may also have antibacterial gels and solutions applied under the gums to kill the bacteria that cause gum disease.

Another very important part of the hygienist’s job is showing you and explaining how to care for your mouth at home. The hygienist may also suggest quitting smoking as this will reduce staining and improve your overall health.

Research has also shown that smokers are more likely to suffer from gum disease and lose more teeth than non-smokers. Your hygienist can advise you on various ways to quit smoking. They can also provide you with specific home care advice if you have dental implants or orthodontic appliances.

What help is there for children?

Children can benefit from having their teeth polished. The hygienist can also apply fluoride varnishes to prevent that disintegrate.

The permanent (or “adult”) molars can also benefit from sealing the bite surfaces. This is done by applying a special plastic coating to the bite surface shortly after the teeth have erupted. For more advice, see our information on ‘Pit and fissure sealing‘.

Why doesn’t the dentist do this?

Some dentists will do this type of work themselves. However, many are now realizing that the hygienist has been specially trained for scaling and polishing and can stay with you longer. They are also experts in teaching you how to care for your teeth and gums. The hygienist often spends several appointments preparing the gums healthy so that the dentist can help restore the teeth Crown and fillings.

Will the treatment hurt?

Scaling and polishing is usually painless. However, if you have discomfort, the hygienist can use numbing creams or give you a local anesthetic. It is important that you let the hygienist know at this point so they can help you with your pain.

Is the Treatment Expensive?

The cost of treatment by a dental hygienist varies depending on the treatment performed and from practice to practice. It is important to determine the cost before you begin by getting a written quote.

What does the dental hygienist do in the practice?

There is a lot you can do for yourself and the hygienist because you are the one taking care of your mouth between visits to the practice. Your hygienist showed you how to remove plaque with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.

They also showed you how to clean the spaces between your teeth with interdental brushes, floss, or tape.

There are many oral care products available, including specialty toothpastes, electric or “power” toothbrushes, and mouthwashes. Your hygienist will recommend the ones that are best for you.

We recommend that you follow three simple steps to keep your teeth and gums healthy:

Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet and the number of meals you eat during the day can help reduce tooth decay. Your hygienist can help you by looking at your tooth decay problem, your diet, and giving you some recommendations to consider.

Chew sugar-free gum 10 minutes after meals can also help prevent tooth decay. By chewing gum, your mouth produces more saliva, which cancels out the acid that is produced in your mouth after you drink and eat.


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Do you need further advice?

For free and impartial advice about your oral health, turn to ours Dental hotline by email or by phone on 01788 539780 (UK local rate).

Our Dental Helpline is completely confidential and has helped nearly 400,000 people since it opened over 20 years ago. Contact our experts by phone, email or online request, Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


thanks to Oral-B who kindly gave us a Educational grant for this information. Oral-B’s support not only enables us to develop and maintain this advice online, but also means that we can continue to offer itital resource as a printed leaflet for dental practices and hospitals to be given to patients and to be placed in waiting areas.



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