FAQ about dental hygienists

Want to know what a dental hygienist is, or what one does? All the answers are here!

Byline: Dr David Power

You may visit a dental hygienist at your next appointment. Here I have provided some answers to your commonly asked questions about what a dental hygienist does and what they can offer you at your next visit.

Q: What does a dental hygienist do?

A: A dental hygienist has more than one role, but their main role is in cleaning people’s teeth and educating them. Also, a dental hygienist performs additional procedures associated with the clean, for example examining children’s teeth, fluoride application and deep scaling for those with gum disease.

Educating patients in the surgery on topics such as the correct way to clean their teeth is a large part of their role. So is nutritional advice and going out to nursing homes and showing staff how to clean elderly people’s teeth.

Q: When I make an appointment am I likely to see a dental hygienist?

A: A child usually will, because our dental hygienist is also an oral health therapist. For children we often encourage them to see our dental hygienist, and then a dentist may do a follow up examination. Many adults who are used to seeing only the dentist may choose to keep seeing only the dentist, however new patients are encouraged to see our dental hygienist first for their cleaning and education.

Q: Do I need to make two separate appointments if I want to see both a dental hygienist and a dentist?

A: No, you can see them both at the same visit.

Q: Do I need to specify I want to see a hygienist when I make my dental booking?

A: I recommend you call up and say, ‘I want a check up and clean, I haven’t been to you before’. We will then explain ‘Ok, you’ll see a hygienist and the dentist in the same visit’. The hygienist will perform the cleaning fluoride, show you how to clean your teeth, maybe take some X-rays, and then the dentist will do the examination and discuss whatever your needs are on the same visit.

Q: What sort of training does a dental hygienist complete?

A: Dental hygienists go through a three-year bachelor of oral health degree through university.