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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It's More Than "Just A Cleaning"!

Often times we hear patients referring to their recare as "it's just a cleaning".  However, most patients don't understand it's much more than that.

A dental hygienist is a college educated professional who must maintain a license.  Maintaining a license includes hours of continuing education each year.  They are skilled in helping patients maintain optimal oral health.  Here is some of the things they are responsible for:

  • patient screening procedures; such as assessment of oral health conditions, review of the health history, oral cancer screening, head and neck inspection, dental charting and taking blood pressure and pulse
  • taking dental radiographs (x-rays)
  • removing calculus and plaque (hard and soft deposits) from all surfaces of the teeth
  • applying preventive materials to the teeth (e.g., sealants and fluorides)
  • teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health (e.g., tooth brushing, flossing and nutritional counseling)
  • counseling patients about good nutrition and its impact on oral health
  • probing pockets that form between the teeth and gums,  measuring bone loss and mobility of teeth, recession of gums
Once the hygienist determines the health of the gums and the bone he/she can determine what type of scaling needs to be done: scaling that stays above or at the gum line or scaling that goes below the gums (periodontal).  Periodontal disease is an active infection in the mouth that requires treatment that goes below the gum line.  

Often patients will ask "can't I just get a cleaning?"  Unfortunately, once you enter into the realm of periodontal disease the "regular scaling" a hygienist has done in the past no longer applies.  Once scaling and root planing have been completed the subsequent scaling is called periodontal maintenance.  Patients must have a maintenance at more frequent intervals, 3-4 months, verses someone who is a prophylaxis (regular scaling).

It will never cost less or hurt less than it does today!