Dental hygienists and dental therapists are specially trained to work with the dentist to give care to patients and can help with your treatment plan. They play a vitally important part in dental health care.
Dental hygienists are mainly concerned with ‘preventive’ dental health and treating gum disease – showing you correct home care and helping you to keep your teeth and gums healthy. This includes professionally cleaning your teeth by removing plaque and tartar (usually called a ‘scale and polish’). However, perhaps their most important role is showing you the best way to keep your teeth free of plaque. Plaque is a sticky coating that forms constantly on your teeth. Hygienists also give advice about diet and about preventing tooth decay. The hygienist will work with your dentist to give you the care that is tailored to your needs.
Dental hygienists can also take dental x-rays. The dentist will use these to help diagnose problems and decide on the possible treatment. Dental hygienists can also place fissure sealants, apply fluoride varnishes and administer fluoride treatments. Tooth-whitening is also often carried out by the dental hygienist, under a prescription from your dentist.
As well as doing all the work that a dental hygienist does, a dental therapist can also carry out some dental procedures that patients are more used to a dentist doing. A dental therapist can perform fillings, extract ‘baby’ teeth, place preformed crowns on baby teeth and undertake treatments using all the materials a dentist would use. As long as an adult tooth does not need treatment to the nerve of the tooth, a dental therapist can fill or restore any part of the tooth that needs treatment. They do not undertake restorations, such as crowns, to adult teeth.
Selchia Selvendran is qualified as both hygienist and therapist at Safana.