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DENTAL HYGIENISTS / ORAL HEALTH THERAPISTS

Save time and money by having a hygienist perform regular cleanings

Ever wonder what is the difference between a dentist and a dental hygienist? While both of them are licensed dental professionals, their role and responsibilities are quite different from each other. Let’s have a look at how a dental hygienist takes care of your dental health.

What is a Dental Hygienist?

As the name suggests, a dental hygienist is responsible for looking after your oral health. A dental hygienist is a licensed primary dental care professional who works alongside the dentist. Dental hygienists and Oral Health Therapists undergo many years of specialised training through university to provide preventive dental treatment.

Why is it Important to see a Dental Hygienist?

You should visit your dental hygienist and dental practitioner regularly, if you want to enjoy having excellent oral health and good overall physical health. Here is why it is important to see your hygienist frequently:

  • To prevent gum disease.

  • To prevent bad breath.

  • To prevent dental infections.

  • To have perfectly white, shiny and cavity-free teeth.

  • To ensure that your natural teeth remain healthy for a long time.

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

Dental hygienists can choose to work in a dental office under the supervision of a dentist, run their own practice, work in a hospital or provide services at a residential aged care facilities. The range of dental services that a dental hygienist is authorised to perform vary according to each state or country. Dental hygienists have to register with their local governing authority before they are allowed to look after patients. Usually a dental hygienist is authorised to provide the following dental services:

Patient Education and Counselling – this is the primary role of a dental hygienist. They are responsible for teaching their patients healthy dental practices such as using the correct method to brush their teeth, eating a tooth-friendly diet, how to prevent cavities in teeth and most importantly, how to look after one’s dental health and ensuring good overall physical health.

Patient Screening – dental hygienists perform an in-depth assessment of the dental health of their patients by performing a detailed clinical examination, taking x-rays (if required), reviewing their patients’ medical and dental history and screening them for oral cancer.

Preventive Gum Treatment – dental hygienists are responsible for providing preventative gum treatment to their patients by removing plaque and tartar (calculus) from their teeth by using ultrasonic and hand scalers.

Preventive Restorative Treatment – dental hygienists are also tasked to apply preventive restorative materials on teeth, such as the application of the pit and fissure sealants and fluoride therapy. All these measures are aimed at preventing dental caries in the patients.

Taking Impressions – Dental hygienists also take impressions of the teeth for preparing study models of patients who need to get their missing teeth replaced with removable/fixed dentures or dental implants.

What is the Difference between a Dental Hygienist/oral health therapist and a Dentist?

While both the dental hygienist and dentist are licensed dental professionals, their responsibilities mainly differ in the scope of dental treatment they are authorised to provide. A dentist usually has to study for five years at a dental school before getting licensed to treat patients, while a dental hygienist attends a dental hygiene school for 3 years to get a dental hygiene license. Additionally, a dentist is fully authorised to treat advanced surgical dental problems of their patients, while a dental hygienist only provides non-surgical preventive dental care and patient education. During dental hygienists studies they also specialise in seeing younger children for their regular examinations.

An Oral health therapist/hygienist works with patients of all ages, focusing on oral health maintenance. Working on addressing factors associated with dental decay and periodontal disease. Dental hygienists/Oral health therapists are able to see patients for deep cleaning, periodontal maintenance and provide oral hygiene advice as well as dietary advice to patients of any age. The dental therapy part of an oral health therapists role enables them to see children and adults (up to 25 years of age) for check-ups, fillings, removal of baby teeth, Pulpotomy and most aspects of Preventative and Children’s Dentistry.

What Does a Hygienist do which a Dentist Cannot?

Well, a dentist can do pretty much anything a dental hygienist is authorised to do. However, dental hygienists take a lot of the load off from the dentists by taking care of the tasks they are authorised to perform such as teeth cleaning, making impressions, taking x-rays and recording patient histories.


How Often Should You Visit the Dental Hygienist?
The need for visiting the dental hygienist is mainly dependent upon the condition of your oral health. If you are maintaining good oral health, then visiting your hygienist 2 times a year may be sufficient. Otherwise, you may need to see your dental hygienist more frequently. Your dental hygienist or dental practitioner will guide you regarding the required frequency with which you should seek dental help.

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