The Specialist

Dental hygienists are important in dental disease prevention

October is National Dental Hygiene Month. This is the time of year to celebrate the work of dental hygienists.

In this column, I address the important role of the dental hygienist in promoting best dental health and avoiding systemic diseases.

Dental hygienists partner with dentists to empower patients. They share information to help raise awareness on the importance of good oral health. In doing so, dental hygienists tend to focus their attention on four areas:

• Oral hygiene and general education.

• Periodontal disease and gingivitis prevention and treatment.

• Teeth whitening.

• Caries (cavities or tooth decay.)

Oral hygiene education
: Dental hygienists and oral health therapists are professional, highly-trained dental providers who focus on disease prevention, oral health promotion and maintenance through clinical treatment and education. This is fundamental to the proactive management of oral health. Also, this includes dietary advice and smoking cessation programs.

Periodontal disease
: Dental hygienists also help to manage periodontal (or gum) disease by carefully removing tartar that builds up on teeth. Also, they educate patients on strategies to reduce tartar buildup, including preventative measures that can easily be integrated into your normal maintenance routine. Your dental hygienist will be among the first to support your efforts when your oral health shows significant improvement because of good personal practices.

If gingivitis is untreated, it may develop into periodontal disease, which weakens the bone support for your teeth and will eventually result in the loss of the tooth.

Some dental hygienists with advanced training also use laser technology to assist their efforts to correct gum disease. These specially-trained hygienist uses the designation, perio-therapist.

Also, periodontal disease has been linked to other diseases including diabetes, heart disease and low birth weights babies. That is why we recommend treating periodontal disease quickly and thoroughly.

Every evening when you brush and floss your teeth, look for the following:

• Change in the color of gums (redness).

• Blood on your toothbrush, floss or pillow.

• Puffy gums.

• Persistent bad breath.

• Metallic taste in mouth.

• Overly sensitive teeth.

Teeth whitening
: Dental hygienists play an important role in establishing, managing and maintaining tooth-bleaching procedures in the dental practice. Also, during the preventive maintenance appointment, the dental hygienist can introduce or explain the tooth-whitening options available to the inquiring patient.

Cavity prevention and early diagnosis
: Dental hygienists serve a key function to personalized, evidence-based caries prevention. This involves a thorough and comprehensive assessment of individual risk factors, detection and diagnosis of cavities and incorporation of the patient’s medical and dental histories. They are trained to take bitewings and peri-apical x-rays to aid in the diagnosis of hard-to-reach cavities. Dental hygienists play a significant role in the assessment of a patient’s individual caries risk. This approach to chronic disease management increases the likelihood that patients will receive the appropriate and personalized preventive and therapeutic care.

Dentists and hygienists cannot emphasize enough the importance of the focus on these four daily routines to maintain a healthy smile: brush twice per day, floss daily, rinse with a non-alcohol mouthwash and where applicable, chew sugar-free gum.

Dental hygienists serve as your dental advocate and will give support throughout the journey to becoming and remaining healthy. Hygienists serve a critically important function in our society. They love their work and enjoy a sense of professional and personal satisfaction when each patient becomes motivated to secure their dental fortunes with good oral health. Patients who follow their advice will avoid potential tooth and gum problems in the future. They will receive assistance in maintaining good oral and overall health.

I salute the hard-working dental hygienists in our society. Happy Dental Hygiene Month!

• Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or

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