Most patients know that they should see their dental hygienist for a cleaning appointment every few months. But even if you attend these appointments regularly, you may not have a great idea of what your hygienist is actually doing as he or she works in your mouth. Since it's hard to ask questions with tools in your mouth, take a look at this guide to learn more about what your hygienist is doing while cleaning and inspecting your teeth.
1. Removing Tartar
You'll probably notice that the first thing your hygienist does is use scraping tools to remove buildup from the surface of your teeth. While this process does remove plaque—the substance you also remove when brushing your teeth—the scraping also removes tartar. Tartar is a hardened form of plaque that builds up on your teeth when you do not remove the plaque thoroughly and effectively.
Since tartar is so hard, it can't be removed with a toothbrush, and your hygienist's scraping procedure is really the only good way to get rid of tartar. And since tartar can lead to cavities and gum disease if left in place, this process is essential for ongoing dental health.
Flossing is the best way to clean between your teeth at home, and it's also the best way for your hygienist to clean between your teeth. The difference is that your hygienist can work the floss between your teeth at a slightly different angle and get a better view of what they are doing while flossing. So, the flossing procedure they do may be slightly more effective than your at-home flossing efforts. As they floss, they may also spots areas you are missing when you floss at home. In pointing these out to you, your hygienist can help you do a better job of flossing in the coming months.
The rotating rubber tool that your hygienist uses on your teeth may seem like an electric toothbrush. But actually, by the time your hygienist uses this tool, most of the tartar and plaque have been removed from the surface of your teeth. This tool actually polishes more than it cleans. It buffs your teeth to a shine, which not only makes them look cleaner, but also helps keep food and stains from sticking to them in the months that follow. The gritty paste used with the polishing tool also helps remove minor stains.
4. Cancer Screening
As your hygienist is cleaning and polishing your teeth, he or she will be looking over your cheeks and gums for any tissue abnormalities. Any discolored or raised patches may be a sign of cancer. If your hygienist is concerned about a particular spot, they will have your dentist take a closer look and possibly refer you to a professional.
Most hygiene appointments end with a conversation between you and the hygienist. They might ask you questions like "how often do you floss?" and "what toothpaste do you use?" Some patients feel intimidated or interrogated by these questions, but that is not their purpose. Rather, your hygienist is trying to start a conversation about your dental hygiene so they can offer you some additional tips for improvement. Be honest and ask questions—and you'll get a lot more out of this part of the appointment.
Every dental hygiene appointment will include the five items above. If you have any additional concerns about dental hygiene or what happens during an appointment, reach out to a dental office like Family Dentistry Of Woodstock in your area. They can schedule an appointment for you and ensure your teeth are kept in the best health.