What is a Dental Hygienist?

To be a Dental Hygienist, you have to complete an accredited hygiene program that takes two years. In addition to that, you have to pass several state boards.

Dental Hygienists are typically the people you see for your cleanings; or as we like to call it, Dental Hygiene Therapy.

What should I expect for my dental cleaning appointment?

To get a clear understanding of your overall dental health, we start with radiographs or x-rays. Following those, we do periodontal charting. During this process, a special instrument called a probe is used. This probe has millimeter markings on it that allow us to determine your gingival health. By getting a reading of 1-3mm it indicates healthy tissue. 4mm typically indicates some tissue inflammation. And 5mm+ lets us know there is likely bone-loss present. These measurements along with the radiographs help us determine what kind of cleaning would be necessary. Following these steps, we either do the cleaning at that appointment or re-appoint for a later date (for a SRP-explained in the next paragraph). Either way, the Dentist would come in and do an exam that day. If we do the cleaning that same day, depending on the type and amount of build-up, we would either use our specialty dental instruments to remove plaque/biofilm and calculus/tartar. Sometimes, we like to use what is called an ultrasonic or a Cavitron. This is a water-tool that uses ultrasonic waves to break-apart the bacteria and lavage under your gum tissues.

The below video explains what to expect during periodontal probing:

What are the different types of cleanings I may receive?

As stated above, we analyze your overall gingival health prior to determining what type of cleaning would be best suited for you.

  • The typical, 6 month recare cleaning is called a Prophy. This consists of two cleanings and two exams a year, as well as annual radiographs.
  • Maybe it has been a while since your last cleaning or you have pre-disposing factors? In this case, a scaling and root planning, or SRP, would likely be indicated. This just means that based on the measurements we took and by analyzing your x-rays, you likely have build-up underneath your gum tissues that a toothbrush and floss will not easily remove. To do an SRP, we typically break it down into two appointments. For each appointment we do half the mouth at a time. We do it this way because we would numb your tissues for your comfort. Following the completion of your SRP, we would ask that you come back in 4-6 weeks for a Tissue Check. At this tissue check, your tissues have likely healed and we get a better understanding of your healing process and how to move forward. Most people need to be on a 3 or 4 month recall after this, called Periodontal Maintenance. This just means that you have certain bacteria in your oral cavity that we need to keep under better control.

The below video explains the difference between a prophy and scaling and root planning:

The below video explains the difference between a prophy and periodontal maintenance:

Why do we have to take x-rays?

Because, to not take x-rays is to guess about your health. And we will not guess about your health.

We typically take two different kinds of radiographs: Bitewings and Panoramic/Cone Beam.

  • Bitewings allow us to examine the bone support around our teeth as well as any possible calculus, or tartar, in between your teeth.
  • A Panoramic x-ray, or a Cone Beam Scan, is taken to examine the overall health of your supportive structures, ie: signs of infection around the teeth, jaw, sinuses, inner ear, and possible signs of esophageal cancer.

The below video explains the importance of x-rays and the different types:

The below video explains what a Cone Beam Scan is capable of showing: