The Role of a Dental Hygienist in Patient’s Overall Health
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Importance of Dental Hygiene and How Dental Hygienists Help Patients Maintain Oral Health

April 12, 2022

When it comes to oral health, prevention is always better than cure. Being proactive and practicing good dental hygiene can help patients keep their breath fresh and their teeth and gums healthy. In addition to establishing a daily brushing and flossing routine, the best way to stay on top of one’s oral health is by regularly visiting a dental hygienist.

Importance of Dental Hygiene

Dental hygiene affects more than just the health of teeth and gums. The truth is that the mouth’s condition offers a glimpse into the overall health of the body. It is the entryway to the digestive and respiratory tracts, meaning that any bacteria that comes into the mouth can make its way to these internal bodily systems.

Proper oral health habits can keep the bacteria under control, preventing oral infections such as tooth decay and gum disease. Staying on top of one’s dental hygiene can also help prevent various diseases and health conditions, including heart disease, pneumonia, diabetes, and more.

In all these, there are other professionals (aside from the dentists) who have a significant role in the upkeep of good dental hygiene.

Who Are Dental Hygienists, and What Do They Do?

Dental hygienists are licensed oral health professionals focused on preventing and treating teeth and gum infections. To be qualified and certified as a dental hygienist, one must be a graduate of an accredited dental hygiene education program in colleges and universities, as well as pass both a written national board examination and a clinical examination.

In addition to assisting dentists, dental hygienists take on a wide range of roles and responsibilities, including:

  • Performing comprehensive oral care assessments
  • Reviewing patients’ health history and overseeing screenings
  • Processing and interpreting dental X-rays
  • Cleaning teeth and gums by removing plaque and tartar above and below the gumline
  • Educating patients on proper dental hygiene techniques
  • Developing individualized at-home care routines and programs for patients
  • Counseling patients on the importance of proper diet and nutrition to help improve oral health and overall quality of life

Basically, a dental hygienist not only treats patients directly but also works as an oral health educator, researcher, and administrator. Patients meet you in various settings, such as dental offices, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, or even corporate environments.

What Do Patients Expect From a Good Dental Hygienist?

Given how important dental hygiene is to people’s physical fitness and well-being, seeing a dental hygienist regularly is a must for everyone. However, patients have high expectations from you during each dental visit.

To properly treat and care for your patients, you need to be mindful of what characteristics they expect from their oral hygienists. Here are the qualities and skills patients will want to see whenever they meet you at your practice:

Patients want empathy.

Many patients go to their scheduled dental appointments full of fear and anxiety. They need a friendly face to be there to greet them and assure them that they are in good, capable hands.

The best dental hygienists can put themselves in a patient’s shoes, displaying compassion and empathy for any pain, discomfort, or concerns the individual may have. They know that effective patient care is not just about being competent and skilled but also about having the ability to show patients that they understand and care about their well-being.

Patients expect dental hygienists to be detail-oriented.

Maintaining the health and safety of patients requires exceptional precision and focus. After all, a dental hygienist is in charge of various roles, from checking patient health histories to treating oral infections to helping people develop and practice at-home oral care routines. As a good dental hygienist, you must be careful not to skip essential steps or make errors that may result in severe consequences.

Patients are particular about your excellent communication skills.

Having a career in the dental hygiene field means having to speak with patients from all backgrounds and walks of life. As such, the ideal dental hygienist will know how best to talk and listen to someone and relay critical information to patients in clear, concise, and relatable ways. Most of the time, a dental hygienist will make a great effort to learn about patients and understand them on a deeper, more personal level to provide more customized care.

Patients are vigilant about your great problem-solving skills.

Since a dental hygienist’s main job is to help prevent and address oral health issues as soon as they appear, one will need quick thinking and exceptional problem-solving skills to work in this field. Whether the problem involves treating gum disease or creating a specialized at-home dental hygiene routine for a patient, an excellent oral hygienist will always be ready to tackle challenges head-on.

Patients hope for someone passionate about providing care.

Dental hygienists are more than just clinicians. They are also educators and advocates for improving one’s overall health and well-being. A great oral hygienist can help inspire patients to take charge of their physical health and instill in them a renewed sense of optimism so that they can respond better to dental hygiene instructions and suggestions.

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