Dental Hygiene

Dr. Knox recommends periodic, one to four times per year, visits with the dental hygienist.

“Dental hygienists are licensed oral health care professionals who have completed extensive educational and clinical preparation in preventive oral health care.” ADHA

Dental Hygiene: Teeth Cleaning and General Oral Health

During a dental hygiene or ‘cleaning’ appointment the dental hygienist assesses a patient’s oral health, takes radiographs (x-rays) and photographs, and performs periodic screenings for periodontal disease, tooth decay, unusual tooth wear, and oral cancer. The dental hygienist will then clean the patient’s teeth, prophylactic cleaning (prophylaxis or ‘prophy’), by removing plaque and calculus (‘tartar’) from both above and below the gum line using dental instruments. They also apply fluoride varnishes and sealants to teeth to help prevent cavities. The hygienist presents the information to the dentist for diagnosis and treatment planning.

The hygienist also educates patients on proper oral hygiene techniques to maintain healthy teeth and gums and counsels patients about plaque control and developing individualized at home oral hygiene programs.

When a patient is diagnosed with periodontal disease (perio or gum disease), the dentist may recommend root planing and scaling (the cleaning of infected root surfaces). This is sometimes referred to as a ‘deep cleaning’. Either the dentist or the dental hygienist may provide this treatment. Antibiotic gels are used in conjunction with root planing to treat periodontal disease and may be placed at the same appointment as the root planing and scaling. Root planing is usually performed with local anesthesia.

Only dental hygienists licensed to perform injections may administer local anesthesia. Not all dental hygienists have such a license.

Our dental hygienists are licensed to administer injections of local anesthetic.

Periodontal cleaning (perio maintenance) is the treatment given to people with periodontal disease at a frequency of at least every three months to prevent further bone loss. This treatment is usually performed by the dental hygienist. Timing is critical for patients with periodontal disease. This treatment is similar to a prophy, but extra attention is paid to the area below the gums. The hygienist watches for increased pocket depth and bone loss. Our goal is to reduce pocket depths and arrest bone loss. It is difficult to achieve those goals if the patient doesn’t come in at least every 90 days.

For more information about dental hygienists, please visit the Resources page on the ADHA website and click on ‘Patient Resources’.