What is a Dental Hygienist?
A Dental Hygienist is a specially trained health professional who works together with your Dentist to detect, treat and prevent periodontal disease, minimise the risk of dental decay and to assist in maintaining oral health.
Why does the Dentist refer the patient to the Dental Hygienist?
The increasing number of adults retaining their teeth has led to research showing that gum health is the key to keeping your teeth. To be able to control gum disease (there is no cure) and dental decay it is essential to have excellent home care of your mouth and regular treatments from the hygienist.
What are the warning signs?
Discoloured, dirty teeth
Gums red and puffy
Spaces beginning to appear between the teeth
What services do the Dental Hygienists Provide?
Preventive treatment to maintain a healthy mouth and teeth for life
Removal of plaque
Removal of calculus (tartar) or hardened plaque from the tooth surface above and below the gum by scaling and root planing
Removal of stain from the teeth eg; tea, coffee, tobacco and mouth rinses etc
Guidance in dietary habits, which can avoid tooth decay and gum problems
Correct home care techniques as in tooth brushing and flossing and information on the latest equipment available for home use.
Regular maintenance visits to the dentist & hygienist
Tooth Whitening impressions
Mouth Guard impressions
Oral health education, including advice during pregnancy and assisting with the care of your children’s teeth
What will my dental hygienist do?
Your dental hygienist will examine your mouth to assess the overall health of your teeth and gums and to look for and make a record of any sign of periodontal disease.
They will then do a thorough clean, scale and polish. The scale will be done using hand instruments, or by ultrasonic scaling. This removes any bacterial deposits and plaque from above and below the gum surface. Once the plaque has been removed, your teeth will be polished, leaving them feeling smooth and fresh.
Your dental hygienist will then show you how to care for your teeth at home, and will recommend the correct products for you to use.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal (or gum) disease is a process that starts with a biofilm that adheres to the surface of your teeth. Gums first become red, then inflamed and swollen. Later, the bone that supports the teeth is eaten away. In the terminal stages, this leads to tooth loss.
The Stages of Periodontal Disease
Gingivitis: A mild inflammation of the gums, which may occasionally bleed when you brush and floss. No bone loss has occurred, so it is totally reversible.
Periodontitis: This is the next stage of periodontal disease. Here the gums separate from the tooth allowing bacteria to invade. The toxins they produce cause additional inflammation and bleeding. Much more damaging is the bone loss that occurs, as it is irreversible damage. With early intervention and proper care, this loss can be maintained non-surgically, preserving your teeth.
Advanced stages: In the terminal stages of periodontal disease, pronounced loss of gum attachment, bone loss, pus accumulation and eventual tooth loss are exhibited. In its earlier stages, surgical intervention may be recommended. In latter stages, there is no cure except for extractions.
What are the treatments for Periodontal Disease?
Examination: Your hygienist will measure the degree of any breakdown of the gums using a probe.
Routine cleaning: The teeth are cleaned of all hard and soft deposits.
Debridement/Root Planing: The root surfaces of the teeth are cleansed of all deposits allowing inflammation to decrease and arresting bone destruction. Local anaesthetic may be used.
Oral Irrigation: We may recommend rinses and/or gels to aid in reducing bacteria. This will ease sensitivity and promote oral health.
Surgery: Some situations require a surgical intervention to re-establish optimal health. In these cases, you may be referred to a specialist.
What is biofilm?
There are different biofilms throughout your body. In the mouth this is the thin layer of saliva, bacteria and food that clings to the teeth. It is often referred to as plaque.
What is tartar or calculus?
When the biofilm is not removed by professional care and daily brushing and flossing, it mineralises. Once this happens, it forms a tenacious bond that can only be removed by the hygienist or dentist.
What’s to lose?
Periodontal disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. However, this does not have to happen. Consistent periodontal care including examination and X-rays as needed are key to your oral health.
Where are you located?
SmartSmile is located in the same building as Fraser Smith Lowe Dentists at 267 Pakuranga Rd, Pakuranga, Auckland.
What are your opening hours?
SmartSmile is open from 8am-5pm on weekdays, with a late night on Tuesday till 8pm.
Can I come with a friend?
Yes! We can take bookings of up to four people at a time.
I’m scared of the dentist, do SmartSmile cleanings hurt?
If you have regular cleanings and you look after your teeth in-between visits you should have very little calculus/tartar on your teeth to be removed therefore making your appointment enjoyable. But if your appointments are irregular and you do not practice regular oral home-care you will notice a lot more cleaning is required to remove plaque and calculus from your teeth. As well, all that calculus and plaque will inflame your gums. Inflamed gums make teeth more sensitive and tender than firm healthy ones. So under these circumstances cleanings may be uncomfortable. Please be honest with your dental hygienist and let her know how you are feeling. They can assess the situation and offer topical gels or pastes to help with the problem.
How often should I see my hygienist?
Normally a visit every 6 months is recommended, however sometimes 3-4 monthly visit is needed if there are concerns with your gums.
How many times a day should I brush my teeth?
Twice is ideal, once in the morning after breakfast and then again in the evening last thing before bedtime. Although there is research indicating that brushing once a day is sufficient to disrupt the formation of plaque that feeds the bacteria that cause decay, this may not be enough for some people, depending on factors such as their diets and the efficacy of their brushing technique.
Which is better: a manual tooth brush or an electric one?
Studies have shown an electric brush removes more deposits from the teeth and is less likely to cause toothbrush wear.
What kind of toothpaste should I use?
The best type to use is a fluoridated, non abrasive toothpaste. Most of the major types are available in your supermarket or from your dental professional. We like Colgate Total as a general paste but may recommend a sensitive paste if you have sensitive teeth.
What is the best way to get my teeth white?
Most people have teeth that are naturally darker than "pure" white. If you want them whiter, the best thing you can do is talk to your Dentist or Hygienist about your options. Different people respond differently to different procedures used to whiten teeth, and it will take an in-person consultation with a professional to determine what is best for you. Sometimes all it takes is professional clean to remove stain and then abstinence from behaviours that stain teeth, such as drinking coffee or tea, or smoking. Some people respond well to the use of whitening toothpastes while some do not. Other options available include a Whitening Programme either to be done at home or in the dental practice, with chemicals or with lasers, as prescribed by a Dentist or Hygienist. Sometimes a combination of options is used.
If I use a fluoridated toothpaste and live in fluoridated area, do I still need additional fluoride?
Not normally. However if your Dentist or Hygienist is concerned about you being susceptible to decay/caires (holes) then they may recommend you have added Fluoride in your oral care routine. This could be in the form of a rinse or stronger fluoridated toothpaste.
How can I tell if I have bad breath?
There are many small signals that can show you that you have bad breath. Have you noticed people stepping away when you start to talk? Do people turn their cheek when you kiss them goodbye?
If you think you might have bad breath, there is a simple test that you can do. Simply lick the inside of your wrist and sniff - if the smell is bad, you can be pretty sure that your breath is too. Or, ask a very good friend to be absolutely honest, but do make sure they are a true friend.
How do I get rid of bad breath?
If there are any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to your bad breath we may refer you to your doctor. Hydration and saliva flow are also important and modification of lifestyle and dietary factors can sometime affect this also. Making sure that your teeth and gums are clean and maintained regularly is mandatory, and cleaning your tongue can also help. Sometimes we will recommend an oral probiotic treatment to rebalance the bacteria in your mouth so there are less of the odour causing bacteria present.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a soft sticky biofilm, normally a pale yellow colour which develops naturally on your teeth. Its made up of millions of bacteria that colonise themselves and attach onto a smooth tooth surface.
What is tartar/calculus?
Dental calculus may be defined as calcified or calcifying deposits on the teeth and other solid structures in the oral cavity. This will usually form where there has been plaque present in areas that have not been cleaned adequately. Calculus is the term used to describe plaque that has hardened onto your teeth. It traps more plaque and makes it more difficult to clean your teeth. Calculus is found above and below the gum line and needs to be professionally scaled because it cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. If left to accumulate over time it is a constant source of irritation and your gums will look red and puffy and may bleed when brushing until removed
How does plaque attack the gums?
Plaque can also produce harmful by-products that irritate the gums, causing gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal diseases. If plaque isn’t removed daily, it will build up into a hard deposit called calculus. If plaque continues to form on top of the calculus, it can irritate the gums, and a pocket may develop between the teeth and gums. Plaque build up can eventually destroy the gums and bone that support the teeth.
What causes tooth loss?
The most common causes of tooth loss are dental caries, also known as tooth decay, and periodontal disease, which affects the gums and bone structure that supports the teeth. Dental caries is the major cause of tooth loss in children, and periodontal disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults; however, it too can afflict youngsters.
Should I be using a mouth rinse?
This is a tricky one to answer as there are many difference rinses for different reasons. Firstly, if you are justwanting to use one after brushing as a mouth freshener then use a mouthrinse that is alcohol-free is best. However if you have been recommended by your Dentist or Hygienist to use a Fluoridated one this will depend on the strength they have suggested, depending on how much daily or weekly fluoride you need. Another type of mouthrinse is if you suffer from a dry mouth, these rinses tend to have more lubricating agents in that can help keep your mouth moist throughout the day/night. Probably once you’ve seen the Hygienist she’ll be able to work out what is best for you mouth!
Does chewing gum help?
Yes it does! By chewing on gum this stimulates your saliva glands therefore producing more saliva in your mouth, which helps to keep your teeth clean and mouth lubricated.
Which chewing gum should I choose?
There is quite a selection out there now, so as long as you chose a “Sugarfree” variety this will have the benefits.
Why is it important to floss?
Flossing is important because it reaches between the teeth where a tooth brush cannot reach.
When should I floss?
Flossing should be done at least once a day before brushing your teeth. At night generally is a good time before you go to bed, most of us have more time at this end of the day plus it is better to removed as much plaque as possible from your mouth before sleeping as this is when your mouth is nice and still and a time that plaque will colonise much quicker.
What is the best floss to use?
Floss is very individual to each person. There are many different types of floss, wax, tape, superfloss for bridges and orthodontics. Finding the best one to suit you depends on your situation. Teeth that are tighter together would benefit from a waxed floss or ribbon floss. A tape could be used for teeth with more space.
What can I do about stained and discoloured teeth?
Come in and see one of our Dentists or Hygienists so we can properly assess whether your teeth are discoloured from food/tea/coffee/red wine/smoking which is easily removed with a thorough Dental Hygiene Scaling & Polish or whether it is a more extrinsic issue that may need further treatment
Why are my teeth sensitive with cold water?
Teeth can become sensitive with cold water (and air) if your gums have receeded, exposing the root surfaces (dentine). These surfaces do not have the protective hard enamel over them therefore a more sensitive to the thermal conditions.