undefinedMost modern dental practices employ a dental hygienist as well as a dentist. Their role is very important because hygienists are concerned with preventative dental work. Often, they are qualified as dental therapists, too.

A large part of their work is to help people clean their teeth effectively to prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar. Their aim is to keep your gums and teeth healthy so you can maintain your beautiful smile.

What type of work do dental hygienists carry out?

A dental hygienist is able to scale and polish your teeth professionally. Plaque is the sticky film that develops on your teeth after eating and drinking. If left on your teeth, it develops into tartar. If allowed to build up, plaque and tartar can lead to cavities, infections and gum disease --so it's really important to make sure these substances are cleaned off your teeth thoroughly.

Tartar cannot be removed without professional help. Tartar is a very hard substance and often looks yellow. It can develop in the crevices and hard-to-reach areas between your teeth and gums.

While some dentists may carry out a scale and polish themselves, others will refer you to their dental hygienist who is skilled and experienced in this dental procedure.

The hygienist is usually able to spend more time with patients in order to provide further education and advice. This enables the dentist to carry out more complex and specialised procedures.


In addition to carrying out tasks, a dental hygienist can support people to develop healthy oral hygiene routines. They can advise people about choosing healthy foods -- instead of sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks that can damage tooth enamel.

They can also provide support to help you stop smoking; this is important because smokers have a higher risk of gum disease -- and smoking can lead to various oral problems including mouth cancer and tooth loss.

The dental hygienist can also discuss the best way to clean your teeth and can show you how to floss effectively. They will check you are brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing correctly once a day.

They can discuss the benefits of electric toothbrushes and show you how to use interdental brushes to clean between your teeth more effectively. They can also discuss the benefits of mouthwash. By doing this, they are helping you prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar.

Other tasks

Dental hygienists may also carry out certain treatments. This can include the application of fluoride varnishes.

For some people, particularly children, the hygienist may seal the biting surfaces of the back teeth as they appear in the mouth. This is to help prevent decay. They may also apply fluoride varnishes to children's teeth, again, to help prevent decay.

Other tasks that the dental hygienist may carry out include preparation work for the dentist. They may take your dental X-rays so that the dentist can assess the condition of your teeth.

Work may include preparing gums for dental restorations like crowns or for fillings. In some practices, the hygienist may carry out teeth whitening as part of the dentist's 'prescription'. Whitening helps remove stains and can brighten your smile effectively.

If the hygienist is also qualified as a dental therapist, they may be able to extract 'baby' teeth and apply fillings. However, they are unable to carry out any work that involves the nerves of the teeth and cannot do restorations or crowns; a qualified dentist must do this type of work.

A dental hygienist carries out an important role as part of the dental team. They support the dentist and can help prepare you for your dental treatments.

An important part of their role is to provide education and advice to help you maintain healthy teeth and gums. Their valuable preventative work can help reduce the costs of more expensive dental treatments once gum disease or cavities occur. Your dental hygienist will work with you to keep your smile looking sensational.

Some recommendations for maintaining good oral hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush.
  • Floss once a day.
  • Quit smoking and stop using tobacco products.
  • Include nutritious foods in your diet -- and avoid sugary snacks, fizzy drinks etc.
  • Be aware that some drinks like tea, coffee and red wine can stain teeth.
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water.
  • Attend your dental appointments and routine dental examinations.

If you would like to know more about the role of the hygienist and cost of their services, contact your dental practice.

For more information about the role of a hygienist: