The Fact of the Tooth
What to Expect at Your Next Dental
By: Jayme Hoelting, RDH
Many people are afraid of the dentist, so much so they try to avoid
coming in for their routine checkup and cleaning. By knowing the
facts, you will have no reason for being scared, especially at your
dental hygiene visit. If you have any anxiety about your upcoming
appointment, let me put you at ease. Below I have put together a list
of things that you should expect.
What is a Dental Hygienist?
A dental hygienist is a specially trained dental professional. The
responsibilities of a dental hygienist include cleaning your teeth,
check to make sure everything is functioning properly and exam
your oral health. We are experts at dental cleanings and oral health
What Will Happen at Your Appointment?
Here is the break down of what your appointment would consist of, but is
1. Update your health history. There have been so many recent studies
connecting your oral health to your overall health. Your dental health
can affect and be affected by other medical conditions such as
hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. That is why this is
step 1 and is so very important. Please be prepared with any new
medication or diagnosis. I will ask if you have had any changes to
your medical history, medications, dental issues and any other
concerns that may affect your health.
2. Update necessary x-rays. X-rays are helpful tools to help determine
the health of your teeth and surrounding bone. Your teeth are twice as
long as they appear in your mouth. The root of the tooth lies below
the gum tissue and is nestled in the bone. All that we can see when
looking in our mouths is the crown of the tooth. The whole tooth
needs to be examined to illustrate the shape and size of the tooth and
if there is any decay or an infection present.
3. Examination of your throat. Oral cancer starts in the throat and as a
dental hygienist, we are trained to detect the early signs of this
disease. We can give a recommendation to run more tests or clear you
of any suspicions by taking a close look at your neck, throat and face.
4. Examination of your neck. When we examine your neck, we are
looking for any lumps or enlargements. These can be signs of other
maladies and if we suspect anything you may be required to get other
tests or visit with your primary doctor.
5. Examination of your jaw. We will check the temporomandibular
joint which is located right in front of the ear. We will be checking to
see if you are having any joint problems like pain, improper alignment
and malocclusion (bad bite).
6. Examination of your teeth and gums. Using specific tools, we will
check your teeth and gums. We are looking for where plaque and tarts
are most prominent and assess if your tooth enamel is healthy or if
some of your teeth have exposed dentin.
7. Measuring bone levels. We will use a probing tool to measure the
space between your teeth and gums. When we do this we will be
calling out a range of numbers, usually between 1 and 5. If there is a
measurement of more than 3 millimeters, this may be an indication
that your gums are receding due to periodontal disease.
8. Dental cleaning (scaling). Next we will clean your teeth by
removing plaque and tartar with a scaling instrument.
9. Polishing. By polishing your teeth, it helps keep them free from
stains and resistant to plaque formation. This step makes the tooth
surface smoother, making it easy for bacteria to slide off when you
10.Recommendations to improve your oral health. At this point we
will have made an educated conclusion of the health of your oral
health condition and if there was anything that was concerning we
will discuss with you our findings, recommendations and treatment
options. If there is a recommendation for further treatment, please do
not ignore it or prolong it. The earlier you get the issue fixed, the
higher your chances are for success.
When Should I See a Dental Hygienist?
It is highly recommended to see your dental hygienist at least once
every six months. This allows us to keep your dental record current and
track any unusual changes in your oral health. With having regular
dental visits you are taking control of your oral health and preserving
your teeth and your smile.
About the author: Jayme
has been a registered dental
hygienist since 2010 when she
graduated from the dental
hygiene program at Amarillo
College. She has been a
treasured asset to the team
of Eric Crawford DDS Family
Dentistry since 2011.