Hygienists’ education and training

A registered dental hygienist is a highly trained, licensed oral health professional who specializes in providing you with clinical, therapeutic and educational services to enhance your oral and overall health.

Hygienists receive intensive, specialized education and training that includes courses in chemistry, physiology, nutrition, microbiology, head and neck anatomy, oral pathology, pharmacology, and radiology. Additional courses also include advanced dental science and dental hygiene.

Prior to graduation, a hygienist must pass rigorous tests and complete hundreds of clock hours of supervised instruction in clinical practice.

What hygienists do

A hygienist serves many functions in the dental office. The hygienist carefully examines your teeth, mouth, and gums and looks for any signs of decay, periodontal disease, oral cancer, or other problems. A hygienist also takes dental x-rays so the dentist can view them and quickly diagnose any problems that may exist.

As part of the preventive function of the job, your hygienist uses specialized instruments and techniques to thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth. These procedures comfortably remove plaque, tartar, and stains from above and below your gumline. A hygienist is often involved with the specialized treatment of gum disease, such as scaling and root planing. A hygienist may also apply fluoride gels or other treatments.

Your hygienist will teach you how to effectively care for your teeth at home to help you prevent decay, gingivitis and periodontal disease, show you how to select the proper toothbrush and dental floss, and demonstrate the most effective techniques for brushing and flossing.

A hygienist can also explain the relationship between a healthy diet and dental health, offering suggestions about which foods to select and which to avoid.

Your hygienist is an excellent educational resource who can help you and your family keep your healthy smiles for a lifetime.



We recommend that you get a routine dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of food and bacteria that forms constantly on your teeth.

A routine dental cleaning is often called prophylaxis or “prophy.”

The importance of prophylaxis

Even when you brush and floss properly every day, some plaque remains on your teeth and hardens to become tartar. Tartar can be removed effectively only with a professional cleaning.

It is important to remove plaque and tartar because they are the main cause of tooth decay and gum disease.

The procedure

To clean your teeth, we use a variety of instruments to carefully remove all the plaque and tartar above and below the gumline. These instruments may include hand scalers, an ultrasonic scaler, and dental floss, superfloss, or other flossing aids.

We may also use polishing instruments to remove stains from your teeth.

We will carefully review your homecare routine as well.

With regular dental cleanings, we can help you maintain a healthy mouth and a beautiful smile.


Oral healthcare breakthrough

One of the greatest breakthroughs in preventive dentistry is the use of fluoride.

Almost all water naturally contains some fluoride, but not in sufficient quantity to protect teeth.

Many American cities add some fluoride to the water supply to bring it up to the levels that help prevent tooth decay.

The benefits of fluoride

Fluoride has many benefits for people of all ages. When children are young and their teeth are forming, fluoride joins with the structure of the tooth, making the enamel surface harder and more resistant to decay.

The benefits for adults are also important. Fluoride can help repair a cavity in its earliest stage before it has become visible in the mouth. Fluoride rebuilds the enamel layer of the tooth.

Fluoride treatments

Fluoride treatments are sometimes prescribed to help eliminate the bacteria that cause gum disease. Fluoride treatments for older adults help to treat decay on tooth roots and to minimize root sensitivity.

For these reasons, we recommend fluoride toothpaste for all of our patients. We may also recommend additional sources of fluoride for you to use at home. Depending on your situation, these could include fluoride drops, tablets, rinses, gels, or a high-concentration fluoride toothpaste.

We may also apply fluoride foam, varnish, or gels in our office.

Fluoride is an important part of every prevention program. When combined with the good dental habits of brushing and flossing, fluoride can dramatically reduce cavities and keep your mouth healthy.


Sealant purpose

A sealant is a clear or white plastic coating that is placed on the biting surfaces of back teeth to help prevent tooth decay.

The benefits of sealant

Back teeth have deep grooves and pits that are very difficult to keep clean. Plaque, which is a sticky, colorless film of food and bacteria, collects in these grooves. Plaque is nearly invisible, so to see it, we may stain the plaque with a harmless red dye.

Every time you eat, the bacteria in plaque forms acid. Without a protective sealant, this acid attacks the enamel that protects your teeth and causes the enamel to break down. Then, you get a cavity.

Placing sealant

To place the sealant, we thoroughly clean and dry your teeth. Next, a conditioning solution is applied. Then we brush the sealant material into the grooves of your back teeth. Some types of sealants harden on their own, while others harden when exposed to a special light.

A sealant is an effective shield that can defend your back teeth against cavities and help preserve your oral health.

Importance of Regular Exams

Regular check-ups important

We recommend a check-up every six months so we can identify and prevent a variety of oral health problems.

Steps in a regular exam

Each visit will be different based on your situation, but generally, check-ups include several steps. We start by reviewing your concerns, dental chart, and medical history so we can determine the most appropriate care for you.

The check-up also includes cleaning your teeth. This enables us to clearly see the condition of your teeth and gums and to remove the plaque, tartar and bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. If needed, we polish your teeth to smooth their surfaces and to remove light stains.

A regular check-up includes a careful visual exam of your mouth. We check for decay on the biting surfaces of teeth, signs of wear, cracks, or other problems with restorations such as fillings and crowns, as well as any abnormal loss of tooth structure.

In addition, we check the color and contours of your gums. Red, swollen gums are often signs of gingivitis or periodontal disease. We use a periodontal probe to check the depth of the spaces between your teeth and gums. Readings deeper than 3 millimeters often indicate periodontal disease.

We also diagnose any sores or lesions on the soft tissues of your mouth, screening them for signs of oral cancer.

Other conditions cannot be easily seen, so we often take x-rays. X-rays show us decay between and inside the teeth and tartar on the teeth and tooth roots. X-rays also show us signs of periodontal disease, such as the loss of bone around the teeth. In addition, x-rays allow us to see cysts, abscesses, and other problems.

We may also examine your jaw joint to help diagnose problems with your bite or TMJ. Sometimes check-ups include additional treatments based on your individual situation.

We review your homecare routine and give you advice on a good diet for maintaining good oral health and a beautiful smile.

Regular check-ups are important because neglecting dental conditions can lead to much more serious problems, such as:

  • infected teeth.
  • tooth loss and shifting teeth.
  • receding gums.
  • loss of bone in the jaw.
  • painful jaw joints.

With regular exams, we can detect problems early and help you maintain your oral and overall health.