The Oral Health Therapist and Your Oral Health
Previously called Dental Therapists/Hygienists, our Oral Health Therapists are University trained health professionals who work as part of our dental team to prevent and treat gum disease and help you maintain optimum oral health. Many of our patients have not had the option to be treated by a hygienist or oral health therapist before, and hopefully, the following information will explain their role in your complete dental care.
What does the Oral Health Therapist do?
The Oral Health Therapist will examine your gums and the soft tissues of your mouth, identifying any areas of concern. She will then gently and meticulously remove plaque and tartar from around your teeth and under the gumline and will polish off any surface staining from your teeth. The Oral Health Therapist will also show you how to brush and clean between your teeth effectively so that you can manage and improve your own dental health at home and give you practical diet advice to help keep your teeth healthy.
I clean my teeth every day; why do I need to see the Oral Health Therapist?
No matter how well people look after their teeth and gums, very few maintain perfect oral hygiene day by day. Plaque is easily missed between the teeth and around the gum line. If plaque is missed regularly, it calcifies into tartar. Even our “know-it-all” dentists visit the Oral Health Therapist twice yearly!
What is periodontal (gum) disease?
Plaque and tartar are the primary factors leading to the development and progression of gum disease (periodontal disease). Bacteria in the plaque produce toxins which irritate and infect the gum tissue causing inflammation. Early gum disease (gingivitis) is a relatively mild infection of the gums which is easily treated.
- Gums that bleed when you floss or brush.
- Red, swollen or tender gums.
- Bad breath.
Severe gum disease (periodontitis) is a chronic infection of the gums and bone that is anchoring the teeth into your jaw. This often results in tooth loss.
- All symptoms of gingivitis.
- Gums receding away from the teeth.
- Pus from under the gums.
- A bad taste in your mouth.
- Teeth that are tender to bite on.
- Loose teeth.
Why do I need healthy gums?
Having a healthy mouth contributes towards your overall health and well being. Research has shown there are links between periodontitis and systemic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. By reducing the bad bacteria in the mouth we can reduce the bacterial load in the bloodstream and therefore allow the immune system to concentrate its efforts on keeping the body healthy.
Why see the Oral Health Therapist for my ‘clean’ and not the Dentist?
Traditionally, the Dentist would scale (clean) your teeth as part of your examination or check-up appointment. However, we require more than the ‘quick clean’ of years gone by, especially as our population is aging and people are retaining their own teeth for longer than ever before. Prevention is always better than the cure so it is important to have a thorough assessment or your oral health needs, removal of the bacterial deposits that cause gum problems and preventive advice to stabilise and maintain any oral conditions. Our goal is healthy teeth, for life, and if we want to achieve this and maintain an attractive smile and comfortable mouth throughout our lives, then we need to care for our gums as well as our teeth. By seeing the Oral Health Therapist regularly and following their advice, your oral health will steadily improve.
How long do I need with the Oral Health Therapist?
For first time hygiene patients, an hour is usually the time needed to carry out assessments and treatment, and get you started on an good regime of oral health home care. If you require further visits your Oral Health Therapist will discuss this with you during your first visit. Subsequent visits may take less time and the fee will reflect this. Following your Oral Health Therapist’s advice between appointments will make each visit easier, shorter and more cost-effective for you too.
Will the procedure hurt?
Dental hygiene treatment of a healthy mouth should not cause discomfort. However, if you have gum disease then you may find your gums are a little tender. Local anesthesia can be used if necessary. Talk to your Clinician about any of your concerns!
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