Five Questions You Should Ask your Dental Hygienist

Believe it or not, your dental hygienist knows your teeth and gums better than you do.  In many cases, your hygienist also knows your teeth and gums better than your dentist does.  When you establish a good, consistent relationship with a hygienist, he or she is your best source of information about your oral health.

If your goal is to take great care of your teeth, lowering your risk for dental problems and lowering the cost of dental care over your lifetime, these questions will help you meet that goal.

This week’s blog gives you five great questions you should be asking your dental hygienist.  When you ask these questions and heed his or her answers, you will take even better care of your teeth!

  1. What area of my mouth am I missing when cleaning my teeth at home?

This is a question only your dental hygienist can answer.  As she cleans your teeth, she easily spots areas that have heavier plaque or tartar buildup than others.  No one perfectly removes all of the plaque inside his or her mouth.  There is no perfect brusher or flosser (even the dentist!).

Asking this question and an important follow-up gives you the information you must know and comprehend before you can do a better job of cleaning your teeth at home.  The follow-up question is “How can I get to those areas?”  You need to know what to do differently in order to change things.  If you keep brushing and flossing the way you’ve always brushed and flossed, you’ll keep missing the areas you are missing.

One of the dental hygienist’s most important roles is educating each patient on the best way to clean his or her teeth at home.  Our wonderful hygienists love teaching people how to care for their teeth and gums.  They will give you customized instructions for reaching your unique “trouble spots”.

Unfortunately, for many people, brushing, flossing and rinsing are mindless tasks at the end of a long day.  Following these new instructions from your hygienist may force you to pay closer attention to the way you clean your teeth.  You have to ask yourself, “Did I get to that one area that I always miss?”

  1. Are there any extra tools (besides toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, and mouthwash) that I should be using to clean my teeth?

This is another great question that follows on the heels of question #1.  Some people have teeth in configurations or arrangements that make cleaning with traditional toothbrush and floss difficult or even impossible.  There are many adjunct oral hygiene tools available over-the-counter to improve your teeth cleaning ability.

Patients with dental bridges, braces, and dental implants all need different tools to remove as much plaque as possible from the teeth.  Whatever the barrier to good cleaning is, your dental hygienist will have a tool to overcome it.

  1. How likely am I to get cavities?

Understanding your personal cavity risk is one of the most important tools in fighting them.  Almost all cavities are preventable.  Your ability to prevent them is directly related to your understanding of what causes them.

Some patients’ increased risk for cavities stems from particularly strong bacteria in the mouth.  In other patients, the most dangerous factor is a high sugar diet.  Still others watch their sugar intake but drink acidic beverages all day long.  Someone who has multiple fillings, crowns, and other dental work in the mouth has a higher risk for cavities.

Your hygienist can tell you which specific factors predispose you to cavities.  He or she can also give you customized recommendations on minimizing those risk factors.

  1. Has anything notable changed since my last teeth cleaning?

This goes right along with question #3 because your risk for cavities can change over time.  These changes may be something directly related to what you are doing.  Maybe you slacked off with your oral hygiene routine.  Maybe you started drinking soda every day.

The change also could be something completely unknown to you.  Perhaps a new medication is causing dry mouth.  Maybe your gums receded, exposing the weaker root, which is more susceptible to decay.

Whatever the change is, you are helpless if you are unaware.  Ask your hygienist what changes she notes in your mouth since your last professional teeth cleaning.  She will likely ask you some questions about what could be contributing to the changes she sees.  Be honest with your answers.  We are not here to make you feel guilty.  We only want to help you make good changes in the health of your mouth.

  1. How often should I get my teeth cleaned for optimal oral health?

Most people have professional teeth cleanings at a certain interval based on what dental insurance benefits will cover.  The problem with this philosophy is that it places the decision in the hands of an entity that has never taken one look inside your mouth.  Your insurance carrier does not know what risk factors for gum disease or cavities you have.  An insurance company does not know that you may take a new medication that causes inflammation of your gums.  Your dental insurance does not know that you have arthritis in your hands and cannot do a great job of cleaning your teeth by yourself.

Your dental hygienist does know all of those things.  Your hygienist knows all of the important factors that affect the health of your teeth and gums.  The dental hygienists at Premier Dental of Ohio desire to treat each patient as an individual.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to oral hygiene because there is no person who is exactly like any other.

In general, most healthy adult patients require professional teeth cleanings every six months for optimal oral health.  We see many patients who need more frequent cleanings to keep their mouths healthy.  Professional teeth cleanings on a three or four month interval are quite common among patients with a higher risk for gum disease.  We even have some patients with severe gum disease who require a 6-week interval between cleanings.

The point is that we treat each patient on an individual basis as dictated by his or her unique needs.  You are not just a number at Premier Dental of Ohio!

More Questions for a Dental Hygienist?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a visit with one of our awesome dental hygienists.  It’s never too late to start taking great care of your teeth!