What does a Dental Hygienist do?

A dental hygienist is a clinical professional who has trained for three years to become a qualified expert in the health of soft tissue in the mouth, in particular the gums. Your dental hygienist will help you to maintain good oral hygiene which is an important aspect of your dental health. The health of your gums can also be a barometer for your general health and wellbeing and your dental hygienist will be able to offer you advice and instruction to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. Scaling and polishing will reduce staining caused by smoking and some food and drinks, and help you to remove plaque, calculus and tartar. Your dental hygienist can also provide valuable oral hygiene instruction to children and to carry out fissure sealant treatment which is a very effective method of preventing decay in the teeth of young children.

Why does my dentist refer me to the dental hygienist?

There are a number of reasons why your dentist will refer you to a dental hygienist. When your dentist carries out your regular examination, he or she will measure the depth of spaces or pockets that can form between your gums and your teeth. Pockets can form as a result of the presence of harmful bacteria in your mouth which forms a sticky substance known as plaque. The presence of plaque in your mouth can lead to gums becoming inflamed which in turn can lead to gum disease.


Gum disease can occur without any symptoms which is why it is important to attend for your dental examinations on a regular basis. As gum disease progresses it can cause the soft gum tissue to recede, exposing the roots of teeth to further attack by bacteria and disease. This can ultimately lead to the loss of teeth due to the root and bone around the root becoming infected with disease. In fact, 70% of all adult teeth lost are as a result of gum disease and not tooth decay, so it’s really important to visit your dentist and dental hygienist on a regular basis.

It is considered good practice for your dentist to refer you to your dental hygienist for scaling and polishing appointments according to your needs and if you want additional scale and polishes to brighten up your teeth for a special occasion, just ask your dental hygienist.


There are some more specific symptoms which may indicate an appointment with your dentist is advisable, so he or she can refer you on to the dental hygienist.

  • Bleeding gums upon brushing

  • Red, swollen gums

  • Bad taste in mouth

  • Unpleasant mouth odour

Elaine Woodhouse

Elaine Woodhouse

Dental Hygienist