Celebrating Smiles | 15 July, 2021

Five Minutes With A Lead Hygienist

Courtenay Place Dental’s Lead Hygienist Rachel Smith knows a thing or two about oral health. With over two decades of industry experience, she has played a starring role in educating, preventing and treating oral health disorders in hundreds of patients across the capital.

Rachel shares some fast facts – and debunks a few myths – about why oral hygiene should be top of your to do list.

  • There’s quite a bit of confusion around our profession - and our job title. Some dental practices have ‘dental hygienists’ and others have ‘oral health therapists’. The first cohort of dental hygienists graduated from Otago 25 years ago. Oral health therapists emerged later and have a combined degree that encompasses both dental hygiene and dental therapy (school dental nursing). Book into your local dental practice for a hygiene appointment and you’ll be seen by either a dental hygienist or an oral health therapist.

  • At an initial hygiene appointment, we take measurements around your teeth, and use a variety of tools to ascertain if you’ve got any gum or bone disease. We’ll let you know how your oral health is faring, recommend a treatment plan (if needed), and outline exactly what you need to be doing at home to keep your teeth and gums in tip top condition. If you are in a high risk category, we recommend three to four monthly visits moving forward after initial treatment, or if you’re in better health, six monthly visits are ideal.

  • Many people don’t realise how important regular hygienist check-ups are - they can save a whole lot of pain and expense further down the track! Poor oral health in all probability will lead to gingivitis (aka gum disease), which can then lead to periodontitis (bone disease). That’s where the infection under the gums breaks down the support bone and is a precursor to mobile teeth or tooth loss.

  • Luckily, there’s also heaps you can do at home to protect your pearly whites. Brushing twice a day (with an extra soft head and ideally, an electric toothbrush), flossing daily and eating a good diet are key. I recommend eating and drinking at set mealtimes throughout the day (don’t graze!). For half an hour after you eat or drink acid invades your mouth. Avoid brushing your teeth during this time and help neutralise the acid with sugar free chewing gum. Drink heaps of water and have a low acid diet (go easy on the sugary drinks and citrus fruit!).

  • Nothing beats a great smile. Take good care of your oral health at home and combine regular visits to your hygienist with regular dentist visits. That’s the winning trifecta for optimal oral health now and into the future.