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October is Dental Hygiene Month

Dr. Jim Surrell

October is National Dental Hygiene Month, to celebrate the work our great dental hygienists do and to help raise awareness of the importance of maintaining good oral health.

This year, the Dental Hygiene month is focusing on healthy dental routines that can help people maintain healthy smiles, including oral brushing, flossing, and rinsing.

Good oral hygiene results in a mouth that looks and smells healthy. This means your teeth are clean and free of debris, gums are pink and do not hurt or bleed when you brush or floss, and bad breath is not a constant problem.

It is very important that we all learn and practice good oral hygiene because this is one of the most important things you can do to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Healthy teeth will enable a person to look and feel good, and make it possible to eat and speak properly. Good oral health is also very important to our overall health and well being. Daily preventive care, including proper brushing and flossing, will help stop oral hygiene problems before they develop.

In between our regular visits to the dentist, which we all should do, there are simple steps that each of us can take to greatly decrease the risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease and other dental problems. These simple steps include brushing thoroughly twice a day and flossing daily, eating a well balanced diet, using dental products that contain fluoride, including your toothpaste, and if recommended by your dentist, rinsing daily with a fluoride mouth rinse.

If we all follow these basic oral health recommendations from our dental assistants, dental hygienists and dentists, we will indeed maintain good oral health.

Let us now look more specifically at the dental hygienist profession. A dental hygienist is an oral health professional who works under the supervision of a licensed dentist. Along with teaching patients proper oral hygiene, they conduct professional patient assessments, perform oral examinations, and provide expert teeth cleanings.

Dental hygienists may work in either general or specialty dental clinics, and may also be employed in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. Dental hygienists remain aware of their possible exposure to any infectious disease, and go to great lengths to prevent the spread of any illnesses. The dental hygienist is also frequently taking x-rays and they remain very careful to prevent any excess radiation exposure to their patients and to themselves. The dental hygienist often spends many hours standing or leaning over patients, as they provide their expert care.

The typical degree required is an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene. The dental hygienist student may also consider completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree program if they are interested in further advancing their degree. Dental Hygiene educational programs focus on teaching the hygienist how to properly use dental software, various dental tools and special dental care devices, and their educational courses may include oral pathology, dental materials, radiology, infection control, pain management, community dental health, and pharmacology.

Dental hygienists also develop their interpersonal communication skills, which is very important as they work with patients on a daily basis and need to properly explain multiple dental procedures. It is important that our dental hygienists remain compassionate, as they work with dental patients who may be in severe pain or may be fearful of dental procedures. Thank you, dental professionals, for all you do for the oral health of so many people.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.