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Why Does My Dental Hygienist Clean My Teeth?

You may have wondered something many others have over the years: “Why doesn’t my dentist clean my teeth? Why does a different person (a dental hygienist) have to instead?” In this article you’ll learn about the different specialties involved in patient care at the Affiliated Dentists Madison offices.

Various staff roles at your Madison Dentists office

What Does the Dentist Do?

Many years ago, dentists actually did clean every patient’s teeth. Now a teeth cleaning is performed by a trained dental hygienist, while dentists and their assistants perform a wide variety of procedures on each patient in their chair, from fillings and crowns to dental implants and extractions.

Dentists go through dental school to be able to complete these procedures with the utmost care using the most innovative and progressive techniques available. They also might take additional courses and stay in school even longer to perfect a specialty such as periodontics or oral surgery.

Here are the dentists that work at Affiliated Dentists Madison.

What Does the Dental Assistant Do?

When you go to your healthcare provider for any reason, you are often greeted by your doctor’s nurse. However, once they have taken your vitals and recorded necessary information, they leave the room and let the doctor take over.

Dental assistants – not to be confused with nurses! – are similar, but they have much more involvement with each patient.

Your dental assistant will take you to the operatory and make sure your records are up to date. If you need a procedure done, they often place a numbing gel at the site of your upcoming injection. They also take any x-rays that may be needed prior to any work that needs to be done. Once you are settled, they retrieve the dentist, but do not leave. Instead, they stay in the room, at your side, the entire visit. They will assist the doctor during your procedure, and make sure you have all important home after-care instructions before they escort you to the front desk.

Dental assistants are very crucial to the dental office and to patient care.close up of woman getting a cleaning from a dental hygienist

So What Does the Dental Hygienist Do?

A dental hygienist is actually who you see most often. Patients see a dentist when there is an issue or emergency. If you are not in need of dental work, you will be seeing your dental hygienist for routine teeth cleanings and preventative care.

Dental hygienists complete schooling to not only be able to perform dental cleanings, but to also spot issues in a patient’s mouth. Hygienists alert the dentist to potential problems that could lead to restoration work down the road. They are also the ones that teach your at-home care, and help you with problem areas that need improving like flossing, how to brush and sharing information about the right products to be using.

During a dental cleaning, your dental hygienist uses special instruments to remove buildup and plaque from your teeth and underneath your gums. They also take x-rays of any areas that may look suspicious. Once the cleaning is done, they polish your teeth and may give you a fluoride rinse, and can even apply sealants.

Dentists Used to Do Everything

What you see described above used to be done by dentists. From dental procedures such as crowns, fillings, and extractions, to cleanings that a dental hygienist now performs. They didn’t even have dental assistants!

Over time, more and more people decided to get their dental issues fixed instead of just letting them go, a wise move to ensure good overall health. However, with more patients comes more work. Dentists needed help. A dentist can clean your teeth if the office is in a pinch, but it is much preferred to let a fully certified dental hygienist to do what they’re trained to do.

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