Dental hygienist vs dentist – what’s the difference?

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Dentist Melbourne
Melbourne's Home of Dentistry

I’m booked in to see a dental hygienist for my next visit. I thought I was going to the dentist. What’s the difference?

If you’ve had ongoing dental care and have no pre-existing issues with your teeth, you might be booked in to see a dental hygienist for your next visit.

There are some similarities between the duties dental hygienists and dentists perform, but they should be thought of as complementary fields of work that work together closely.

At Smile Solutions we believe prevention is better than cure.

The main treatment you receive from a dental hygienist is preventative. Dental hygienists undertake oral assessment and review your dental history and overall health, in order to evaluate the condition of your gums, teeth and mouth to help prevent oral diseases.

During your visit, the dental hygienist will perform a clean, scale and polish to remove plaque, tartar and some stains from your teeth, and administer a fluoride treatment – just as a dentist would. They might also chart your teeth; take x-rays; remove sutures; or even take impressions to make mouth guards.

Most importantly, dental hygienists focus on what you’re doing at home to look after your teeth.

Instructing and educating you about how to brush and floss correctly, to help you take the best care of your teeth and gums is an important part of a Dental Hygienist’s care. This is because in-between appointments, you are in charge of your own dental care.

Dental Hygienist’s typically hold an Advanced Diploma or Bachelor of Oral Health degree, while dentists undertake significantly different training and complete a five-year degree, and often postgraduate study. This higher qualification enables dentists to perform more intricate and in-depth dental work.

This is why, when a dentist treats you, they’re not only able to assess, but diagnose and treat dental problems such as cavities and tooth fractures. They may perform fillings or extractions and can also write prescriptions for certain medications such as antibiotics, analgesics and prescription-only mouthwash.

Just as with a dental hygienist, if dentists assess that you require further, more in-depth treatment, they will refer you to a specialist practitioner.

No matter whether you see dentist or a dental hygienist at Smile Solutions, as a patient be reassured that you’re receiving a holistic approach to your dental care – with some of Melbourne’s most talented dental practitioners available in one practice.

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