Monday, November 5, 2007

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

Dental hygienists are registered and certified health professionals who specialize in preventing oral health problems and diseases. They work with individual clients or communities to prevent tooth, gum and mouth diseases and injuries that can affect overall health.

Dental hygiene services are provided to individuals across the age spectrum. Dental hygienists work with patients ranging from parents in pre-natal classes to the elderly in long-term care centres. A work day could involve assessment, planning, implementing and evaluating oral health data and include:
teaching an elementary class about oral health care
counseling a family about oral health
providing fluoride treatments to patients during a dental visit
administering local anaesthetic for dental hygiene or dental treatment
teaching long-term care staff about mouthcare for their clients
working with nurses to prevent sports and playground injuries
screening seniors for signs of oral cancer
performing head, neck and oral examinations
applying pit and fissure sealants to teeth
reviewing literature and conducting research
scaling and rootplaning, and so on

The dental hygiene profession focuses on preventive health care. As a result, many dental hygienists deliver health promotion programs in their community to parent and special needs groups, schools, day cares and long-term seniors' care facilities. Among the programs provided are:
Tobacco Cessation
Sports/Mouthguard Clinics
Well Baby Seminars

Oral Care for People With Developmental Disabilities

Developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and mental retardation are present during childhood or adolescence and last a lifetime. They affect the mind, the body, and the skills people use in everyday life: thinking, talking, and self-care. People with disabilities often need extra help to achieve and maintain good health. Oral health is no exception.

Over the past three decades, a trend toward deinstitutionalization has brought people of all ages and levels of disability into the fabric of our communities. Today, approximately 80 percent of those with developmental disabilities are living in community-based group residences or at home with their families. People with disabilities and their caregivers now look to providers in the community for dental services.

Providing oral care to patients with developmental disabilities requires adaptation of the skills you use every day. In fact, most people with mild or moderate developmental disabilities can be treated successfully in the general practice setting. This booklet presents an overview of physical, mental, and behavioral challenges common in these patients and offers strategies for providing oral care.

What Are Crowns and Bridges?

A crown is used to entirely cover or "cap" a damaged tooth. Besides strengthening a damaged tooth, a crown can be used to improve its appearance, shape or alignment. A crown can also be placed on top of an implant to provide a tooth-like shape and structure for function. Porcelain or ceramic crowns can be matched to the color of your natural teeth. Other materials include gold and metal alloys, acrylic and ceramic. These alloys are generally stronger than porcelain and may be recommended for back teeth. Porcelain bonded to a metal shell is often used because it is both strong and attractive.

What Is Good Oral Hygiene?

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
Bad breath is not a constant problem

If your gums do hurt or bleed while brushing or flossing, or you are experiencing persistent bad breath, see your dentist. Any of these conditions may indicate a problem.

Your dentist or hygienist can help you learn good oral hygiene techniques and can help point out areas of your mouth that may require extra attention during brushing and flossing.

How Is Good Oral Hygiene Practiced?
Maintaining good oral hygiene is one of the most important things you can do for your teeth and gums. Healthy teeth not only enable you to look and feel good, they make it possible to eat and speak properly. Good oral health is important to your overall well-being.

Daily preventive care, including proper brushing and flossing, will help stop problems before they develop and is much less painful, expensive, and worrisome than treating conditions that have been allowed to progress.

In between regular visits to the dentist, 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 include:
Brushing thoroughly twice a day and flossing daily
Eating a balanced diet and limiting snacks between meals
Using dental products that contain fluoride, including toothpaste
Rinsing with a fluoride mouthrinse if your dentist tells you to
Making sure that your children under 12 drink fluoridated water or take a fluoride supplement if they live in a non-fluoridated area.

An end to dental drilling?

The phrase "no pain, no gain" may someday not apply to the dentist's office, according to a team developing a drill-free cavity treatment.

The technique may be available to dentists and their relieved patients in the future, say University of Missouri-Columbia inventors.
They're working on a non-thermal plasma brush that uses a low-temperature chemical reaction to disinfect and prepare cavities for filling.

In typical (and often painful) cavity repair, the dentist drills away the affected area and then makes a filling to restore the tooth's shape. The vibration and noise can be very uncomfortable for many patients.
May replace drilling
"Successful development of the plasma brush could replace the painful and destructive drilling currently practiced in dentistry," Hao Li, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at University of Missouri-Columbia, said in a prepared statement.

The brush will operate without the heat and vibrations that cause the pain and discomfort associated with the current procedure. The researchers say it will also be silent.

"Plasma treatment would be a painless, nondestructive and tissue-saving way to care for and treat cavities because it relies on chemical reactions instead of heat or mechanical interactions," Qingsong Yu, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said in a prepared statement. "The chemical bonding between teeth and fillings that the plasma treatment would create would be much stronger than dentists currently get with drills or laser techniques," Yu added.

Yu and Yixiang Duan, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, have filed two US patent applications for the brush.

The researchers also promise that the brush will alter the tooth's surface, creating a stronger bond with the filling.

dental care

Falling numbers of state dentists in England has led to some people taking extreme measures, including extracting their own teeth, according to a new study released Monday.

Others have used superglue to stick crowns back on, rather than stumping up for private treatment, said the study. One person spoke of carrying out 14 separate extractions on himself with pliers.
More typically, a lack of publicly-funded dentists means that growing numbers go private: 78 percent of private patients said they were there because they could not find a National Health Service (NHS) dentist, and only 15 percent because of better treatment.

"This is an uncomfortable read for all of us, and poses serious questions to politicians from patients," said Sharon Grant of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health.

Overall, six percent of patients had resorted to self-treatment, according to the survey of 5 000 patients in England, which found that one in five had decided against dental work because of the cost.

One researcher involved in compiling the study -- carried out by members of England's Patient and Public Involvement Forums – came across three people in one morning who had pulled out teeth themselves.