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Dental Hygiene

The next time you go to your dental office for an examination and continuing care (cleaning), ask them if the person who will be performing your oral cancer screening, comprehensive exam for gum disease, cavity screening, preventive prophylaxis (cleaning), polish, fluoride treatment and oral hygiene instructions is a Registered Dental Hygienist. There is a frightening movement in this country to allow untrained, uneducated personnel to become "preceptor hygienists".  What this means is that a dentist can take anyone off the street and "train" them in the  office to perform the duties of a Registered Dental Hygienist. Why is this so frightening, you might ask?  It is disturbing especially in this day and age when researchers are continually finding more and more evidence that there is a definite connection between periodontal disease (gum disease) and heart disease, diabetes, and premature and low birth weight babies.  It is essential that patients receive early detection and treatment of gum disease to lower their risk factors for these systemic diseases.  Most dentists do not receive the extensive  training in the detection and treatment of periodontal disease, while a Registered Dental Hygienist spends most of his/her schooling studying and treating this disease. It is also scary to think that someone who will have very little knowledge of the proper position of very sharp (if you're lucky and the person knows to sharpen them) instruments will be able to put those instruments under your gums! 

Schooling to become a Registered Dental Hygienist includes classes in Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacy, Chemistry, Head and Neck Anatomy, Etiology and Histology, Nutrition, Radiology, Dental Materials, Periodontology, Oral Pathology, Psychology, Sociology, in addition to many other general education classes.  Registered Dental Hygienists also spend many hours in clinical settings under strictly supervised conditions so that they can learn how to do extensive and thorough examinations of the hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity, and learn the correct way to position and utilize sharp instruments and other cleaning devices, and to take correctly positioned x-rays. Don't allow this to happen in your state!  Make sure that every time you visit your dental hygienist that he/she is a Registered Dental Hygienist, duly licensed by the state in which he/she is practicing.