Dentist Vs Dental Hygienist
Updated: Feb 11
Choosing between a trip to the dental hygienist and the dentist shouldn’t be an either/or situation. There are some things that only a dentist can do, and there are some things that only a hygienist will handle. The key is to find the right balance to help keep your dental health on-track year-round.
Dentists and dental hygienists play very different roles in the dental practice, but they complement one another perfectly. By understanding the difference in the roles, you can make the most of their expertise and services.
The difference between a dentist and a dental hygienist
Dentists and dental hygienists take on very different roles in a dental practice. A hygienist is best known for their deep teeth cleaning services, but they also provide preventative care for patients. If you have questions about caring for your teeth at home, the hygienist is the best person to ask.
A dentist performs dental examinations and carries out procedures. Dentists might specialise in one area such as orthodontics (braces) or endodontics (root canal treatment). This is not to say that a general dentist cannot perform these treatments, just that specialists are available. For cosmetic dentistry, many patients will choose to seek out a specialist.
Choosing the right appointment for your needs can help to save you time and money. Just as you wouldn’t hire an architect to build your IKEA furniture, you shouldn’t visit the hygienist when you need a dentist.
What can a dentist do?
Perform dental exams
Identify and treat tooth decay with fillings
Oral cancer screening
Cosmetic dentistry (teeth whitening, veneers, composite bonding, etc)
Orthodontics, such as Invisalign or traditional fixed braces
Root canal treatments
Extractions, including wisdom teeth extractions
Restore teeth with bridges, crowns, onlays, inlays and veneers
Place dental implants
What can a dental hygienist do?
Deep cleaning to keep teeth and gums healthy
Simple treatments like fillings
Fitting sports and night mouth guards
Provide advice on brushing and flossing
Offer guidance on dental treatments
Oral cancer screening
Liaise with the dentist on treatment plans
When should I visit a dentist?
If you’re in pain, you should always book an appointment with a dentist. Outside of emergencies, you should aim to visit your dentist every 6 months if possible. If you have good oral hygiene and rarely have any issues, you might stretch your time between visits to one year.
Children should visit the dentist every 6 months because issues can escalate much more quickly for children. Children with braces might need to visit the dentist as often as every 4-8 weeks in more complex cases.
Patients with complex problems might need to visit the dentist more often than every 6 months to help keep on top of issues. If you have dental implants, dentures or severe gum disease, you may need to visit more frequently.
When should I visit a dental hygienist?
The best way to make the most of the dental hygienist is to book appointments between dental visits. Not everyone needs to visit the hygienist every 6 months, but some people require deep cleaning to help them keep on top of gum disease or to prepare for treatments like dental implants.
By spacing your hygienist visits between dentist visits, you can maximise your impact and ensure no issues are missed. Even if you don’t require a deep cleaning every 6 months, you will have the chance to ask questions about your oral health and explore potential treatments. You can also check that you are brushing and flossing correctly between visits.
Will a dentist ever do a deep cleaning?
On occasions, a dentist may address plaque and tartar removal, but they are more likely to refer you to the dental hygienist. If the scale and polish is considered clinically necessary, this treatment will be covered by the NHS treatment bands. This will cover a basic scale and polish. For more extensive deep cleaning using tools like Air Polishing, you will only pay £51.75 for a 30 minute treatment. If over the year you are spending more on routine hair or car care, it’s time to consider whether you should spend some of your money protecting your smile.
To book an appointment with our dental hygienist team, get in touch today!