Dental hygienists are specially trained in the subjects of oral care, nutrition, radiology, immunology, pharmacology, oral pathology, physiology and bacterial science. So, they can deliver preventative dental health and active treatment to fight gum disease.

A dental hygienist plays an important role in delivering appropriate support to treatment prescribed by your dentist and can also accept patients without a referral. They are trained to administer anaesthetics enabling them to offer the same painless experience a dentist can offer.

At the Ilfracombe Dental Practice, our wonderful hygienist Karen is on hand to identify weak spots in your cleaning and teach you the best and most efficient way to protect your smile. She will thoroughly clean your teeth and gums, leaving you with a fresh healthier smile and a personalised plan to care for your mouth.

One piece of advice Karen never minds sharing is: “If you brush your teeth twice a day with a top of the range electric toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes (spitting but not rinsing), you’re still only regularly cleaning sixty percent of your smile.”

Remember, ineffective or limited interdental cleaning leads to tooth decay around fillings, bridges and crown work and can lead to periodontal disease.


Dental Hygienists are specially trained in the subjects of; oral care, nutrition, prevention, radiology, immunology, pharmacology, oral pathology, physiology and bacterial science so that they can deliver preventive dental health and treat gum disease. They play an important role delivering appropriate support to treatment prescribed by your dentist and can also accept patients without a referral. They are trained to administer anaesthetics enabling them to offer the same painless treatment a dentist can offer.

Most have heard that prevention is better than cure but why? Disease is defined as a process that causes permanent loss of function to the affected tissue. In the case of gum disease, the architecture of our mouths which helps protect us from bacterial infection becomes compromised and we become more prone to further spells of disease. This is also the case in dental decay and both can lead to severe pain, infection and eventual tooth loss.

Preventive care identifies and assesses possible risk factors that increase the likeliness of a person’s susceptibility to dental disease and provides a plan to prevent or minimize the impact of these factors. These factors fall under general and local categories. Examples of general factors that influence oral disease include; the overall health of you as a patient, medication side effects, smoking and nutrition.

Examples of local factors are; tooth position, presence of tartar and complex restorations such as crowns, bridges, large fillings, dentures and implants.

Everyone at some time in their lives will suffer to some degree from gum disease so it is important that everyone should know how to prevent it. Knowing the limitations of your own mouth and how well you clean it is a great start. Almost half the population in the UK suffer from dental decay. The risk from decay can be halved if you use a suitable fluoride toothpaste regularly and in the right way.

There is only one primary cause of dental decay and gum disease (periodontitis) and that is dental plaque. Plaque is a complex biofilm that builds up on your teeth, gums and soft tissues of the mouth. It changes with time it is left on these tissues and becomes more harmful to the mouth, so time is of the essence. Everyone has plaque but everyone’s plaque is slightly different because we eat different things, come into different environments and our bodies react to different bacteria in different ways. There is currently research into vaccines to combat against certain identifiable harmful bacteria in plaque but until these have been properly developed, treatment centres around removing plaque as much as possible at regular intervals that allows the body to cope and repair.

The hygienist’s main work includes professionally cleaning your teeth by removing plaque and tartar from your teeth and gums. The most important role is showing you the best way to keep your mouth free of plaque. They often use hand scalers and water driven scalers called cavitrons. These instruments are not harmful to your teeth and gums and are the best way of removing that damaging plaque. They will also give advice about diet and appropriate dental products to use.

The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. The symptoms are swollen, red gums that bleed easily when you brush and eat hard foods. You and others may notice a bad odour from your mouth and you may have a feeling that your gums feel hot and achy. With good oral care, this can be stopped. The later stage of gum disease is called periodontitis. Symptoms will include pus from the gums, tooth tenderness, mobility and spontaneous tooth loss. This stage can not be reversed but slowed, alleviating the symptoms. Hygienists will monitor plaque levels, bleeding levels and measure how much supporting bone is lost. Comparing readings over visits gives them a good idea of the progression and site of the disease. This is vital in identifying and need for future treatment and where in the mouth.

Children can have their teeth polished and given instruction on how to properly brush their teeth so they develop a good routine. Some children identified as having higher than normal risk of decay can be given fluoride gels and fissure sealants. Sealants can only be placed on healthy teeth as they are a preventive measure unfortunately once there is a hole, it is too late and they will need a filling. Children with fixed braces will definitely require additional attention as food debris will regularly lodge in their braces.

Be honest with her about your daily hygiene regime, medical history, diet and smoking habits. She is trained to spot problems with routines and techniques and will provide non-judgemental advice. Bring in the products you use, especially your tooth brush. She will be able to assess the suitability to your mouth. Brush your teeth before you come. It is the best way to assess your brushing technique after you have just brushed, not after a day’s food debris
and she can then show if and where you are going wrong. Even the smallest correction can save a tooth!

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    • Ilfracombe Patient
      “I'm always made to feel welcome and at ease. The dentists are friendly, with a good chair-side manner - an excellent experience all round.”
      Ilfracombe Patient