What to Expect From Your Dental Hygienist

dental hygienist

Visiting a dental hygienist for the first time can sometimes create uncertainty in the minds of patients. The good news is, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Dental hygienists are dental professionals that help patients maintain good dental health and wellness. Hygienists generally focus on preventive oral health services, such as teeth cleanings, dental X-rays, oral exams, fluoride treatments, and sealants.

In the month of April, National Dental Hygienist Week is a time to celebrate hygienists and the amazing job that they do. Learn more about dental hygienists and what you can expect during your visit.

Before Your Appointment

Before you arrive at your appointment or during your first visit, you may be asked to complete a new patient packet. These generally include a dental history, medical history, financial agreement, and informed consent.

When scheduling an appointment to see a dental hygienist, you’ll want to choose a day you won’t be rushed. Also, consider what time of day you are likely to be more relaxed as this can make the appointment go much smoother. Make sure to arrive at your appointment with everything you need, including your driver’s license and insurance card.

During Your Appointment

One of the first things that a dental hygienist will do when you arrive for your appointment is to ask about any changes to your dental or medical history. These changes will then be added to your records. If you have any concerns or questions about your dental health at this time, you can ask your hygienist for clarification.

You’ll be seated in a comfortable treatment chair and your chest will be covered with a paper or plastic cloth. Nearby, you may see a tray containing ultrasonic tools that the hygienist uses to examine and clean your teeth. Above you, you’ll likely see a light that allows the hygienist to easily see into your mouth.


The hygienist will use a variety of hand tools to gently scrape off the buildup of plaque and tartar from your teeth and along the gumline. Your teeth will then be polished using a tool containing a spinning head. This helps smooth the teeth and remove stains. The dental cleaning ends with a thorough flossing and the use of a fluoride mouthwash or water rinse.


Your dental hygienist may recommend dental X-rays to check for signs of tooth decay or other oral health problems. While getting an X-ray, you’ll receive a lead vest to wear across your chest and lap for safety. The X-ray machine will then be positioned alongside your head. Additionally, you may be asked to bite-down on a cardboard-like tab. This process does not require any special preparation and takes just a few minutes to complete.


During your appointment, the dental hygienist will conduct a thorough exam of your mouth and look at each individual tooth. The hygienist will also examine your gums and check for possible gaps or pockets between the gums and teeth. These can indicate the development of gum disease or an infection.

After Your Appointment

If you have never had a dental cleaning before or it has been many years since your last cleaning, you may experience some minor discomfort. Over-the-counter pain relievers are usually sufficient for diminishing any pain caused by a detailed teeth cleaning. You’ll also want to follow any instructions given by your dental hygienist, including oral health routine changes or dietary suggestions.

If any problems are found during your oral exam, your dental hygienist may schedule you for another visit to complete your treatment plan. If no problems are discovered, your next routine exam and cleaning will be scheduled.

Contact your dental office if your teeth continue to hurt, if your jaw swells, or if you have any questions about your treatment or aftercare. Let your dentist know right away if you experience any dental emergencies, such as broken teeth.

Schedule An Appointment At Bonham Dental Arts

Dental hygienists work with patients of all ages to provide oral health education and preventive services. To learn more about what you can expect during your visit to see a dental hygienist or to schedule an appointment, contact the dental team at Bonham Dental Arts today.