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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Dental Hygienists Bridge the Gap Between Great Health and Dental Care

Aug 31, 2023 09:31AM ● By Jayne Levy-Ries
While many people dread the thought of going to the dentist, modern-day dentistry has come a long way. From new numbing techniques to various techniques that help patients relax, going to the dentist is no longer the bane of anyone’s existence. More importantly, the medical world finally understands that the mouth is not separate from the rest of the body—something that biological dentists have understood for decades.

Equally important is the role of dental hygienists in dental practices. Patients are often unaware of all the ways their dental hygienist monitors their health and well-being. From screening for high blood pressure to educating patients on everything from gum disease to nutrition, dental hygienists help bridge the gap between great health and great dental care.

To begin with, many dental hygienists screen for high blood pressure before certain procedures. This is an important step. If a patient is experiencing unusually high blood pressure, treatment may be postponed until their blood pressure normalizes. In some cases, patients are unaware that they have high blood pressure, so a referral to their physician may be necessary.

Along the same lines, research now shows a direct link between inflammation in the mouth and certain cardiovascular issues directly affecting heart health. Gum disease affects many adults and some children, and a dental hygienist can inform patients of their risks. Advanced gum disease creates high inflammation and poses a higher risk. It is becoming more common for dental hygienists to collaborate with cardiologists and vice versa. Studies also show that gum disease plays a role in diabetes and can increase the risk of pre-term birth. Dental hygienists are trained to treat gum disease and can teach patients techniques that can reduce inflammation in the mouth.

Since dental hygiene is a preventive practice, it may also be surprising to know that many dental hygienists are knowledgeable in nutrition. Eating a proper diet that is high in fiber and low in sugar helps to ensure better dental health as well as overall health. Patients struggling with poor eating habits can consult with their dental hygienist to improve their diet and eating habits which may also cut down on dental and medical bills.

Additionally, dental hygienists routinely screen for oral cancer and can often recognize sleep issues and disorders. Patients should not hesitate to ask their dental hygienist about these concerns.

The dental hygienist is a patient’s advocate in the dental office. They not only educate patients and explain treatment plans, but they’re also available to answer any questions that arise during a dental visit. They even offer handholding, if needed, during anxiety-provoking dental treatments.

All dental practice patients are encouraged to take advantage of what their dental hygienist has to offer.

Jayne Levy-Ries, RDH, BS, is a Registered Dental Hygienist with over 40 years of experience. She practices dental hygiene at The Center for Holistic Dentistry, office of Dr. David Lerner, DDS, located at 2649 Strang Blvd., Ste. 201, Yorktown Heights, NY. For more information, call 914.214.9678, email [email protected] or visit