In October, National Dental Hygiene Month highlights the importance of oral health and its invaluable role in overall health and wellness. Oral health begins with preventive self-care. That’s why we’ve partnered with the NH Fisher Cats for twelve years in an Oral Health Challenge, a program rewarding good oral health habits with a night at the ballpark. Any child who brushes twice and flosses once daily for seven consecutive days and completes and mails in a program form receives two tickets to one of four NH Fisher Cats games courtesy of Northeast Delta Dental. Participants are honored with a pregame, on-field parade and goody bags. This year 1,468 people enjoyed the rewards of positive oral health habits at the ballfield. It’s encouraging that so many children appreciate the importance of daily brushing and flossing and that their families support them, because research shows that the earlier children develop these habits, the greater the chance of reducing or eliminating cavities.
But oral health can’t be cultivated through self-care alone, which is why this month I am saluting dental hygienists and their invaluable contributions to our oral health. These are some of the many preventive procedures that hygienists perform in dental offices that we can’t do at home and why we need to visit them regularly:
- Scale teeth to remove plaque or tartar build-up in areas brushing can’t reach.
- Clean and polish to remove superficial stains.
- Apply fluoride treatments and sealants.
- Take and develop x-rays.
- Suggest tools and techniques for home use and demonstrate proper usage.
Dental hygienists are highly skilled professionals dedicated to the welfare of their patients. State-specific requirements vary, but all states require dental hygienists to be licensed, with a minimum education level of an associate degree. All states also require them to take continuing education courses to maintain licensure, so they remain on the cutting edge of their profession.
Like the rest of the country, there is a shortage of dental hygienists in Northern New England for a variety of reasons, and we encourage men and women to enter the profession and continue with their education by giving financial support to training programs in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
On a more personal level, let’s all thank our dental hygienists at every dental office visit for the indispensable role they play in our oral and overall health.