81 www. ChsDent i s t s . com | www.MountPl easantPhys i c i ans . com | www.MountPl easantMagaz i ne. com smiling faces Behind every great dentist there is a man or a woman who cares deeply for patients, who calms a crying child, who spots an early sign of oral cancer or who saves a tooth in danger of extraction. This person is an important cog in the machine that is a successful dental practice, always holding moving parts together and often performing many tasks at once. These employees have serious responsibilities concerning patient health, but must also be personable, organized and detail-oriented. Too often, it is only the doctor that gets the glory — and the doctor deserves the praise for all they do as leaders and practitioners in their fields. However, the face behind the other mask should not go unnoticed. It is the face of a person who could save a tooth or, in some cases, a life. Dental hygienists are known for cheerfully greeting patients, then whisking them away to the chair where they’ll be given a choice between mint or bubblegum for the cleaning. They use the shiny hooked tools to get the most stubborn plaque—the kind that ruthlessly defeats drugstore dental floss time and time again— away from the gumline and make smiles bright. However, that isn’t all they do. They aren’t simply toothbrushes on steroids. These professionals, who complete 18 months of clinicals after two years of pre-requisites, are battling on the frontlines of oral health. They are often the first people to notice dangers to health indicated in the mouth. Dental hygienists are trained to spot smaller problems like decay, weaknesses in the teeth, cracks in the teeth or young cavities. But they are also educated on spotting the first signs of oral cancer and gum disease, both of which can be deadly if not treated. Dental issues are also associated with many serious, underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Simply scheduling a cleaning could make the difference in a patient’s medical future, thanks in large part to their hygienist. Dental Hygienists The Unsung Heroes in Health Care BY LORNA HOL L I F I ELD ( Le f t to R i ght ) K r i s t i na Hubbard, E l l e Todd. Both are wi th Wando Fami l y Dent i s t r y. Photo prov i ded.