• Angela Murphy, RDH

Especially Now, Dental Hygiene Visits Are Essential

Updated: May 28

It's safe to go for check-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic — and a visit to your dental hygienist could be life-saving.

A fear of going for a dental appointment had kept Bill away for years. When his wife suggested he see her new dental hygienist, Bill decided to make an appointment. He would have the dental hygienist take a look at the canker sore that had been bothering him for a few weeks.

But as soon as the dental hygienist looked in Bill’s mouth, she knew he had something much more serious than a canker sore. She immediately called an oral surgeon and asked for Bill to be seen that day. “I found out later the wait for an appointment was supposed to be four weeks. But the dental hygienist knew that because I was so nervous, if I had to wait, I probably wouldn’t have gone. And because she knew what she had seen, she told the receptionist it had to be that day,” says Bill.

The surgeon performed a biopsy and three weeks later, Bill was diagnosed with oral cancer. A few weeks after he had a 12-hour surgery to remove the cancer and repair his tongue. The surgeon also removed 78 lymph nodes from his neck and shoulders. Fortunately, the cancer had not spread further and was only detected in one node. “Everything happened very quickly,” says Bill. “And that, in my opinion, is all thanks to the dental hygienist reacting so quickly and getting tough for me. She is a very special person.”

Your mouth offers clues to your overall health

Dental hygienists wants people to know how important it is to care for their oral health. Many believe that what happens in the mouth stays in the mouth, but this is simply not the case. Your oral health offers clues about your overall health, and problems found in your mouth can affect the rest of your body— and your dental hygienist can find these clues. For example, bacteria that build up on teeth make gums prone to inflammation and infection. If left untreated, this can lead to gum disease, bone loss, and even tooth loss. In addition, it can cause problems in the rest of your body. Poor oral health has been connected to diabetes and heart disease, among other health conditions.