• June 29, 2017
  • Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

Just like we trust nutritionists and personal trainers to help us stay fit, we trust Hygienists to do the same with our mouths. I like to call Hygienists “dental fitness coaches”. They really are your personal trainers when it comes to having a healthy mouth and we are very proud to have one on our team!

What is a Hygienist?

Few people in New South Wales have had an opportunity to regularly see a Hygienist. In saying that, Hygienists have been an integral part of most private dental practices in the United States since the mid-last century.

Hygienists in Australia are required to complete a two to a three-year diploma or a degree in Oral Health. Their training includes similar subjects as dentistry but is more condensed and focuses on areas of prevention of disease and maintenance of oral health. In Australia, Dental Hygienists do not practice independently of Dentists but work together with them to ensure a holistic approach to dental care.

What do Hygienists do?

  • Hygienists assess the risk of oral disease

They examine your whole mouth both visually and by probing and charting any gum defects (recession or gum pockets). They analyse your diet and test your saliva to assess if your lifestyle and diet are putting you at risk of disease. They can also do blood pressure and diabetes screening to check whether you are at risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes, both of which are related to periodontal (gum) disease.

  • Hygienists perform most non-surgical periodontal treatments

If you are suffering from periodontal disease, you are suffering from an infectious, bacterial disease. Your gums may bleed and swell up, they may be ‘peeling away’ from your teeth and creating “pockets” in between your teeth and gums and/or you may be losing bone which is supporting your teeth.  Hygienists can devise a periodontal treatment plan which is aimed at removing plaque and bacteria from underneath your gums. This allows your gums to heal and re-attach to the roots or necks of your teeth, making it easier for you to clean and maintain your health with simple home care routines.

  • Hygienists devise preventative care plans

From their findings at the examination stage and through consultation with the Dentist, Hygienists devise a preventative care plan which aims to eliminate disease and maintain this healthy status for many years to come. As an example, a preventative care plan may include initial periodontal treatment and removal of plaque, calculus and stain, accompanied with instructions on how to brush and floss, what brushes to use, what (if any) special toothpaste and mouthwash are best for each individual patient, what foods or drinks to stay away from, whether to wear a nightguard and how often to return for reviews, continuing cleaning and examination. Depending on your level of risk, you may be recommended to return every two, three, four of six months. This continuing care regime actually does not require much of an input from the Dentist once it is established. You should only ever have to see the Dentist if there is treatment to be done or if the Hygienist notices changes in your mouth which require a more thorough examination and treatment planning.

How much does this service cost?

All dental treatment is customized to the needs of individual clients. Not all clients suffer from same severity of disease and not all clients carry the same risk of disease. It is impossible to know the exact cost of periodontal treatment before you have seen a Hygienist for an evaluation (much like it is impossible to know what restorative treatment you will need until you have seen a Dentist for an examination). At the initial appointment, a Hygienist will assess your current status and your ongoing risk and present you with a periodontal treatment plan or a continuing preventative care plan. You will be made aware of what your treatment will entail and the costs involved during this visit. Continuing preventative care with a hygienist costs no more than continuing care with the dentist. However, you now have not one, but two dental professionals and our assistants looking after you and your health. Your average appointment duration is also increased from 15 or 30 minutes to 50 or 60 minutes, which means there is more time for discussion and education.


We strongly believe that none of our clients are doomed to poor oral health. In 21st-century Australia, one of the World’s most affluent and prosperous countries, too many people are still struggling to improve their oral health. As a consequence, too many people are postponing dental visits and experiencing unacceptable levels of dental emergencies. At the same time, their overall health is being slowly undermined by chronic dental conditions. We believe that Australians can do better. We believe in empowering our clients to do better and take control of their oral health. We do this by examining not only our clients’ mouths but their lifestyle habits, their hobbies, their diet and social habits. We take a closer look at what their private lives may disclose about their oral health and vice versa. Only by knowing this can we create a meaningful plan, a “fitness regime” for one’s whole mouth! Once restored to a stable equilibrium, your mouth should only require 2 to 4 regular preventative visits per year.

The total cost of 2 preventative visits in a year at our surgery: $550.00 Keeping your teeth and staying healthy for life:  PRICELESS!

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh
About The Author

Dr. Catherine-Anne Walsh

Catherine-Anne is a New Zealand-qualified dentist. She holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from Sydney University and she has a broad range of experiences from working in both the public and private sector.


Keep me updated with news and knowledge
from The Dentist At 70 Pitt Street