Whitening. Orthodontics. Veneers. Dental work that today many of us take for granted. 100 years ago this simply not the case; instead most people sought dental care to eliminate pain. Often times this meant extracting the tooth or teeth without anesthetic. In fact 100 years ago, over 50% of the population had lost all of their teeth. Those who could afford it got dentures; many did not.
Today only about 10% of people lose all of their teeth. While many technological advances have made this possible, one of the most important factors has been the emergence of dental hygienists. In the early 1900’s, in Bridgeport, CT, a dentist, Alfred C. Fones was an early proponent of prevention, including teeth cleaning as a way to maintain and preserve teeth. He taught his assistant and cousin, Irene Newman many of the duties commonly provided by dental hygienists today. Dr. Fones opened the first school of dental hygiene in Bridgeport, and graduated his first class, which included Ms. Newman, in 1913.
Today there are more than 150,000 dental hygienists in the US. While many people think of us as the ‘person who cleans my teeth’, we do this in context of prevention along with other therapies. In addition to a ‘cleaning’ a typical dental hygiene appointment may include duties such as performing a comprehensive clinical and periodontal assessment including screening for oral cancer, caries, and periodontal disease, placing dental sealants, applying fluoride treatments, and recommending a personal home-care regime and self-care products.
Our smile is one of the most important things we wear each day! Dental hygienists deserve a big thank you for this! Happy Anniversary!