“It is not unusual for me to be asked what it is I actually do as an Oral Health Therapist (OHT).
An OHT is trained in both dental therapy and dental hygiene. The therapy part of my job means I can perform basic dental procedures on children aged 18 and below, procedures such as fissure sealants and extractions.
The hygiene part of my job means I can perform scaling, polishing and root planning of teeth, a deeper form of gum cleaning, on patients of all ages.
Because I am specially trained to work with children, Dr Stephanie (the Children’s dentist at Smilefocus) and I make a perfect team. Dr Stephanie does the checkup and I clean the teeth as well as teach patients how to brush and floss their teeth correctly, and advise them on dental products.
A typical visit for a child with me would be …
Before the patient even sits in the dental chair we stand at the sink and I ‘disclose’ them.
This means I drop some vibrant pink disclosing liquid on their teeth so they can see which areas they are missing when they clean them (I don’t offer this procedure to adults, although sometimes I probably should)!
Most children need some teaching about the correct method of brushing. I remind them that they need to feel the brush tickling their gums so that they can get all of the germs.
Just like adults, children don’t like flossing. I tell them that the germs like to hide in between the teeth because they know that the toothbrush can’t get them there and that’s why we need to use floss to get them out.
Once in my chair, I count my patient’s teeth. Why do I have to count their teeth? Because I have to let the tooth fairy know how many teeth they have and if any are loose! Sometimes I ask my young patients to help me count, and I intentionally skip a number to see if they are paying attention, or ask them which number is next!
Next I polish. Using my “electric toothbrush” I first tickle their fingers with the polisher to alleviate any fear, and to get a giggle.
Not all children need a hand scaling as well, but if they do, I’ll do that after the polishing. I need to do this when the child presents with hard tar tar, or calculus, that can’t be removed with the polisher.
I will show my scaler tip to the child which I tell them is the “shower spray”. This is needed to wash the teeth clean and remove the toothpaste left behind from the polishing.
At the end of the appointment, I tell the patient that now that their teeth are clean and we need to make them strong. I tell them that we need to brush on some tooth vitamins (fluoride).
During the their time in the chair, Dr Stephanie will come in for a check up and give specific instructions if needed.
I love working with children and at the same time giving my support to the paediatric team. Children are fun, and it is very rewarding to treat them”!