Registered Dental Hygienist Jackie Pagano of Rye Family Dentistry Talks About Tar, Tartar, Bacteria, Bad Breath, and Working in the Dental Field

T ell us about your professional background.
I received an Associate’s Degree in Applied Sciences from Hostos Community College in the Bronx, after completing its accredited three-year dental hygiene program. Once I passed written and clinical exams, I became licensed in New York State. Then I joined Rye Family Dentistry, where I’ve been for eleven and a half years.

What equipment do you need for your work?
Good old hand-scalers and the Cavitron, an ultrasonic scaler that uses cold water, are still the best tools to remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria.

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Why didn’t you become a dentist?
Nothing attracted me to doing fillings.

Isn’t your job kind of gross sometimes?
I really don’t experience it that way. When I see blood or notice bad breath, I look at them as signs of disease.

What about patients with bad breath?
I really can’t smell it much in the office because I have a mask on. At a party, it’s a little different—it’s hard to talk to someone when they have bad breath. 

What’s the longest time someone has gone without a cleaning among the patients you’ve seen?
You mean what they tell me or the real amount of time? I’ve had patients who haven’t had their teeth cleaned in twenty years.

What kind of toothbrush do you recommend?
Anything soft, always—using medium or hard brushes and brushing two to three times a day will wear the enamel off your teeth. Personally, I like Gum Butler—it feels very soft.

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Are you insulted when someone tunes you out with an iPod?
Actually, I wish more patients would bring them, because it’s really the sound of the cleaning that most bothers people, rather than the sensation.

How are dental hygienists compensated?
In this area, dental hygienists typically make forty to fifty dollars per hour. Plus, at this practice, we get free dental care for ourselves and our immediate families.

How many fillings have you had?
I have four fillings. Aside from one root canal that I had in hygiene school, I haven’t had any cavities since I was twelve or thirteen.

How strict are you with your son’s oral hygiene?
He’s two. I do get a brush in twice a day.

Is there such a thing as having teeth that are too white?
Bleaching can only get the teeth so white. The too-white shade is from veneers, when the patient has chosen them to be that shade. Most dentists would recommend a more natural shade of white—you don’t want your teeth to be the color of a lab coat.

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What celebrities do you think have particularly great-looking teeth?
All of them—most of them have done bleaching or veneers, so they look perfect. 


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