Published On: Mon, Feb 22nd, 2021

Introducing St. Maarten’s new dental hygienist: Esmee Bakker

By Terrance Rey

Esmee Bakker is an oral hygienist or what is known as a dental hygienist. She is 41 years of age, married and has two sons, 6 and 9 years old. Esmee is a new dental hygienist on the island of St. Maarten. She completed her studies at the Academic Center for Dentistry in Amsterdam in The Netherlands. She worked in Curacao for 4 years after graduating in 2001, that’s where the love for the Caribbean started. In December 2020, she moved with her family to St. Maarten.

“We have been received so friendly on the island by the sweet people here,” Esmee says. “We really feel welcome and are loving to be out and about on the island in a responsible way.”

When you meet Esmee Bakker, you will immediately see that this petite and energetic looking lady is personable, friendly and approachable. Qualities someone in her profession definitely needs to have.

What does a dental hygienist do?

Naturally, we wanted to know what precisely a ‘dental hygienist’ does. Esmee explained that a dental or oral hygienist (‘mondhygienist‘) is a specialist in gum- and bone- infections, like swollen and/or bleeding gums, loose teeth and bad breath. Dental hygienists scale and polish teeth; provide deep cleaning, prevention of caries and bleaching of teeth; give advice and directions on how to do self-care at home; and much more.

Esmee says: “About 80% of the people have gum disease without them knowing it because usually there is no pain. In the beginning, one can have some bleeding of the gum or some retraction of it but nothing serious. The infection goes unnoticed and when they come to me, I diagnose gingivitis (inflammation of the gum) or periodontitis (inflammation of the gum and the bone). Worst case is patients losing their teeth because most of the bone is gone. It’s been destroyed by bacteria.”

“I have a lot of experience in treating patients with gum diseases (periodontology), which is my specialty.” Esmee explains. “I also have a lot of experience working with children at the orthodontist clinic and with patients after dental surgery for such as implants or bone- and gum reconstruction.”

During the interview, it became clear that Esmee considers prevention as a vital part of her work as a dental hygienist. Esmee advises patients to brush their teeth with toothpaste containing fluoride, use dental toothpicks or interdental brushes, to floss correctly, and avoid mouthwash containing too much alcohol.

Esmee: “My job is to inform patients about the situation, instruct them on how to continue cleaning their teeth at home, food advice and, of course, clean it thoroughly (under the gum). I help them to maintain treatment and stop infection from going on further. This means that patients can keep their own teeth longer, hopefully forever.”

Esmee recommends that anyone experiencing bleeding gums while brushing or flossing pay a visit to her at Brilliant Dental Care at Cay Hill. Bleeding gums are a clear indication of infection in and around the gums and teeth.

“On St. Maarten gum disease treatments are not as common. There are a lot of people with problems. So we would like everyone to know that I am here to help them.” Esmee explains.


Children have a special place in Esmee’s dental practice as they are the most vulnerable age group when it comes to the lack of proper dental care and prevention. Esmee often sees children with terrible teeth caused by overeating sweets, consuming too many sugary products, sodas and juices. “Parents often think juices are healthy and therefore can’t be bad for their children.” Esmee explains. But in her short time here in St. Maarten, she has seen some very problematic cases. “It is terrible to see children go through so much pain at such a young age. We hope to get young children to go to the dentist while there are no problems yet, when they come in with pain then they’ll most likely have to undergo a treatment right away. If you can teach children that going to the dentist is a normal thing then they are at ease with us and will never develop any anxiety.

Diet and eating habits are also essential factors in having good dental hygiene. “If my child says something is delicious, then I definitely check what it is drinking because it means it probably has too much sugar in it.” Esmee jokingly explains.

Esmee even cautioned that children with braces also need to visit a dental hygienist to ensure the braces and teeth are cleaned and well maintained. Esmee recalls her own experience of seeing children who removed the teeth braces and were found to have cavities behind the braces. “All because these were not properly cleaned and instructed.” Esmee said.

“At our practice we are also setting up a project to go and visit schools to teach children from a young age to take good care of their teeth to prevent problems when they grow up. Hopefully I can make a little bit of a difference for all the people on this beautiful Island.” Esmee explains.

Esmee: “Besides gum diseases, I advise about food, fluoride-applications for stronger teeth and about habits one might have, such as thumb-sucking, grinding your teeth, etc.. I also provide bleaching-treatments for adults who want a healthy and shining smile.”

Finally, Esmee explained that the coronavirus has not had much of an impact on how she, as an oral hygienist, works. In general, as health care providers, dental staff work in a very safe, clean, sterile, and hygienic environment where everything in the clinic, including the dentist chairs, is sanitized and disinfected.