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5 Non-Traditional Career Opportunities for Dental Hygienists

 

As dental hygienists, we love what we do! But scaling teeth day in and day out can be tiring to some. Thankfully, our industry has reached a pivotal moment where there are now countless non-traditional career opportunities both in and out of the clinical setting. Dental hygienists are finding themselves leading initiatives, managing teams, advising policy and bridging the medical-dental divide.  

 

If you're looking for a break from your daily routine, consider expanding your knowledge base and transitioning to one of these non-traditional roles.  

 

Myofunctional Therapist  

Dealing with disorders of the muscles, Myofunctional Therapists deal with disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. It's a program of specific exercises that strengthen the tongue in order to target the facial muscles used to chew and swallow. Myofunctional therapy includes exercises meant to improve the strength of the muscles within the oropharynx, working to reinforce the proper position of the tongue within the mouth. 

 

Sleep specialists use this therapy to improve breathing problems during sleep, especially in children. Moreover, it is used by dentists and orthodontists concerned about the movement of teeth that occurs when the tongue pushes against teeth.

  

Myofunctional therapists are typically licensed dental hygienists or speech-language pathologists and integrated into various clinical care settings. Because there is no governing board overseeing the industry, myofunctional therapists do not necessarily have to be certified, but there are two well-known organizations that do provide certification courses: 

  1. Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (AOMT) 
  2. International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM) 

Oral Health Practitioner  

Many dental hygienists are passionate about educating others on the importance of oral health. These days, there are many creative ways to bridge the medical-dental divide. Oral health practitioners in various medical settings are vital to the future of our healthcare in Canada. From providing oral health education to nurses to providing preventative and therapeutic treatment, the opportunities in this field are endless.  

 

Brand Ambassador  

Brand ambassadors typically work as independent contractors and usually receive commission based on direct sales. These brand ambassadors tend to use social media to promote their selected brands. If you're interested in sales and promoting dental brands, this career choice could be for you.   

 

Independent Consultant  

Looking to transition to the world of independent coaching or consulting? This path can really take you wherever you want to go!  

Whether it be working one-on-one with a client, focusing on health coaching, motivational or professional career coaching, or perhaps you'd like to take the team approach. This would allow you to work with other health professionals in developing in-house programming to improve patient experience, increase patient revenue and even work to improve customer retention.  

 

Own or Manage a Dental Program 

Depending on where you live, dental hygienists may even be able to own or manage mobile dental programs in non-traditional practice settings. This could include schools, universities, workplaces, hospitals, or even private homes. Do the research: In Ontario, travelling dental hygienists are becoming more and more commonplace.  

 

Author 

Have you worked in the industry for some time? Do you enjoy writing? If you're looking for a change of pace, try submitting a few pieces to a dentistry journal or magazine. Of course, you can widen your horizons so you're not limiting yourself to just dental publications. Other avenues include blogs, local newspapers, and journals geared towards healthcare and medical professionals.  

 

New Chapter 

Remember, you're not limited to your clinical role. If you're looking for a change, why not use your dental hygiene experience to explore a more non-traditional opportunity and enjoy your new chapter! 

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Introducing a Tooth Whitening Program to Your Practice

 

Tooth whitening is big business. Generating over $1 billion in sales every year, professional whitening stands out as the most frequently-requested dental procedure. It’s also major source of revenue for dental practices across North America. 

 

Together, a dentist and their hygiene team can create comprehensive whitening programs that integrate whitening into a long-term oral care plan. That way, whitening can serve to facilitate financial gain to hygiene and other ancillary offerings. 

 

In a recent piece for Hygiene Town, Mary Jane Livingston and Jennifer Vasquez provide insight into the process of creating a professional whitening program at your practice. Here’s what to keep in mind in offering tooth whitening to your patients. 

 

Professional Whitening 101: How the Tooth Whitening Process Works 

There are several reasons why teeth lose their natural whiteness: diet, genes and oral hygiene all play a part. 

 

Darkening can occur both in the tooth’s outer enamel layer and the secondary layer of dentin. Tooth enamel, made of phosphate and hydroxyapatite, can develop surface stains that attach to the biofilm. These so-called extrinsic stains typically stem from the patient’s diet and habits – frequent smokers and red wine drinkers are likely to have enamel stains. 

 

Stains within the dentin, known as intrinsic stains, can result from medications, fluoride exposure, genetic conditions or systemic conditions. It is more difficult to remove stains from dentin than enamel. 

 

Professional whitening gels use hydrogen peroxide (or a compound containing H2O2) to break the bonds of light-absorbing colour molecules on the teeth. These molecules, called chromophores, contribute to the darkened or stained appearance of teeth. Once the peroxide breaks the molecular ‘glue’ that holds the chromophores together, the teeth look whiter and brighter than before. 

 

Tooth whitening is not a one-time solution – the procedure has a cumulative effect of breaking down stains over time. Additionally, since the average person’s teeth become two to three shades darker every ten years, requiring multiple whitening treatments to maintain the results. 

 

Still, the popularity of professional tooth whitening (not to mention sales of whitening strips, tooth whitening strips and other home treatments) speaks for itself. Many patients are more than willing to invest the time and money necessary to improve the appearance of their smile. Dental practitioners can benefit by investing in a tooth whitening program. 

 

Introducing a Whitening Program to Your Dental Practice 

The benefits of a teeth whitening program go beyond offering your patients brighter smiles. 

 

Tooth whitening brings an emotional component to your dental care. It gives people a greater sense of confidence and satisfaction, which in turn boosts their motivation to maintain better oral health overall. A whitening program increases the likelihood of patients returning for hygiene appointments and other treatments. 

 

Consider the following in determining the best teeth whitening system for your patients. 

 

1.      Contact time. Modern whitening systems use a heat-activated mouthpiece to decrease treatment time, which reduces the risk of the bleaching agent causing sensitive teeth. Shorter contact time also means shorter appointments and increased efficiency. 

2.      Concentration. Higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide (24 to 38%) produce more dramatic results, but also the risk of sensitivity. More concentrated whitening products may not be suitable for all patients. 

3.      Hydrogen peroxide versus carbamide peroxide. Carbamide peroxide provides a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide and increases contact time, which can increase the risk of tooth and gum line sensitivity. A more concentrated formula with shorter contact time may be preferable for patients who require a shorter contact time. 

4.      Open versus closed environments. Closed-system environments (such as bleaching trays and whitening mouthpieces) result in superior whitening results by keeping the active ingredients in the whitening compound concentrated. 

5.      pH level. Consider the patient’s enamel health and sensitivity when choosing a whitening gel. When mouth pH drops below 5.7, enamel demineralization can occur. 

 

Thinking of introducing a whitening program to your practice? Get the right start with industry-leading instruments. Browse our catalog of dental handpieces, supplies and other dental tools. 

 

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7 Truths About Hygiene School to Remember When It’s Getting the Best of You

 

Late-night study sessions. Lifelong friends. Stress, tears, and anxiety. And, above all, the satisfaction of pouring it all into a hard-earned degree in dental hygiene.

 

When Kara Vavrosky looks back on her time in hygiene school, those are a few of the things that come to mind.

 

Most dental hygienists would concur. Dental hygiene school is a rewarding experience, of course – but at times, it’s also a gruelling one.

 

From the writings of hygienists who’ve been there, here are seven truths about hygiene school to reflect on when you’re feeling the pressure.

 

1. It Pays to Be Organized

By now, you’ve learned that dental hygiene school isn’t like other post-secondary programs. The coursework is dense, the deadlines come fast, and the practical fieldwork leaves no room to play catch-up.

Put simply, procrastination isn’t an option.

 

Kara Varovsky, who wrote about her experience in Today’s RDH, admits she spent more time in her first week at hygiene school staring at the books and assignments than sitting down doing them. To keep up, she had to make a concentrated effort to begin tracking and prioritizing homework and exams.

 

Keeping to-do lists and assignment sheets might just feel like more work at first, but it can save a lot of time and stress in the long run.

 

“If you’re having a really tough time, take it one day at a time until you can handle taking it week by week,” Kara suggests. “Ask yourself, “What do I have to get done by tomorrow?” It makes everything feel achievable when you break it down and don’t look too far ahead.”

 

2. Some Stress is Normal

Few registered dental hygienists would deny there were times that hygiene school pushed their limits, especially in the first year.

 

It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed in the beginning. But as the weeks and months pass and you gradually find your footing, hygiene school will become far more manageable.

 

Kimberly Rorstrom-Wittig, a hygienist in Prince George, British Columbia, encourages dental hygiene students to keep looking forward. “Keep focused on your goal and remember that you are all reaching for the same endpoint, to become a dental hygienist.”

 

However, it’s important not to ignore the toll stress can take on your mind and body. As Jason Skazyk, an RDH in Winnipeg, writes: “One of the things that I encourage each student to do is to look after your physical, mental, and spiritual self. Dental hygiene can be a demanding career physically, and if we do not look after our bodies, all that scaling can begin to take a toll.”

 

3. Mentors Make Life Easier

Whether it’s a classmate, an upper-level student, an instructor or a graduate, all hygiene students can benefit from the support and advice of a trusted mentor.

 

Don’t hesitate to ask your colleagues for tips and advice. Even students in the same year as you may have hints and strategies you hadn’t considered.

 

Heather Britton, who practices in Carleton Place, Ontario, urges hygiene students to look for mentorship opportunities everywhere – even those outside the hygiene profession.

 

“The dentist can offer you knowledge on procedures that the books can only describe, by showing you the stages of restorations, prosthetics, and extractions,” she writes. “The dental assistant(s) offer a wealth of information on radiographic techniques to open that tough contact, ordering procedures, and lab techniques, to mention a few. The receptionist can also aid in telephone etiquette, computer booking, and filing systems.”

 

4. Trust Your Instructors

Why do we have to fill out pages of classifications and descriptions for every patient in the clinic?

 

Why so many competencies, rules and requirements?

 

Why won’t my instructor just give me a straight answer?

 

If you’ve spent a few weeks in hygiene school, you’ve probably asked a few these questions yourself.

 

At times, hygiene school can feel overly strict, repetitive, or just plain confusing. Frustrating as it may be, it’s all designed to prepare you for practice. Your instructors aren’t just there to teach you practical know-how, but to impart professionalism and critical thinking skills. All three are essential to becoming a registered dental hygienist.

 

Think of it this way: every obscure term you memorize and head-scratching conundrum you solve goes towards making you the best hygienist you can be.

 

5. You’re Not Alone

“My fondest memories from college days were the camaraderie of all of us,” writes Jan Krawchuk, an RDH in Windsor, Ontario. “We had a class of 20, and many of us would get together for study clubs.”

 

There are so many benefits to joining a study group in hygiene school. Not only does it get you to study at regular intervals (instead of cramming the night before a test), but to share and discuss what you have learned beyond the level of memorization.

 

6. Don’t Compare Yourself to Your Classmates

School isn’t a race. Everyone develops different skills at different paces and having a slow start doesn’t mean you cannot excel as a dental hygienist.

 

It is often tempting to compare your progress to that of your classmates. As a recent graduate, Lana MacDonald knows from experience that it’s not a useful exercise.

 

“My advice to dental hygiene students is not to rush the learning process,” she says. “Don't worry about competing with other students. Work at your own pace and learn everything the ‘right way.’ It will make things easier when you go out into practice even if you may feel behind in school.”

 

7. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Whether you choose an accelerated program or a four-year degree, dental hygiene school is a significant part of your life. Take the opportunity to make friends and create memories you’ll look back on fondly.

 

“Always strive to do the best you are able to do, but remember to enjoy this time in your life,” advises Nancy Mar Hoffos, an RDH in Alberta. “When the opportunity arises to have fun, take it, or when you reflect back, you will have regrets.”

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Cannabis Legalization - What Does it Mean for Your Dental Practice?

October has come and gone, and cannabis is officially legal in Canada. What does this mean for your dental practice and your employees?

 

It means that there is going to be some change within your office, and you will have to take a few steps to keep a happy, well-informed team.

 

Cnabis in the workplace

 

Your main priority is to gain an understanding of the regulations for medical and non-medical use, as well as the expectations of your staff. This knowledge is essential in establishing a clear, permissible policy on cannabis in your practice.

 

What’s the Policy on Cannabis in Your Dental Practice?

Take time to have a look at the current policies and practices in place. Do your employees understand their rights concerning cannabis use?

 

If you don’t have a clearly-outlined process in place, this is a great time to create a new one, adding in the new cannabis policies.

 

When Can Your Employees Use Cannabis?

Does the legalization of cannabis mean employees can use it at work?

 

In some cases, the answer is yes.

 

There is a “duty to accommodate” in Canada, which applies to those who are affected by a disability and require cannabis for a medical purpose. This allows prescription cannabis use in the workplace, but they must have medical notation.

 

That being said, your employees have a right to privacy. You may ask for a doctor’s notation, but it does not have to specify the impairment related to their medical cannabis use.

 

There is also a duty to accommodate those who are affected by cannabis smoke or vapour. You may have to establish a specific area of the office where employees can consume medical cannabis away from those who it negatively affects, or ask that users consume edible cannabis instead. Consider which approach will allow you to fulfill your duty while maintaining a positive, inclusive work environment.

 

Is Recreational Cannabis Use Legal in the Workplace?

Despite its legalization, it is not legal for employees to use recreational cannabis within the walls of your dental practice. Laws against smoking in the workplace still apply.

 

Additionally, the legalization of cannabis does not give people the right to be impaired on the job. This includes using cannabis before work if the effects will cause impairment during work hours.

 

According to workplace medical testing and assessments company DriverCheck, cannabis impairment can last for 24 hours. This is important to communicate to your employees, especially those who may use cannabis recreationally on the weekend, to ensure sobriety for Monday morning.

 

How to Discuss a Cannabis Policy with Your Employees

Communicating your policy to your staff is key. This is a new law, and everyone is still learning about it, so it’s important to be on the same page.

 

For medical cannabis users, it’s important to create a safe and open environment for employees to approach you with their medical needs. This will allow open and honest communication around cannabis use and a smooth accommodation process.

 

For recreational use, be sure to communicate your expectations to your staff verbally and in writing. Some may think that marijuana use is like cigarette use on company time — it’s important to debunk this right away.

 

When everyone understands the new policies, your office can move forward with the new cannabis law in a professional manner for both you and your patients.

 

Cannabis Legalization and Your Dental Practice

Communication is key. Ensure your policies are clear and both medical and non-medical policies and expectations are outlined. This will ensure a positive work environment surrounding cannabis and will make for a clear understanding for you and your team moving forward.

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Motivational Interviewing in Dental Hygiene

What’s your goal as a registered dental hygienist?

 

Is it to create whiter smiles, or something more?

 

Hygienists know their breadth of skills and knowledge extends far beyond simply cleaning teeth. Registered dental hygienists are in a unique position to connect with patients and impart personalized dental advice that can benefit them for years to come.

 

Unfortunately, a dental office operates on a tight schedule, leaving little to no time for hygienists to talk with patients one-on-one.

 

This raises an important question: is it worth spending less time on clinical care to spend more time on counselling?

 

At least one registered dental hygienist says the answer is yes. Writing for Today’s RDH, Michelle Strange explains how she came to see her role as a hygienist differently.

 

two ladies shaking hands

 

Clinical Care vs. Self-Care

Michelle Strange is a practicing hygienist, surgical assistant and educator. She is also a self-proclaimed perfectionist.

 

“I need to know I am doing the best job I can while striving to do it better,” she writes. “Sound familiar?”

In the beginning, Michelle felt she was making the most of her limited time with patients by eradicating every last stain on their teeth. She still took the time to give thorough home care instructions, of course – but if there were a minute to spare, she’d rather have used it to deliver additional clinical care.

 

That all changed when she discovered motivational interviewing.

 

“If I have to choose to spend 5 minutes getting every speck of stain off of a patient’s lingual surfaces or 5 minutes making sure they can use a toothbrush properly, I choose the latter”, writes Michelle.

 

It’s a stark difference, but one that Michelle feels will benefit her patients far more in the long run. And she’s not alone. Motivational interviewing is gaining ground in the dental profession, with an increasing number of dentists and hygienists embracing the view that what patients do at home is just as important as the care they receive in the dental chair.

 

What is Motivational Interviewing in Dental Hygiene?

Pioneered in the world of cognitive therapy, motivational interviewing describes an approach to patient care that puts the clinician in the role of a coach or a counsellor more than an authority figure – someone who guides patients in the right direction instead of lecturing them.

 

In dentistry, this approach can apply to how registered dental hygienists educate people about dental self-care. By asking questions and listening without judgement, clinicians can help patients understand choices that affect oral health and feel empowered to make positive change.

 

For example, rather than simply cleaning the patient’s teeth, a hygienist would take time to help them understand why the stains occur and answer any questions the patient may have about flossing and brushing.

 

As Michelle puts it, “Treatment is only going to last so long. If the patient continues to build calculus in the same place every time we see them, are we performing successful patient care?”

 

When clinicians take a non-judgemental interviewing approach, patients are more comfortable asking questions and speaking honestly about their current dental self-care. The hygienist can then provide personalized recommendations that meet the patient’s level of disease, obstacles to care, and lifestyle.

 

Motivational Interviewing in Practice

With this approach, you may find that patients are more receptive to your advice and motivated to make positive changes. Start by incorporating the four basic motivational interviewing techniques: open-ended questions, affirmations, reflections, and summaries.

  • Ask open-ended questions that invite the patient to elaborate, such as: “What do you find works for you in your current home care routine?” and “What do you find difficult about dental care?”
  • Give affirmations that recognize good choices and encourage patients to continue, such as: “I can tell you’ve been flossing.”
  • Reflect the patient’s answers in a way that gives them meaning. If the patient says they only want a treatment that falls within their insurance coverage, you could say, “We’ll have to keep dental care within your budget.”
  • Summarize the patient’s thoughts to confirm their answers and show you are listening.

Motivational interviewing isn’t the only way to approach patient care, but it is one way to ensure they get more from the appointment than a whiter smile.

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Are Your Patients Protected? 4 Important Points on Athletic Mouth Guards

Helmet? Check. Goggles? Check. You’re ready to hit the ski slopes – almost.

 

What about your mouth guard?

 

Most people think orofacial protectors, better known as mouth guards, are only for contact sports athletes. However, the American Dental Association (ADA) has long encouraged the use of athletic mouth guards for people engaged in all kinds of recreational sports and activities, including non-contact activities like skiing.

 

One of the reasons mouth guards are not more widely used is the many misconceptions surrounding them. Do mouth guards cause gum disease or bad breath? Who really needs to use a mouth guard?

 

Athletic Oral Protection

 

This is an area where dental hygienists and other dental professionals can step in to help. Below, we’ll discuss some of the questions (and misconceptions) you may hear about the subject of athletic mouth guards.

 

1. When to Use a Mouth Guard

Athletic mouth guards are designed to provide cushioning in the event the wearer receives a blow to the face. Though the device only covers the upper teeth, it also helps prevent injuries to the lips, tongue and cheek, since all can be hurt by broken teeth. Mouth guards can also help to prevent injuries to the jaw by reducing the force upon impact.

 

Some sports, like hockey and boxing, carry an inherent risk of these types of injuries. However, dental injuries are also prevalent in non-contact activities and exercises like ice skating and gymnastics. Falls are one of the most common causes of tooth injury. And it isn’t only children who are at risk – numerous surveys show that the risk of dental injuries is present for sports participants of all ages, genders and skill levels.

 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, sports-related dental injuries account for more than 600,000 emergency room visits each year. Both the ADA’s Council of Scientific Affairs and its Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention recognize the value of wearing an athletic mouth guard when participating in sports and recreational activities where injuries to the face, head or mouth can occur.

 

2. Mouth Guards and Gum Disease

Some people point to mouth guards as a source of bad breath, gum disease, cavities, and other oral health issues. Although athletic mouth guards are not the cause of these problems, mouth guards can harbour bacteria that contribute (along with poor oral self-care) to oral disease.

 

It is important to care for an athletic mouth guard properly. The device should be rinsed with warm water immediately after use, followed by a light brushing with a toothbrush (toothpaste is not necessary.) Since oral bacteria thrives in moisture, the mouth guard must be allowed to dry completely before storage. The mouth guard and its storage case should also be cleaned with denture cleaner periodically.

 

3. Different Types of Athletic Mouth Guards

There are three main types of athletic mouth guards available:

  1. Custom mouth guards made by a dentist using an impression of the wearer’s mouth.
  2. Over-the-counter mouth-formed or “boil and bite” mouth guards, which can be formed to fit the wearer’s mouth by submerging the device in hot water until it becomes soft and then placing it in the mouth.
  3. Over-the-counter pre-formed stock mouth guards.

The most effective type of mouth guard is one custom-made by a dental professional and tailored to fit the unique shape of the user’s mouth. Not only does this type of mouth guard provide the best protection, it is also the most comfortable, meaning the user is more likely to wear it more often. Custom-made mouthguards can also last longer and be less prone to damage by the wearer.

 

For athletes who cannot afford or access a custom-made mouth guard, a store-bought device is still more effective than forgoing a mouth guard altogether. The ADA recommends that athletes look for over-the-counter mouth guards bearing the ADA Seal of Approval, which have met the organization’s standards for safety and efficacy.

 

4. Mouth Guards and Concussions

One of the classic arguments in favour of wearing a mouth guard is the notion that it helps to protect the wearer from a mild traumatic brain injury. In truth, researchers have yet to confirm this claim.  However, one study found that high school football players who wore a store-bought mouthguard were more than twice as likely to suffer a concussion than players who wore custom-fitted mouthguards.

 

Regardless, there is no question that an athletic mouth guard can protect the wearer from injuries to the teeth, jaw, lips, tongue and gums.

 

Are Your Patients Protected?

Sports-related injuries constitute 12-39% of all dental injuries. Athletic mouth guards may not be mandatory for most recreational activities, but they can make the difference between a simple mishap and a costly dental injury.

 

The next time you see a patient, consider asking whether they plan to put on their ski boots and ice skates this winter. If the answer is yes, remind them of the benefits of wearing a mouth guard.

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Checklist: 6 Vital Questions to Ask on Your Next Dental Visit

Communication is the cornerstone of a successful practitioner-patient relationship. Dentists and registered dental hygienists hear this principle repeated throughout their education.

 

However, in most dental appointments, the practitioner does most of the talking.

 

Vital questions for your dentist

 

If you’re a patient, these are vital questions to ask on your next dental visit. If you’re a practitioner, this list should help open the door to more productive communication with people for whom you care.

 

1. How Does Dentistry Impact My Overall Health?

There is a strong connection between a person’s oral health and the state of their health overall. Not only does the mouth offer clues to what’s going on in the rest of the body, but it can affect the body in ways patients often find surprising.

 

By examining teeth and gums, dentists can see early evidence of nutritional deficiencies, general infections, and even systemic diseases like diabetes. Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and inflammation plays a role in certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

 

2. What is the Condition of my Gums, Teeth and Smile?

Given the connection between oral health and overall health, it is vital patients know where they stand. The appointment should not focus solely on the most pressing problems. Take time to discuss the state of the patient’s oral health as a whole.

 

3. How Does Your Oral Health Impact Your Everyday Life?

Patients in the dentist’s chair should never be shy about what’s bothering them. Even minor concerns can point to bigger oral health issues that should be addressed. Be sure to bring up everyday issues like swollen or bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth, and snoring.

 

This discussion should include cosmetic concerns. Studies recognize the link between how someone perceives their dental aesthetics and their social and psychological wellbeing. The appearance of teeth and gums certainly has an affect on a patient’s day-to-day life.

 

4. How Will a Proposed Treatment Solution Benefit Me?

Part of a dental practitioner’s job is to ensure patients have the facts they need to make well-informed decisions about their oral healthcare.

 

Some treatments are necessary, while others are beneficial but optional, or purely cosmetic. It’s important that patients understand the urgency of a procedure and the possible consequences (if any) of not moving forward.

 

5. Is This the Right Practice to do this Work?

Many dentists are generalists, but some specialize in a particular area of dentistry. For certain treatments, patients may benefit from a referral to a specialist in areas like endodontics, orthodontics, or periodontics.

 

A dental specialist in the United States is a member of a Dental Specialist Organization recognized by the American Dental Association; in Canada, a specialist has completed specific postgraduate training and passed a Royal College of Dentists exam.

 

6. Is This the Right Time to Proceed with Dental Treatment?

Assuming the problem is not an urgent one, it may be better to postpone treatment until a later date. Many people have a limit on the total cost of dental care their insurance covers each year; performing different steps of treatment over a longer period can help the patient maximize their dental benefits.

 

The Importance of Practitioner-Patient Communication

We write about communication between patients and dental practitioners on this blog often. In this post, we aimed to help facilitate the process with questions every patient should ask (and which dentists and hygienists should encourage).

 

Check out the Sable Industries blog for more information on dental equipment and resources for practitioners.

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Assissting Stroke Patients with Oral Hygiene Care

The occurrence of a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), commonly known as stroke, has a significant impact on a patient’s oral health. Dental hygienists can provide valuable support in the maintenance of oral hygiene as survivors recover and adjust to life after a stroke.

 

Oral Hygiene

 

This article provides an overview of the role of hygienists in assisting stroke patients with oral hygiene care.

 

Stroke and Oral Hygiene

Cerebrovascular accident (CVA), commonly known as stroke, affects millions of people each year. It is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans and the third for Canadians. In some cases (particularly in elderly patients) stroke causes severe and lasting disability.

 

Patients typically undergo extensive rehabilitation, including occupational therapy. Traditionally, it was physical therapists that helped patients regain oral hygiene skills following the incidence of a stroke.

 

However, cuts to healthcare benefits have resulted in many patients receiving less rehabilitation and little to no assistance in overcoming the challenges stroke can present in brushing, flossing and general oral self-care:

  • Loss of coordination (apraxia) can make brushing and flossing difficult or impossible;
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) can increase the time food spends in contact with the teeth;
  • Facial paralysis (hemiplegia) can cause food debris to accumulate in the affected cheek without the patient’s knowledge;
  • Difficulty articulating (dysarthria) hinders communication between the patient and dental professionals.

Additionally, many of the medications used to treat stroke survivors present side effects that further complicate their dental care:

Each cerebrovascular accident case is unique; not all patients who are recovering from stroke present the same conditions or follow the same path in recovery. However, dental hygienists who wish to support these patients must be knowledgeable of the many ways stroke can impact the state of a person’s dental health and the ongoing care they require.

 

Assisting Stroke Patients with Oral Hygiene Care

Oral hygiene is an important part of a stroke survivor’s care and recovery. Regaining the ability to care for one’s teeth and gums gives patients a sense independence and control over their health.

 

For patients with lasting disabilities, dental hygienists can help empower the patient’s caregivers to provide quality dental care.

 

In most cases, patients are advised to wait at least six months after a stroke to receive non-urgent dental care, and to receive a post-CVA consultation with the patient’s physician. These are some of ways that dental hygienists can assist stroke patients with oral hygiene care:

  1. If the patient uses oral hygiene aids at home, have the patient bring the products to the appointment and demonstrate their use. Hygienists can advise on the usage of these products to achieve the best possible results.
  2. Hygienists can suggest products and methods that can help patients compensate for the loss of dexterity or cognitive impairment, such as floss holders, floss piks, electric toothbrushes, and brushes with a two-minute timer.
  3. Patients who suffer from xerostomia as a side effect of medications can be given products and tips to help relieve dry mouth
  4. For patients with cognitive impairment or memory loss, hygienists can assist by providing all oral hygiene instruction in both oral and written form and including the patient’s caregiver in all appropriate discussions.

 

Celebrating Dental Hygienists

October is National Dental Hygiene Month: an initiative to celebrate the hardworking, compassionate dental hygienists who contribute to the cause of improving oral health care. Sable Industries is proud to support your work.

 

We look forward to assisting you.

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Treating the 4 Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy

If you asked the average parent to name the roster of a prenatal healthcare team, they are bound to mention a few key players: the family doctor, obstetrician/gynecologist, sonographer, and perhaps the midwife.

What about the dental hygienist?

 

commin dental problems during pregnancy

Parents and healthcare providers often overlook the importance of oral health during pregnancy. However, multiple studies have indicated a link between poor oral health and adverse outcomes in pregnancy.

A comprehensive overview of research on this subject demonstrated that associations exist between periodontitis during pregnancy and pre-term birth, low birth weight babies, and preeclampsia.

Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy

In particular, there are four oral health conditions that become more prevalent during pregnancy:

  1. Gingivitis
  2. Dental caries/cavities
  3. Pyogenic granuloma
  4. Dental erosion

We’ve provided an overview of these four common dental problems during pregnancy, along with how dentists and dental hygienists can play a greater role in providing care to pregnant patients.

1. Pregnancy Gingivitis

During pregnancy, the body’s response to gingivitis-causing bacteria in the periodontal tissue changes. Some studies speculate the change is triggered by hormonal fluctuations, such as increased salivary estrogen levels during the second and third trimesters.

As a result, patients who had periodontitis before pregnancy may find that inflammation increases throughout the pregnancy. Those with no prior history of gum disease may develop periodontitis or notice increased bleeding and gingival crevicular fluid flow.

2. Dental Caries in Pregnancy

The risk of developing dental caries or cavities often increases during pregnancy. Patients may be affected by one or more contributing factors:

  • Decrease in salivary pH due to changes in diet;
  • Increase in acidity in the mouth due to vomiting;
  • Dry mouth; or
  • Poor oral hygiene care due to nausea and vomiting.

3. Oral Pyogenic Granuloma

Pyogenic granuloma appears as a small tissue overgrowth on the gums that can be smooth or lobulated and red or pink. These lesions are sometimes called ‘pregnancy tumours’ because they are more common in pregnant patients; however, pyogenic granuloma is not cancerous and often disappears without treatment.

Though not harmful, a pyogenic granuloma can be painful and unsightly.

4. Dental Erosion During Pregnancy

Patients who experience morning sickness or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in pregnancy may develop greater erosion of dental enamel. Although there is no way to reverse dental erosion that has already occurred, dental professionals can assist in preventing and reducing its effects.

Assisting Patients with Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a critical time for a patient’s oral health. Not only does it increase the risk of these common dental problems, but poor oral health care is linked to outcomes like preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia.

There are many ways in which dental hygienists can help contribute to positive outcomes through good oral health care at all stages of pregnancy:

  1. Encourage patients to have regular dental checkups during pregnancy, even if they are accustomed to seeing the dentist only once or twice a year. Emphasize the added importance of oral health care during this time in their lives.
  2. Be non-judgemental about new concerns the patient may have about dental treatment during their pregnancy. Many people have heightened concerns about medications, fluoride treatment, and dental x-rays during this time; answer their questions with patience.
  3. Reinforce the benefits of good oral hygiene care: twice-daily brushing for two minutes at a time, once-daily flossing, and using toothpaste with fluoride.
  4. Ask about any new medications or supplements the patient may be taking during pregnancy.

Celebrating Hygiene Month

We all have dental hygienists to thank for being a part of our healthcare team throughout different stages of our lives, including the journey towards parenthood.  This is the second in a series of articles we’ve published on this important role during Hygiene Month: a month to recognize hygienists and emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene.

Sable Industries is proud to produce quality dental tools used by registered dental hygienists and dentists across North America. Contact us today to learn how we can assist your dental practice.

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What You Should Know About the EPA’s Rule on Dental Amalgam Separation

The dental profession has long acknowledged the impact of dental amalgam on the environment. In the year 2014, the American Dental Association adopted nine principles on keeping amalgam particles out of dental office wastewater. Then, following consultation between the ADA and the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA finally issued a final rule on amalgam separation on June 9, 2017; now, most dentists have until July of 2020 to comply.

 

EPA rules for Dental Wastewater

 

The final rule sets guidelines on everything from how to dispose of amalgam waste to minimum efficiency standards for amalgam separators (right down to the decimal point.) Though they may appear daunting, these regulations are not far from the existing APA best practices, and practitioners who start now should have no trouble meeting their obligations by 2020.

 

Dental Economics magazine has published a helpful summary of the rule. These are the main takeaways for dentists and other dental professionals looking to incorporate amalgam separation into their practices.

 

Who Needs to Use an Amalgam Separator?

Most dental offices in the United States are subject to the EPA’s rule on amalgam separation. In most cases, even those practitioners who do not place amalgam fillings must begin using amalgam separators. However, there are notable exceptions.

  • Certain dental specialists may be exempt from the rule, including practices that specialize in oral pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, orthodontics, periodontics or prosthodontics.
  • The rule does not apply to mobile units.
  • Dental practices that neither place nor remove amalgam except in limited circumstances (which the rule defines as fewer than 5% of procedures or nine cases per year) may not have to use an amalgam separator.

If your practice falls into one of these categories, it is possible you may not have to start using an amalgam separator. However, certain localities have dental amalgam pre-treatment requirements, and many states have rules that exist alongside the EPA’s new guidelines.

 

How Does the EPA’s Final Rule Differ from ADA Best Practices?

Although the American Dental Association worked with the EPA to develop the requirements, the result does differ from the ADA’s best practices in several important ways. The most significant differences are:

  • Amalgam separator efficiency requirement. The ADA recommended that dental offices use a system that removes at least 95% of amalgam particles from wastewater, in line with 2008 ISO 11143 standards. The EPA requires an amalgam separator to be 2008 ISO 11143–certified and remove 99% of amalgam particles.
  • Frequent inspections. The EPA imposes onerous inspection requirements on all dental offices that use an amalgam separator. Dental professionals must inspect the equipment as per Manufacturer Instructions and generate a visual inspection log that details who conducted the inspection, the results of examining each device, and a summary of any follow-up actions. 

Most amalgam separators manufactured and sold in the United States and Canada claim to operate at 99% efficiency. However, dentists who have already invested in the equipment should confirm that their system meets the EPA requirements before 2020.

 

How Can Dentists Demonstrate Compliance?

The rule requires that dental practitioners report compliance annually to their respective state Control Authority.

 

The Control Authority differs state-to-state, but it is typically an EPA regional office, a local wastewater utility, or a state environmental agency. Dentists in Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi, Nebraska and Vermont should report to their state environmental agency; dentists in all other states can contact their regional EPA office to find out who acts as the Control Authority in their state.

 

You can read more about the importance of dental amalgam separation and tips for compliance on our blog.

 

 Please visit www.dds-epa.org for FREE record keeping software and more information.

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