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Commonly Used Mouthwash Could Increase the Risk of Tooth Damage

Chlorhexidine is a common mouthwash ingredient known to help reduce harmful of bacteria in the mouth.

 

However, new research from the University of Plymouth’s Faculty of Health suggests that chlorhexidine could increase the risk of tooth damage.

 

Given the circumstances, it is worth taking a closer look at the potential benefits and drawbacks of this commonly-used mouthwash.

 

What is Chlorhexidine?

Chlorhexidine (also known by its generic name, Chlorhexidine gluconate), is an antimicrobial oral rinse that, when coupled with regular tooth brushing and flossing, can be used to treat gingivitis. Chlorhexidine reduces the amount and diversity of bacteria in the mouth, which helps alleviate swelling, redness and bleeding of the gums caused by gingivitis.

 

Chlorhexidine is generally prescribed to patients for twice-daily use: once after breakfast and again right before bedtime. Like other kinds of mouthwash, patients are instructed to measure out about a half-ounce (15 milliliters) of the solution, swish it in their mouths for about 30 seconds, and then spit it out. Prescription mouthwashes with chlorhexidine have been widely available for more than 30 years.

 

However, mouthwash containing chlorhexidine has been shown to significantly increase the abundance of lactate-producing bacteria that lowers the saliva pH, which could increase the risk of tooth damage.

 

Why Oral Bacteria is Not Always a Bad Thing

Researchers at the University of Plymouth carried out a trial on the effects of mouthwash containing chlorhexidine, giving placebo mouthwash to subjects for a few days, followed by seven days of mouthwash containing chlorhexidine.

 

By the end of each period, the researchers analyzed the microbiome and pH levels in each person. They also looked at things like lactate, how well acids were neutralised (also known as saliva buffering capacity), as well as other factors related to oral health.

The research found that using chlorhexidine mouthwash led to an increase in acidity. More research is needed to determine whether this necessarily means an increased risk of oral diseases.

 

According to Dr. Zoe Brookes, co-author of the study and lecturer at the University of Plymouth's Peninsula Dental School, dental clinicians need more information about how mouthwashes can alter the balance of oral bacteria to in order to prescribe them correctly.

 

“This paper is an important first step in achieving this,” says Dr. Brooks.

 

Co-author Dr. Louise Belfield adds, “We have significantly underestimated the complexity of the oral microbiome and the importance of oral bacteria in the past. Traditionally the view has been that bacteria are bad and cause diseases. But we now know that the majority of bacteria – whether in the mouth or the gut – are essential for sustaining human health.”

 

As you well know, the mouth is swimming with many different microorganisms, most of which are beneficial and essential for maintaining normal physiology of the oral cavity.

The authors believe this is the first study to examine the impact of 7-day use of chlorhexidine on the oral microbiome – important insight, given the renewed popularity of this mouthwash in the current climate.

 

More information is still needed to determine how the chemical works on viruses, however, some suggest that chlorhexidine kills COVID-19 since it kills other viruses, like H5N1 (bird flu), H3N2 (influenza virus), and H1N1 (swine flu) and thus could help reduce the new infection rates among healthy people (or help to flatten the curve).

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How Dentists Can Build Resilience & Avoid Burnout in Tough Times

Tough times come and go, and one of the challenges is we never know exactly when they will strike. It could be a national emergency like COVID-19, a tragedy in your town, or even a personal setback.

 

In any case, these kinds of events can exacerbate what is already one of the biggest challenges in the dental profession: burnout.

 

Dentists, hygienists and other dental professionals report a very high incidence of stress and burnout, with concerns ranging from litigation to regulation to maintaining high standards of patient care.

 

What does burnout look like, and how can you avoid it in these difficult times? Below, we’ll help you recognize the warning signs and outline ways to build your resilience – whether times are good, bad, or somewhere in between!

 

What is ‘Burnout’ in the Dental Profession?

Burnout is a state of overall exhaustion that affects your mind, emotions, and body, caused by exposure to prolonged and excessive stress.

 

When you’re going through a personal struggle or affected by an event like COVID-19, there will always be times of greater stress in your life. Add that to the day-to-day challenges of managing your business and career… it’s easy to see how these forces combine into a recipe for burnout.

 

Burnout can stem from anything in your life that causes long-term stress. Living through a long, stressful period in your practice, whether your business is struggling to survive or overloaded with patients, is a common cause. Even if you don’t own the clinic directly, the strain from these types of situations can get to you – in fact, dental assistants show higher burnout scores in studies than other staff.

 

What Burnout Looks Like

Burnout makes every day feel like a bad day. It often feels like you have lost your passion for everything, and work that used to excite and challenge you suddenly seems dull and pointless. You may feel like nothing you do makes a difference, even when it does.

 

The main difference between ordinary stress and burnout is that burnout is a chronic condition. While stress is temporary, burnout is constant. When you’re experiencing stress, cynicism, exhaustion and frustration day in and day out, you could be experiencing dental burnout.

 

Everyone reacts differently to prolonged stress, so burnout won’t look the same in each person. It’s important not to discount your burnout simply because it looks different than someone else’s.

 

Common signs of burnout include:

  • Declining performance at work
  • Cynicism and a generally negative view of life
  • Physical illness, including headaches or digestive issues
  • Feeling exhausted no matter how much you sleep
  • Overall disengagement with work and your personal life

 

Once you’ve hit burnout, you may need professional help to recover. Don’t be shy about looking for a therapist, counsellor, psychiatrist or another mental health professional to help you get back on your feet.

 

How to Be Resilient and Avoid Burnout

The key to avoiding dental burnout is to prioritize your own needs. That can be very hard for dentists and hygienists, who feel they have such a strong obligation to others’ needs.

 

Because dentistry is a caregiving profession, it’s easy to get so focused on taking care of your patients and others in your life that you forget to nurture yourself. This is especially true if you spend a lot of time with patients, hearing their stories and sharing in their challenges.

 

However, you can’t give back when you’re pushed up against the wall. Taking care of yourself is how you maintain your ability to care for others.

 

Chances are you’re familiar with the notion of “self-care”, but many people are mistaken thinking it’s all about pampering yourself. Self-care goes far deeper than that. Pampering is great, but you need to take other steps as well!

 

Here are some ways to care for yourself:

  • Calm your mind with meditation or other mindfulness practices
  • Eat healthy meals that provide you with the energy you need
  • Exercise regularly to stay healthy and keep endorphins flowing
  • Prioritize time for hobbies and relaxing with loved ones
  • Don’t hesitate to seek out counselling or mental health services

 

It’s important to understand that having limitations does not make you a failure. Everyone has limitations. Recognizing that and respecting it helps you stay healthy and avoid burnout.

 

Make time for yourself. Realize the importance of your role and that your work makes a difference. When you do, you’ll be building resilience and protecting yourself from burnout.

 

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Study: Women with Sleep Apnea at Greater Risk of Cancer

It’s estimated that 858,900 Canadian adults have been diagnosed with sleep apnea: a chronic condition that causes obstructed breathing sporadically throughout one’s sleep cycle. Without treatment, this condition can lead to serious complications and long-term health effects.

 

 

Recently, a cross-sectional study found that women were at higher risk of cancer when suffering from sleep apnea. Specifically, the prevalence of cancer is higher in women with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and nocturnal hypoxia than in men with the same condition.

 

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways dental professionals can play a role in diagnosing, treating and helping patients mitigate the risks of sleep apnea.

 

Here, we’ll delve deeper into the research and review the role dentists and dental hygienists can play in helping patients with sleep apnea.

 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Cancer Risk and Other Health Complications

There is growing evidence to suggest a potential association between obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and cancer. Last year, researchers reviewed data on 20,000 adult patients with OSA from the European Sleep Apnoea Database (ESADA). Approximately 2% of these patients had a cancer diagnosis.

 

The findings of this review suggest that the prevalence of cancer was higher in females with OSA and nocturnal hypoxia, but not in males. This conclusion was drawn after adjusting the data for age, gender, body mass index, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

 

This new study highlights just one of the many adverse impacts of sleep apnea on one’s health. In addition to the potential link between OSA and cancer, adults living with untreated sleep apnea are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

 

There is also a discernable link between sleep apnea, strokes, and obesity, and chronic fatigue resulting from sleep apnea can increase the risk of these individuals being involved in motor vehicle accidents.

 

How Dental Professionals Can Help Patients with Sleep Apnea

So, how does this relate to our roles in the dental profession?

 

Although dental professionals are not able to diagnose patients with sleep apnea (diagnosis should be done at an accredited sleep center), dentists and dental hygienists can help screen patients for potential symptoms, guide them towards a proper diagnosis, and in some cases provide treatment to offset the effects of the condition.

 

Most people see their dentist or dental hygienist more often than their doctor, and the first signs of sleep apnea are frequently those found in the oral cavity.

 

For example, an enlarged tongue and/or tonsils, GERD, and tooth grinding/bruxism are telltale red flags for untreated sleep apnea. Upon discovering these indicators, dental professionals can interview the patient to screen for other potential sleep apnea symptoms.

 

Patients showing symptoms of this condition should be referred to their family physician. From there, a review of a patient’s overall medical history can occur to rule out the presence of sleep apnea.

 

After receiving the necessary request or prescription, a dental professional can provide orthodontic assistance (OA).

 

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Study: Dental Amalgam Boasts Superior Contamination Resistance Than Other Materials

If you’ve been going back and forth on amalgam and whether you should continue using it in your practice, the findings of a new study could provide some clarity.

 

For two full years, five undergraduate students at Loma Linda University examined the impact of extreme contaminations on amalgam fillings during condensation. The goal of these dedicated research design students was to determine the shear-strength degradation effects on dental amalgam.

 

The researchers assessed the reaction of amalgam to gross contamination during condensation under the following elements:

  • Water
  • Saliva
  • Blood
  • Handpiece lubrication oil

The results, published under the title, “Amalgam Strength Resistance to Various Contaminants,”  demonstrated that amalgam is capable of withstanding “worst-case-scenario” levels of contamination equally or better than its alternatives, including resin-modified glass ionomer.

 

Just How Well Does Amalgam Retain Its Strength?

To summarize, here’s a breakdown of the findings discovered in the research discussed above:

  • Amalgam strength wasn’t reduced to a significantly statistical extent (p= 0.05) by water contamination.
  • Compared to water and blood-contaminated water, saliva reduced in between both.
  • In saliva, the final remaining strength was the same or more than the uncontaminated strengths recorded in the available literature for other restorable materials (e.g., composite resin, resin-modified glass ionomer, glass ionomer.)
  • Amalgam strength degradation was at its most significant – at around 50% – when fully immersed in handpiece lubrication oil during condensation. However, contamination from handpiece lubrication oil was proven to be highly unlikely in practice.
  • Still, the oil contamination resulted in amalgam strengths were the same or more than other available restorative materials while exceeding the minimum compressive strength of 35,000 pounds per square inch

How Do the Alternatives Compare to Dental Amalgam?

The results above already indicate the dental amalgam can withstand contaminative circumstances better than many alternatives.

 

Let’s look closer at the alternatives and see how they stack up.

 

1. Composite Resin Fillings

As the most regularly used alternative to dental amalgam, composite resin fillings are tooth-coloured and white. Acrylic resin is the primary material used in the making of these fillings—and they’re reinforced with powdered glass filler.

 

It’s common for composite resin colours to be customized to match surrounding teeth. They’re also often light-cured by blue light in layers to lead into the last restoration.

 

Yes, there’s no doubting the strength and blending capabilities of these fillings. Also, they don’t need much removal of healthy tooth structure for placement.

 

But they come up short in other aspects.

 

First and foremost, the composite resin is harder to place than amalgam—plus, they’re infinitely more expensive. Lastly, while they are strong, these fillings appear to be less durable than amalgam.

 

2. Glass Ionomer Cement Fillings

Organic acids (such as eugenol), bases (such as zinc oxide), and potentially acrylic resins can be found in glass ionomer cement.

 

Glass ionomer fillings are tooth-coloured like composite resin, and its properties seem most ideal for more meagre restorations.

 

These fillings cure on their own and don’t necessitate a blue light for the setting process.

 

While ease of use and quality of appearances are definite plusses with glass ionomer cement, they’re not particularly useful for more significant restorations.

 

Is Amalgam Usage Long for this World?

Of course, we can’t forget that these findings are only part of a bigger picture on the use of dental amalgam.

 

The material’s mercury content makes dental amalgam a public health and ecological risk, particularly after its removal. On July 14, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized regulation specifically targeting the use and disposal of dental amalgam. In Canada, dentists must use amalgam traps and filters to collect amalgam waste and recycle it appropriately.

 

As such, many dentists – as a protective measure – are opting to use alternatives to amalgam for health, safety and ecological reasons.

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How to Talk to Patients Who Are Worried About Amalgam Fillings

 

Often referred to as ‘silver’ fillings, amalgam fillings are an incredibly popular dental option. In fact, they’re the most commonly used filling in Canada.

 

Consisting of metals such as mercury, copper, silver, and tin, amalgam fillings have the advantage of being inexpensive and long-lasting. Plus, putting them in place is relatively straightforward and hassle-free. Usually, your patients will only require one visit to complete these fillings.

 

However, you might’ve noticed more patients raising concerns about these restorations, especially those who have received amalgam fillings in the past.

 

Often, these conversations are rooted in the toxicity of mercury and its perceived effects on the patient’s health.

 

Dental Amalgam: A Quick Review

 It’s worth noting that, yes, higher levels of mercury will adversely impact the brain and kidneys.

 

However, it is the position of both the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) that dental amalgam is a stable, safe and affordable substance for use in dental restorations.

 

Further, research from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) demonstrates that amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children above the age of six, with no known health problems linked to amalgam. 

 

Less is known about the effects of amalgam on the long-term health outcomes of pregnant women, developing fetuses, and children under six-years-old. However, evidence suggests that infants are not at risk for adverse health effects from the mercury in the breast milk of mothers exposed to mercury vapour from dental amalgam.

 

Should Existing Amalgam Fillings Be Removed?

Interestingly, the risks of mercury are more than likely to be exacerbated in removing an amalgam restoration than leaving it intact.

 

Why? Because the toxic components are safely contained when the amalgam is left alone in your patients’ mouths, but could detach in the process removing the filling. 

 

Though, like everything in this world, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. There are times when it’s best to replace these fillings.

 

Namely, once amalgam restorations reach the 2-year mark, it’s wise to consider replacements. Similarly, if this manner of filling is damaged in any way, they should be replaced. And provided such a restoration has irregular margins or overhangs and is causing resulting gingival inflammation, a replacement should likely occur. Lastly, any recurrent decay beneath the filling means that a replacement ought to take place.

 

Now, if a patient falls under the above categories but is currently experiencing health issues, you must consult their physician. Such ailments include memory loss, heart palpitations, deficiencies, a heavy viral or toxic load, or a sensitive nervous system.

 

Removal in the above cases could potentially trigger their sickness and make them far more ill.

 

How to Discuss These Matters with Patients

When consulting with your dental patients about keeping or removing their amalgam, the conversation should mainly center around mitigating harm.

 

First, you must set your patients at ease about any concerns they might have about long-term safety and potential associated with replacements. Have this conversation before you jot down any detailed notes of these discussions in your official records.

 

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to recommend a second opinion on the matter. Not only will this establish trust between you and your patient, but it’s a safe and sound practice as a dental professional.

 

Your patient’s health, well-being, as well as their mental state should be a top priority. Treatments must be in their best interest while adhering to the current practices and teachings that are deemed most sound by dental authorities.

 

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7 Practical Self-Care Habits for Dental Hygienists

 

 

Working in dentistry can be extremely tough on your body.

 

In fact, compared to other professionals, dental hygienists are at a far greater risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) that affect the soft and hard tissues. Between 60% and 96% of hygienists suffering from neck, shoulder, wrist, hand, or back pain.

 

Furthermore, since you spend practically all day helping people, you’re dealing with prolonged exposure to physical and psychological stress. Chairside burnout is a genuine and problematic issue for many hygienists.

 

Taking care of yourself as a dental professional is a must! Here, we’ll discuss 7 tips that’ll help you perform at your best on the job without compromising your physical or mental health.

 

1. Focus on Ergonomics

In short, ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. Really, the idea is for you to be honed in to your own posture and position.

 

For a dental hygienist such as yourself, the following facets of your job should be optimized for ergonomics:

  • Room configurations
  • Loupes and lighting
  • Handpieces
  • Instrument type and grip
  • Operator chair
  • Ability to move around your patient

One example of an effective ergonomic measure is using anatomical or “handed” gloves instead of ambidextrous gloves (which put up to 33% more pressure on the thumbs and fingers). Also, remember to stretch regularly throughout the day!

 

2. Practicing Yoga

Since you’re a hygienist, you must find the balance between physicality and mentality. And breathing techniques employed in yoga can be that centring factor.

 

Yoga’s focus on breathing and posture helps combat the various musculoskeletal issues and burnout you might face.

 

For instance, savasana – the final meditative posture – helps establish a calm and reduction of blood pressure. It also aids in better sleep and reduction of stress.

 

3. Start a Cryotherapy Regime

Having first been used in Japan in the 1970s, cryotherapy exposes the body to a -100°C temperature for around one to four minutes. Cryotherapy chambers can be entire rooms or structures that resemble barrels that expose you, neck-down, to the liquid nitrogen.

 

There is an array of studies and scientific evidence that prove the value of these treatments. Namely, for dental hygienists, cryotherapy helps treat musculoskeletal pain and related ailments.

 

4. Visiting the Chiropractor

Chiropractors use a holistic approach to treating musculoskeletal disorders. Primarily, such treatments center around proper spine alignment. With the adjustments provided, chiropractic professionals believe that healing is enabled without the need for surgery or pharmaceuticals.

 

There is a wealth of techniques and methods of treatments, such as manual-diversified techniques. All chiropractors are different, so treatment lengths differ depending on their philosophy.

 

5. Treat Yourself to a Massage

While the title of this section suggests that massages are something of a treat, in your profession, they’re a necessity for keeping happy and healthy!

 

In utilizing rhythmical pressure and stroking, massage therapists help prevent, develop, maintain, rehabilitate and augment physical function while relieving pain.

 

Now, the benefits of massages can be short term, but they do improve lymph flow and prevent fibrosis, for instance. Also, they increase serotonin levels and provide endorphins, which helps with the anxiety and stress you may feel on the job.

 

6. Stick to Acupuncture

Not only does acupuncture have proven results, it’s specifically been useful for dental hygienists who’ve been suffering from musculoskeletal disorders.

 

This form of treatment theorizes that an imbalance in the body’s energy flow (or chi/qi) causes illness. This flow of energy is accessible through around 350 points on the body where thin needles are inserted to restore balance and harmony.

 

7. Take Time to Meditate

It’s believed by many that meditative practices play a big part in improving psychological, neurological, and cardiovascular function.

Best of all? There’s no gym membership or meditation guru needed. All you have to do is sit upright and still while focusing your attention on something like breathing.

 

With these 7 methods of self-care, you’ll feel happier and healthier in your dental practice!

 

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Wisdom Tooth Extraction and Alternatives - Important Facts to Know

 

Are you experiencing discomfort in your back molars or your gums at the back of your mouth? Do you have trouble opening and closing your jaws, bad breath or a low-grade fever? You may need a wisdom tooth extraction to remove an impacted third molar and prevent further discomfort and infection. Before you have your tooth removed, there are some critical facts you need to know about wisdom tooth extraction and the alternatives.

 

Alternatives to Wisdom Tooth Removal

Extraction is often recommended for wisdom teeth as a preventative measure to minimize misalignment, eliminate overcrowding, or when the tooth is infected. However, in some cases, you may not need to have your wisdom teeth removed.

 

Coronectomy

A coronectomy is an alternative to wisdom tooth extraction and is recommended for patients when the wisdom tooth is impacted and presses on the lingual nerve or inferior alveolar nerve. These nerves control the sensation in your tongue, lips, and chin and can affect speech and chewing.

 

A coronectomy removes the crown of the tooth, leaving the roots in place. If the wisdom tooth root is not infected, a coronectomy may be an ideal alternative to wisdom tooth removal.

 

Operculectomy

An operculectomy removes the gum tissue that can develop over a partially erupted wisdom tooth. Debris and bacteria can get caught in this tissue, causing painful infections and inflammation. Removal of the operculum reduces the risk of bacteria build-up and may prevent the need for a wisdom tooth extraction.

 

Bring a Chaperone to Your Appointment

Whether you have a wisdom tooth removal, operculectomy or coronectomy, your dentist will still administer anesthesia to make you more comfortable during the procedure. In most cases, the site will be numbed using a local anesthetic. However, for complex wisdom tooth extractions or if you suffer from dental anxiety, you may need to be sedated.  

 

The side effects of sedation can take some time to wear off, so it is essential to bring someone along with you to drive you home after the procedure.

 

Rest with Your Head Raised

Your body’s natural reaction to tooth extraction is inflammation and swelling. However, uncontrolled swelling can lead to infection. To keep the swelling under control, rest with your head slightly elevated to drain fluid away from the area. You can also apply cold compresses to the side of your face and take over the counter anti-inflammatory medication.

 

Skip the Toothbrush

Avoiding brushing isn’t advice that you’ll usually hear from your dentist; however, you need to avoid using your toothbrush near the extraction site for the first 24 hours after surgery.

 

Also avoid spitting and rinsing, as well as drinking through a straw. The reason for this is that the blood vessels inside the empty tooth socket form a clot that seals the socket and prevents infection.

 

If the clot becomes dislodged, you are at risk of developing a condition called dry socket where the nerves of the tooth are exposed.

 

Stock Up on Soft Foods

Hard and chewy foods can aggravate the wound site, causing discomfort. Some nutritious foods for post-surgery recovery include yogurt, oatmeal, fruit and vegetable purees, eggs, and smoothies. Cold and tepid foods can also help to alleviate post-surgery swelling.

 

Bleeding Is Normal After Surgery

Although you may have stitches in the tooth socket, it is normal to experience some bleeding after surgery. Your dentist packs the empty socket with gauze which you should hold firmly in place for 30 minutes. Repeat until the bleeding abates. If the bleeding is excessive, call your dentist immediately.

 

Symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore include fever, numbness, increased swelling, pus from the wound or nose, and trouble swallowing or breathing. Any of these symptoms could indicate infection or nerve damage and need to be assessed by your dentist immediately.

 

Keep Your Wound Clean

There are several ways you can keep your mouth clean and hygienic. Rinsing with a saltwater solution helps to eliminate bacteria, clear debris from around the extraction site, and reduce discomfort after surgery.

 

Combine one cup of warm water with ½ a teaspoon of salt and gently swish the solution around your mouth for 20-30 seconds. Instead of spitting out the rinse, tip your head over the sink and open your mouth to expel the water gently.

 

Final Thoughts

Wisdom tooth extraction is a standard procedure to prevent impacted wisdom teeth from affecting your remaining teeth and jawbone. However, it isn’t always necessary to have your tooth extracted.

 

If you have your wisdom teeth extracted, follow your dentist's post-surgical care instructions carefully to ensure a speedy and comfortable recovery.

 

About the author

Dr. Fadi Swaida first graduated from the University of Western Ontario with an Honors BSc in Biology before graduating from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Dentistry. He is an active member of his church and enjoys football and being by the water! His outgoing personality and fun-loving character will ensure you always feel welcome at Dentist North York.

 

 

 

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New Year, New Hygienist: 5 Ways to Define Your Ambition in 2020

 

 

Recently, writers at Today’s RDH posed its readers a rather thoughtful question:

 

How do you, as a dental hygienist, define ambition?

 

A total of 82 dental hygienists, young and old, shared their answers. And it probably won’t surprise you to learn that every one of them had a slightly different approach!

 

Many of the people surveyed equated ambition to career growth, and outlined what they planned to move forward: sharpening their skills, furthering their education and so on.

 

Some thought back to the reasons why they entered the profession in the first place, while others took “ambition” to mean broadening their role as a hygienist.

 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this survey is the desire dental hygienists have to do more. The responses paint a colourful picture of all the ways this career can evolve.

 

In the spirit of the new decade, let’s celebrate a few of the ways our fellow dental hygienists have defined their ambition in 2020 and beyond!

 

1. Focusing on Preventative Dental Care

“My ambition is to bring the public forward in knowledge of what a dental hygienist is and start having people get healthy. Change the model of dental health from restoring and treating disease to prevention.”

 

Bit by bit, the model of dental health is evolving from a restorative approach to a preventive one. And no one is in a better position to champion this shift than dental hygienists! Since you work closely with patients even before they require treatment, you’re in the perfect place to impart advice that can benefit their oral health for years to come.

 
2. Deeper Role in Day-to-Day Operations

“Ambition is the continuation of advancement, whether in the continued pursuit of clinical excellence or transitioning into different aspects of patient care.”

 

Who ever said hygienists should stick to the chairside? I don’t need to tell you that the office RDH often knows more about the practice’s ins and outs than anyone under that roof. Many hygienists are leveraging their expertise to successfully segue into aspects of dental management and administration, whether it’s helping to bring on new patients, taking charge of procuring dental tools and supplies, or ensuring the hygiene department is up to current standards.

 

3. More Holistic Approach to Patient Care

“Looking beyond the dentition to the entirety of the head and neck and oral/oropharyngeal cavity. Embracing all there is to know about not just the oral-systemic link, also the cancers of the head and neck oral and Oropharynx, and our role in each area.”

 

Research has emerged establishing a link between periodontal disease and systemic conditions such as heart disease, cancers, and diabetes. Ambitious hygienists are putting this knowledge into practice to help patients prevent and manage the systemic effects of periodontal disease.

 

4. Broadening Horizons

 “Ambition would be to work on legislation to advance a dental hygienist to a position like a PA. Not necessarily the dental therapist model but very close.”

 

Do you dream of one day being able to practice hygiene independently? Wish you could apply your knowledge of dental care delivery in a senior role? Well, you’re far from alone in that! In fact, there are scores of dental hygienists out there hoping to expand our opportunities outside of the operatory.

 

Hygienists are increasingly seizing the chance to lead initiatives, manage teams, and advising policy. There are more non-traditional career opportunities for hygienists in healthcare, management and sales than ever before! What’s more, some hygienists, like the individual quoted above, are also advocating for a broader clinical scope of practice ‒ perhaps along the lines of a dental therapist.

 

5. Mastering the Art and Science of Hygiene

“My definition of ambition in the dental hygiene profession is someone who does their best work on each and every patient.”

 

It’s an exciting time to be a registered dental hygienist. As the scope of practice continues to expand, so too will the career opportunities...but only for those who are prepared to take them!

 

Whether you’re just starting out in your career or well along the path, it’s never too late to refine your knowledge, improve your skills, and continue your hygiene education.

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Botox Has Become an Unconventional but Effective Treatment for TMJ

 

As a dental professional, you’re no doubt well aware of the negatives of temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ.

 

The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible (or lower jaw) to the temporal bone (or skull) in front of the ear. Other specific facial muscles that connect to the lower jaw are responsible for chewing.

 

When the pain of TMJ has been too much for over-the-counter pain meds, it’s been known for dentists to prescribe strong pain relievers such as prescription-strength ibuprofen. Patients have also been treated with low doses of tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline to relieve pain symptoms, but also to control bruxism and sleeplessness. 

 

Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for patients to be offered muscle relaxants for their TMJ-related issues.

 

Then there is an array of therapies, like oral splints and even physical therapy used to treat the condition. If the patient is suffering enough, there’s also a mandibular or multi-joint surgery that can be performed. Really though, this list of treatments is only scratching the surface.

 

In fact, recently, Botox injections have been utilized to treat TMJ syndrome ‒ with a great deal of success.

 

How Useful Are TMJ Treatments?

A small anecdotal study involving 26 patients from 2012 discovered that Botox could substantially decrease the pain associated with TMJ for up to three months. It also could increase mouth movements.

 

There were two other studies, published respectively in 2003 and 2008, that revealed similar results.

 

Of the participants in the 2003 study, 90% displayed symptom relief after failing to respond to more conventional treatment methods.

 

As is the case with most experimental treatments, these small sample sizes aren’t enough for most experts to offer their 100% stamp of approval. Yes, the results are undoubtedly encouraging.

 

Still, to endorse the full effectiveness of Botox treatments for TMJ disorders, experts need to investigate the results of further studies.

 

Are There Any Side Effects to Botox Treatments for TMJ?

Despite the potential for positive results, Botox treatments for TMJ do come with side effects.

 

Pain, redness at the injection site, muscle weakness, and bruising at the injection site is common in the first week after treatment. More serious side effects include headache, respiratory infection, flu-like illness, nausea, and temporary eyelid droop.

 

Then there’s a chance that your patients might experience a fixed smile for up to 6 to 8 weeks. This condition is a result of the paralyzing effect that’s brought upon by Botox treatments.

 

A Breakdown of the Procedure

One of the primary benefits of Botox treatments for TMJ disorder is that it’s a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure. Meaning, it’s non-invasive. It’s performed right in the dental office and only lasts from anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes.

Commonly, there are at least 3 injection sessions that span throughout a several-month period. The number of injections required depends on your patient’s needs and the severity of their condition.

 

Botox can be injected in a patient’s forehead, temple, jaw muscles, or anywhere else in the face/head area where there are pain symptoms. Resulting pain from the injection itself is minimal. It resembles a bug bite, and a cold pack or numbing cream can help to ease any discomfort.

 

Patients will generally experience improvements several days after the treatment. Though they can return to regular activities immediately after leaving your office.

 

When Should Botox Be Used to Treat TMJ?

While this treatment is more synonymous with cosmetic enhancement, it’s increasingly being used in the dental industry therapeutically.

 

Botox injections treat the symptoms of TMJ instead of the syndrome itself. Meaning, it’s meant to soothe the jaw tension, teeth grinding-induced headaches and lockjaw that can result from TMJ syndrome.

 

Still, at this point, Botox treatments for TMJ disorder are only experimental. It’s considered to be an off-label approach that has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As such, these injections are currently only an alternative when more traditionally successful methods haven’t been able to give patients relief.

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6 Myths You Shouldn’t Believe About Air Polishing

If you’re a dental professional, it will serve you well to read this Hygiene Town article that recently caught our eye.

 

The article highlights the many positive features of air polishing and the fact that, despite scientific evidence demonstrating its value, it has yet to become widely accepted among many registered dental hygienists.

 

Air polishing has proven to be successful with plaque and stain removal. In fact, it’s shown to be three times faster than rubber cup polishing! So, why aren’t more of us using it?

 

The truth is that air polishing, for whatever reason, has been riddled with naysaying...and these myths are part of the reason it hasn’t seen widespread use.

 

Let’s look at the facts about air polishing!

 

Myth #1: Air Polishing is Too Messy

This myth is based on what used to be the truth. In generations past, air polishers sprayed all over the place. However, in recent years, things have changed.

 

Older air polishing devices could only be used at full power. They also clogged too quickly, and many practitioners didn’t have the knowledge and experience to shield their patients from the abundance of overspray.

 

Nowadays, air polishers offer far more control and precision.

 

Myth #2: Patients Dislike the Taste

Similar to the above myth, the taste factor of air polishers did use to be a legitimate gripe of patients and hygienists alike.

 

Initially, the powder being used was a salty sodium bicarbonate that revolted both children and adults.

 

Fortunately, most models now include a non-sodium option.

 

There’s also a substance known as Sylc therapeutic prophy powder being utilized in air polishing systems. It’s a calcium sodium phosphosilicate or bioactive glass.

 

Although the Sylc does possess 450 mg sodium, this is far milder than the 2,000 to 3,000 mg found in a sodium bicarbonate—a staple of the old method.

 

Myth #3: It’s Less Effective at Cleaning Teeth

Marilynn Rothen, MS, RDH, states that air polishing is superior to rubber cup polishing when cleaning the tooth surface before etching for sealant placement.

 

Further studies, however, indicate similar results between cleaning methods. Regardless, air polishing has never been proven to be less effective at cleaning teeth when compared to other treatments!

 

Myth #4: Air Polishing Makes Teeth Overly Sensitive

This myth, unlike a few of the other ones, isn’t rooted in facts at all. The reality is that this myth couldn’t be any further from the truth!

 

Air polishing will offer comfort to your patients with even the most sensitive teeth. It’s an extremely gentle method that necessitates no heat or pressure being placed on tooth surfaces.

 

Furthermore, due to the acclaimed gentleness of air polishing, it’s an ideal technique to use when cleaning around delicate implants.

 

Myth #5: The Aerosol Spreads Bacteria

Dental professionals perform an array of procedures, including air polishing, that requires hand tools that produce an influx of particles and splattering. They can contain microorganisms (aerosols) from the oral cavity of the patients, which are believed to possess bacteria and fungi. It’s feared that this can lead to cross-infection for dentists and dental hygienists.

 

Yes, you do have to adhere to prevention methods to keep safe—but it’s no different from any other treatment. Furthermore, studies have proven that aerosol exposure is not a significant occupational hazard.

 

Myth #6: Air Polishing Equipment is Too Expensive

Unfortunately, many dental professionals do consider air-polishing equipment to be too expensive.

 

But this assumption doesn’t consider the return on your investment.

 

Even if you’re paying for a more expensive polisher, your patients will appreciate the results and keep coming back to you as their trusted dentist or dental hygienist.

 

After debunking these myths, we hope that you’re more open to air polishing. It’s an undoubtedly affordable, safe, and effective teeth-cleaning method that will help your patients achieve optimal oral health!

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