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How Ultrasonic Scaling Benefits Patients and Dental Hygienists Alike

 

 

Scaling used to be a dental hygienist’s daily grind. But owing to advancements in ultrasonic scaling, the process has become increasingly efficient and effective. Not only is ultrasonic scaling more convenient to the hygienist than scaling with hand instruments, it has numerous benefits to patients’ oral hygiene as well.

 

What is Ultrasonic Scaling?

An ultrasonic scaler is a power-driven scaling device that utilizes ultrasonic vibration to break up hardened calculus deposits on patients’ teeth. The vibration is driven by a generator converts electricity into ultrasonic waves through piezoelectricity or magnetostriction.

 

Once activated, the tip of an ultrasonic scaler oscillates at incredible speeds up to 35,000 cycles per second. The hygienist guides the tip from the coronal to the apical of a tooth, pulverizing calculus so it can be washed away by a coolant spray.

 

Ultrasonic scalers remove plaque through a dual application of mechanical force and cavitation. The vibration of the tip creates pressure waves in the water dispersed as coolant, causing the formation and implosion of atomized gas bubbles. These shockwaves help to disrupt bacterial biofilm and fracture the calculus deposits as they are pounded by mechanical force.

 

The oscillating tip of an ultrasonic scaler is replaceable, with tips of various shapes and diameter available for different purposes. Thicker tips are generally suitable for use with higher power settings to remove heavier calculus deposits, whereas thin tips are used for light calculus or biofilm removal. In any case, hygienists should read the manufacturer’s directions as to a tip’s proper usage.

 

Benefits to Ultrasonic Scaling

Ultrasonic scaling is highly effective in removing subgingival/supragingival calculus from teeth without damaging roots or gum tissue. Other benefits to ultrasonic scaling include:

  • Using an ultrasonic scaler, hygienists can remove calculus from pockets between teeth and gums at probing depths that are unreachable with hand tools (4mm or greater.)
  • Ultrasonic scalers have replaceable, specially-designed tips that can penetrate difficult nooks and corners.
  • Since there are no sharp cutting edges and no ‘scraping’ sound, many patients find ultrasonic scaling is more comfortable than scaling with hand dental instruments.
  • Scaling using an ultrasonic scaler is faster than hand scaling, allowing more time for the hygienist to speak to and educate the patient at the end of the appointment.
  • Ultrasonic scaling is more ergonomically sound, as its power-driven vibration replaces the need to exert lateral pressure on the instrument to remove plaque.

These benefits have made ultrasonic systems like the Cavitron-Compatible Autoscaler the method of choice for many dental practices, replacing other methods power-driven scaling.

 

However, ultrasonic scalers are not suitable for all patients. Notably, ultrasonic scaling should never be used on or near a person with a cardiac pacemaker. Additionally, some patients are apprehensive of power-driven scalers and prefer that their hygienist provide scaling using hand instruments.  

 

Ultrasonic Scaling Technologies: Magnetostrictive vs. Piezoelectric Scalers

Ultrasonic scalers are driven by one of two types of generators: magnetostrictive or piezoelectric. Both can be effective, but there is a learning curve associated with each.

 

A piezoelectric ultrasonic scaler uses transducers to convert electricity into mechanical energy using materials like quartz crystals. The device sends electrical energy to ‘activate’ the material within the handpiece and vibrate the instrument tip at 28,000 to 35,000 cycles per second. The tip vibrates in a back-and-forth motion and only the lateral sides are active.

 

Magnetostrictive ultrasonic scalers like the Autoscaler generate vibratory motion by transferring electrical energy to metal components in the handpiece. The tip operates in an elliptical motion at 25,000 to 30,000 cycles per second. Unlike piezoelectric scalers, all sides of the tip (lateral, face and back) are active in a magnetostrictive device.

 

Questions? For more information about ultrasonic scaling or Sable’s Cavitron Compatible Autoscaler, contact our team of dental experts. We’re always happy to help!

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3 Steps to Handling the Unhappy Denture Patient

 

Patient satisfaction is key to the success of any dental practice.

 

As a dental professional you will do whatever you can to ensure your dental patients are happy, comfortable and pain-free. You know that a dental patient who has a positive experience will keep returning and refer your services to their friends.

 

No matter how well you have prepared them, at one time or another you may have to deal with an unhappy denture patient. A denture patient will have a unique range of concerns over the procedure involved in getting dentures to replace their teeth. Educating your denture patient on what the procedure entails prior to treatment will help to alleviate their concerns. It’s essential to communicate effectively to your patients and manage their expectations.

 

Documentation is important and must be kept with the patient’s records. Dentists should follow the rule that if it’s not documented, it did not occur.

 

Follow these 3 steps to manage a patient that is having trouble adjusting to new dentures.

 

  1. Listen

    • The first and most important thing you can do is listen to your patient. Be sensitive and remain calm while you try to understand the cause of any discomfort or pain.

    • If dentures are new, there is a transition period in adjusting to them. It’s only natural that replacing teeth with false teeth, or dentures can take time to get used to.

    • If the patient is suggesting you did a bad job, and is questioning your professionalism, resist the urge to get angry, and keep your emotions in check.

  2. Assure

    • Assure your patient that new dentures need not be uncomfortable. Make sure they understand that you have their well-being at heart. Identify the problem and suggest possible solutions. Make sure your patient has been given all the necessary information on the proper care and handling of dentures.
  3. Advise

    • Discuss the possible actions that you could take to help your patient. Most unhappy denture patients just want you to solve their problem. Some may push you to waive all or part of your fee. Others may request procedure changes or other concessions. Remember your end goal of a happy patient!

Common complaints from new denture wearers are:

 

Sore Gums

Gum tissues are initially soft and need to time to heal. Gums will become smoother and firmer over time. Gums will continue to shrink and change, and they may need readjusting.

 
Gagging

Gagging can be caused by a few reasons. Dentures may be too loose and move around, or they may be too large, touching the back of the throat. In some cases, a denture adhesive may help. In others, dentures may need to be relined or even remade. A soft lining material can be added to fill up space. This might have to be repeated every three to six weeks until your patient has completely healed, after which final adjustments can be made.

 

Sore spots

Sore spots can be eliminated by grinding down pressure points inside the denture.

 

Dentures Don’t Fit

Over time bones and gums can change and dentures won’t fit as well. A replacement set or modifications can be made.

 

Mouth Infections

Some people who wear dentures get mouth infections such as cheilitis. Cheilitis is a painful infection caused by the overgrowth of yeast, that causes cracking at the corners of the mouth. Stomatitis is also caused by too much yeast and causes small red bumps on the roof of the mouth. Both can be treated with medicine and proper fitting dentures.

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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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