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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
When dentists place new amalgam fillings or remove old ones, water containing amalgam particles is flushed into chair-side drains. These mercury-containing particles then enter the wastewater disposal system and water treatment plants. From there, the amalgam particles may be incinerated, land-filled, or made into fertilizer pellets for lawns or gardens. In each case, mercury from amalgam fillings is discharged into the environment, where it may bioaccumulate in fish and contaminate the food chain.
To summarize, dental offices that work with amalgam fillings (including “mercury-free” practices that only remove them) flush amalgam particles containing mercury down the drain and into the wastewater system. These particles ultimately become environmental pollutants.
The regulation applies to most dental practices that discharge waste into a public sewer or wastewater system. The basic requirements are:
Using amalgam separators (or equivalent devices) to remove dental amalgam solids from all amalgam process wastewater;
Implementing best management practices;
Complying with reporting requirements; and
Maintaining certain records documenting compliance.
Practices have until July 2020 to comply.
What Are Amalgam Separators?
An amalgam separator is a device installed on a dental vacuum line to filter out mercury and other particles from water waste before they enter the sewer system. The captured mercury can then be recycled to industry or safely disposed of.
Traditionally, dental practices used chair-side traps and vacuum filters to capture amalgam waste; however, the ADA estimates that 6.5 tons of mercury bypass these filters annually.
In addition to reducing environmental pollution, using an amalgam separator can help to extend the life of vacuum pumps by preventing solid particles from entering and damaging the pump.
To comply with EPA regulation, an amalgam separator must be ISO 11143:2008-certified to remove greater than 95% of solids by weight. Most amalgam separators on the North American market meet this standard.
Dental x-rays are an important diagnostic tool. They reveal oral health issues that could otherwise go unnoticed: areas of decay, bone loss, abscesses, tumours, and conditions of the root canal. Unfortunately, some people are wary of dental x-rays, dental practitioners aren’t always sure how to ease their concerns.
These tips can help you educate patients on the significant benefits and minimal risks associated with dental x-rays so they can make a well-informed decision about their care.
Do Dental X-Rays Cause Thyroid Cancer?
If you’ve worked as a dentist or dental hygienist in the last few years, you’ve probably heard it before:
Are dental x-rays safe? Can they cause thyroid cancer?
According to an article in Today’s RDH, much of the fear surrounding dental x-rays originates from a talk show several years ago. The show presented a link between the radiation from dental x-rays and thyroid cancer. Video clips shared widely through email and social media sites, sparking an increase in patients refusing x-rays out of concern for their health.
Regardless, this trend is a challenge to dental practitioners. The public is not well-informed about radiation, and not all practitioners are prepared to address their concerns. The absence of x-ray images can make it difficult to effectively diagnose and treat patients.
However, with the right approach and a bit of patience, many dentists and dental hygienists can help patients understand that dental x-rays are safe.
1. Have Empathy
For many patients, visiting the dentist is unpleasant to begin with. The added uncertainty surrounding radiation can make the experience more frightening.
Your patience and empathy can make a world of difference in this circumstance. As always, it’s crucial to communicate openly with the patient and take time to explain things in a way they understand.
2. Respect Different Backgrounds and Beliefs
Understand that dental x-rays are not common everywhere in the world. Newcomers, along with older adults who have little experience with the dentist, may not be familiar with dental x-rays.
Acknowledge that you may have to take a different approach with patients of differing cultural backgrounds. It may help to have an interpreter explain the process to them.
3. Explain the Precautions Taken
Take time to assure your patients that you and your staff take measures to ensure that dental x-rays are as safe as possible. Explain the purpose of a lead apron, lead thyroid collar, and the ALARA principle for radiation exposure.
4. Compare Dental X-Rays to Other Radiation Sources
The average American receives about 620 mrem of radiation each year, half of which comes from natural background radiation. The radiation ‘dosage’ associated with dental x-rays is just 0.005 mSv, less than a single day’s worth of background exposure.
Making this comparison can help patients understand that dental x-rays are not something to fear. However, the information should be delivered with empathy and not to belittle the patient’s concerns.
There are many ways to boost patient satisfaction in your dental practice. Clear communication, good time management, friendliness, efficiency, and empathy are significant factors in a patient’s overall expectations of their dental experience.
But according to the Canadian Dental Association, one quality stands out above the rest: confidence.
A dental practitioner’s confidence, and the ways in which they demonstrate it, ranks as the #1 influencer on how patients perceive their quality of care, according to the latest Canadian Dental Association survey.
Why? Confident people attract positive attention — no secret there. It’s natural to be attracted to people with high self-esteem, whose confidence shines through their charisma, appearance, speaking, writing, and listening skills. Confidence is a sign of competence, not arrogance, in the dental practice.
To promote and maintain patient satisfaction, professional dental care providers need to keep confidence at an optimum level to ensure ongoing quality of care. Below, we’ll discuss some of the ways to grow and maintain that confidence in your practice.
Ways to Be Confident and Boost Patient Satisfaction
A person’s levels of confidence can swing up and down due to positive or negative experiences, and criticisms. We are most confident when we are performing routine and familiar tasks.
Here are ways to show your confidence as a dental practitioner or hygienist:
Be optimistic. Think positively. While it may sound cliché, there are tangible and proven benefits to adopting an air of optimism, and your positive outlook will rub off on your patients.
Focus on the present. What do you want to accomplish today? Don’t dwell on the past. Once you have acknowledged your mistakes, learn to accept them and move forward.
Accept compliments graciously. Say thank you. What may seem like minor work to you can have a profoundly positive impact on your patients’ lives, so you should always be open to their praises.
Face your fears. When you have a busy day ahead, tackle the tasks you like least first. You will face the remainder with the confidence of knowing the worst is over.
Break down large tasks into smaller sub-tasks. Knowing how to prioritize your to-dos is key to ensuring you accomplish your daily goals.
Learn and research new skills and technology. The world of dentistry is continuously advancing, and being prepared will help you keep a competitive edge.
Recognize your strengths and achievements. You have come a long way to get where you are. Remember to celebrate successes.
Manage stress. Don’t let your own wellness get lost in the daily grind. Develop effective coping strategies, and take moments to just breathe throughout your day.
Smile. Learn to laugh at yourself. Take pleasure in your daily tasks.
Believe in yourself and your team. Positive reinforcement will help everyone in the practice grow their confidence and boost patient satisfaction.
With more and more people making an effort to be informed on the chemicals and materials they’re exposed to every day, many dentists are looking to reduce the number of chemicals used in their practices.
Proper cleaning and disinfection in a dental office is a legitimate concern. After all, if disinfection isn’t done properly, a patient could be harmed. Everyone in the practice is responsible for ensuring the safety of all patients that walk through its doors.
The best way to avoid making a patient sick is to make sure that any sources of infection are properly contained. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to hear that evacuation systems aren’t cleaned daily—or aren’t properly disinfected when they are cleaned.
Reasons for the lapse in cleanliness could partly be due to the work involved, but also the perceived dangers of the continuous use of chemicals every time the system is cleaned. Over the past three decades, newer and stronger chemicals have been introduced to keep surfaces, water lines, and evacuation systems clean and sterile. However, the number of chemicals can also create issues, and many are harmful on their own.
The alternative is microbiological cleaners. But what are they, and how do they work?
It was over 150 years ago that doctors figured out washing their hands before surgery drastically reduced the patient’s risk of infection. This jumpstarted the field of microbiology, or the study of microscopic organisms.
Once we started looking, we discovered bacteria everywhere.
It’s estimated that there are more bacterial cells in a human body than there are cells that make up that whole person. The sheer number of microbial organisms that constantly surround us is staggering, which is why it’s so hard to create sterile environments. We need to use intense stressors like temperature, pressure, or chemicals to eliminate microbial growth.
We simply must accept that we are, and always will be, swimming in a sea of bacteria. The good news is, though, that the clear majority of bacteria won’t make you sick. Most bacteria really do not affect us. In fact, there are plenty of microbes that actually keep us healthy. Your gut, for example, is chock full of bacteria that is helping you to remain healthy and digest your food.
The good bacteria in your gut also keeps dangerous, harmful bacteria at bay. It’s this same principle that makes microbial disinfection such a good alternative.
As an alternative to chemicals, disinfection can be done using microbial cleaning products. These products seed and jumpstart the growth of “good bugs.”
These good bugs not only help to kill harmful ones, but they also work to keep the bad bugs away. This is one clear advantage to chemical sterilization—the harmful bacteria is kept at bay for longer.
Products like Bio-Pure can keep an evacuation system clean of harmful bacteria on a continuous basis. It does this by introducing a cleaning microbe into the system. Microbial growth is exponential, which means one microbe can quickly become 10,000,000. This army of good bacteria cleans out all other microbes and creates a barrier against bad bugs.
Short of cleaning out the system before and after each use, Bio-Pure is the most effective way to keep a system clean and safe at all times. Plus, there’s no need for harmful chemicals.
When concentrating on efficiency and making the best use of the available space, it can be easy to forget a dental office also must provide the right atmosphere for clients. Although many dental practitioners have done their best to reduce anxiety for clients, Ondontophobia is still all too real for many people.
While some of these individuals require therapy to manage this issue, practitioners can still do their part to reduce anxiety experienced by anyone dreading a trip to the dentist. A great way to start is by reducing a client’s apprehension before they sit in the examination chair.
Here are some things to keep in mind for dental office design that will help to generate an inviting, relaxed atmosphere for your patients.
In the old days, dental offices often had a tropical fish tank in the waiting room. These provided a gentle distraction for patients, particularly children. Many still do, but now many offices are also installing televisions.
These generally play programs and movies without the sound, but with closed captions activated so interested viewers can follow what is happening.
A TV can provide a relaxing diversion, but you need to be careful about what is on. Violent shows or ones that are particularly suspenseful will be counterproductive, as will news channels on days when the reporting is particularly negative.
Soothing Colours and Artwork
Personal preference always plays a big role when choosing colours for an office, but here are some suggestions to consider. When choosing your colour scheme, aim for hues that induce a sense of tranquility and do not have any hint of threat.
Colours able to bring about a calming energy include those people commonly enjoy in nature, such as sky blue, green/sage, and tan/brown.
White suggests cleanliness and reminds some of anti-septic, but can be triggering for some due to its hospital connotations.
Bright colours, while attractive, can actually put people on edge (red is particularly strong in this regard), so try to stay away from them.
Do not choose only a single colour; pick a main one as well as another that provides a notable contrast, but not too harsh (e.g. a darker and lighter version of the same hue). Solicit opinions from your staff, and ask what they would prefer for areas only they will use.
Artwork can also provide both decoration and visual interest. Be sure to choose art the average person can easily relate to and does not include an abundance of off-putting shades.
Plants and Furniture
Plants will help to reinforce the natural theme and suggest that your practice is a healthy and vibrant place. Be sure to regularly water and maintain them so wilted, dying leaves are never apparent. If it is apparent that everyone on staff is too busy to ensure this happens, hire an outside company to do it.
Choose chairs that look and feel comfortable, but can also hold up well to steady traffic and children. Side tables should be big enough to accommodate patient’s incidentals, but not take up so much space that it becomes awkward to move around.
Include magazine and brochure racks for those who would prefer to read.
Provide a View
If building design permits, and you are lucky enough to be in a picturesque area, provide a window view in the waiting and exam rooms.
This offers another healthy and natural way for patients to get their minds off their procedures, both before and during the process.
It's human nature to concentrate on the main details of a situation. For example, if you were going in for an open-heart procedure, you would likely concern yourself with the surgeon’s track record. This particular specialist is the main part of the operation, but they receive assistance from other highly qualified professionals.
If you a love a movie, you make a point of remembering the director’s name, but not necessarily the editor or key grip, both of whom are likely also exceptional at their jobs. Let’s face it, there are very few specialists who work entirely alone, but it is often customary for the world to have only one person take a bow.
Veteran dental hygienist Candice Feagle attended a function awhile back and when mentioning what she did for a living, the person she spoke to replied, “Oh, you’re just a hygienist.” Most of us take pride in what we do and it was understandable that Candice had a negative reaction, though she kept it to herself. It wasn’t the first time this had happened to her or other people in this profession.
However, after mulling it over the next day, she decided to write about the incident for Dentistry IQ.
Not "Just" Collecting a Paycheck
The vast majority of dental hygienists worked hard to earn their certification, and continue to enhance their knowledge by taking advantage of related learning opportunities.
"Oh, you're just a hygienist"
Like any profession, some hygienists are content with their current routine, but there is room to grow in this role. Candace felt at several points that she was indeed “just” a hygienist, which prompted her to expand her career possibilities. Most recently, Candace chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in allied dental health, allowing her to experience the nonclinical side of the profession, an aspect many patients do not realize exists.
Not "Just" Cleaning Teeth
The average client probably doesn’t realize how much their hygienist does for them. Is it the dentist who reviews their medical history with them and goes out of their way to help ease their anxiety? Does the dentist perform oral cancer screenings, sterilize the equipment, conduct fluoride treatments, take blood pressure, or do periodontal charting?
They can, but in the vast majority of cases, the hygienist performs these as well as other key aspects of a dental appointment.
As Candace also points out in the article, motivated hygienists can go on to become public health professionals, researchers, administrators, entrepreneurs…you name it!
Not every job will make you a millionaire or put your name up in lights. Sometimes the greatest satisfaction comes from knowing you are making an important contribution to a person’s health and well-being.
“Having been in the dental profession for the last 26 years, I can honestly say I love my profession...I know the varied abilities and diverse opportunities being a hygienist represents.”
The pride Candice expresses in that statement makes it clear she knows the value of what she does. And that’s just fine with her.
When you visit your dentist’s office, you expect one of the dental hygienists to greet you in the waiting area and bring you to the exam room. It is customary for them to make conversation with you, floss your teeth, conduct a dental cleaning, and then call in the dentist.
Dental hygienists spend a large portion of their workdays in front of patients, primarily cleaning, polishing, and scaling the patient’s teeth. Most people, if asked what dental hygienists do all day, will likely give that as a response. However, there are also some tasks they perform either completely behind the scenes or some that patients simply do not notice during their appointment. Keep reading for the reveal of the four most significant behind the scenes tasks dental hygienists perform during their daily duties.
Checking Facial Expressions
When the dentist is checking your teeth, they are wearing what is essentially a powerful magnifying glass on their eyes. This allows them to really look closely at your teeth and determine things such as cavities, signs of gum disease, et cetera. However, it also prevents them from really seeing your face and facial expressions, which makes them blind to any winces and other signs of discomfort. In many instances, the dental hygienists often observe the patient’s facial expressions in order to determine if everything is going well. Patients are often too preoccupied to notice dental hygienists commonly do this.
Stocking the Office
Every dental office needs a vast array of supplies, including surgical masks, protective gloves, glasses, and the tools used to perform cleanings, suction, et cetera. How do all these supplies and equipment stay in the required quantities at the dental office? This duty often falls to dental hygienists, who stock up the exam rooms and office as a whole when they are not working directly with a patient.
Cleaning the Exam Room
It is necessary to clean exam rooms and sanitize all the tools before a new patient enters for their dental appointment. After all, a dental office is a medical environment. So who cleans the exam rooms in between patients? This is where the dental hygienists come in. In many instances, they have their own exam room for patients, which they will clean and sanitize before bringing another patient back. This usually includes cleaning the chair and the glasses used, plus disinfecting the dental tools (or replacing them with new ones while they undergo additional cleaning).
Reviewing History and Charts
Your primary doctor will often rely on your medical record, which includes notes from past appointments as well as details on any vaccinations you may have received. Your tooth records are just as important to a dentist. In fact, you may actually need to provide information from your overall medical history to the dentist and dental hygienist. Such information can include any medication you might be taking, surgeries you have had, allergies, et cetera. The task of reviewing and updating patient history and charts, including ensuring updated x-rays are in the file, almost always falls to the dental hygienists.