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Treating the 4 Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy

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

What about the dental hygienist?

 

commin dental problems during pregnancy

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

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

Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy

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

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

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

1. Pregnancy Gingivitis

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

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

2. Dental Caries in Pregnancy

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

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

3. Oral Pyogenic Granuloma

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

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

4. Dental Erosion During Pregnancy

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

Assisting Patients with Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy

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

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

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

Celebrating Hygiene Month

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

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

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Why Dental Hygienists Should Perform Extraoral Head and Neck Examinations

Caries. Gingivitis. Ulcerations. Bruxism. These are among the common ailments dental hygienists watch for in every routine dental examination. But there are some areas of inspection many hygienists overlook: namely, the oral structures of the head and neck.

 

Dental professionals, including hygienists, omit conducting an extraoral head and neck examination on patients on a routine basis. However, head and neck examinations can save lives, as they are key to identifying signs of oral cancer.

 

Importance of Extraoral Head and Neck Examinations

When oral cancer is detected and treated in its early stages, the 5-year survival rate is as high as 90%. However, because it often develops without pain or symptoms, patients rarely notice the disease until it has progressed into Stage 2 or beyond.

 

For this reason, dental hygienists and other professionals can greatly improve patient outcomes, or even save lives, by incorporating head and neck examinations as part of routine dental examinations.

 

Dental professionals conduct extraoral head and neck examinations by palpating important structures of the patient’s head and neck to assess and identify abnormal conditions. A thorough examination involves palpation of the jaw joints, parotid salivary glands, thyroid gland, masseter muscles, and various lymph nodes (submental, submandibular, cervical, supraclavicular, occipital, postauricular, and preauricular lymph nodes).

 

It is not necessary to perform these checks in any exact sequence, but the clinician should choose a sequence and apply it consistently to maintain awareness of abnormal versus normal conditions.

A well-practised clinician can complete this examination within four to five minutes.

 

How Dental Hygienists Can Perform Head and Neck Examinations to Improve Patient Outcomes

Unfortunately, many dental hygienists do not conduct thorough  head and neck examinations on patients.

 

The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) identifies various barriers that stand in the way: lack of time, insufficient training or knowledge, concern about client compliance, and lack of guidelines and tools.

 

But the capacity of these exams to improve outcomes for patients is too great to ignore. Dental professionals can potentially detect up to 84% of new oral cancer cases in the critical early stages. And, as demonstrated by an anecdote told by TGNA Clinical Coach and guest columnist Karina Bapoo-Mohamed, these 5-minute examinations can save lives.

 

Bapoo-Mohamed advised her patient to see a doctor ‘sooner than later’ after discovering an abnormality. Within days, the patient was referred for treatment for stage 1 oral cancer.

 

“Everyone that asks how/why I had it checked,” writes the patient, “and all I say is thanks to my Dental Hygienist.”

 

The CDHA sets out the following steps dental hygienists can take to improve their practice when it comes to extraoral head and neck examinations:

  1. Know the facts on oral cancer. Dental hygienists should be confident in their knowledge and ability to locate, review, and update baseline data.
  2. Know the early signs to look for. Perform extraoral head and neck examinations in addition to other routine dental exams. Use this fact sheet from Canadian Dental Association as a starting point for educating yourself on the signs of oral cancer.
  3. Effectively communicate findings to patients. Ensure that patients understand the urgency of identifying and treating a potential case of oral cancer in the early stages.
  4. Refer patients appropriately. Dentists and dental hygienists should establish a process for referring patients who could have oral cancer to a doctor who can conduct a biopsy.
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Dental Office Design

 

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.

 

Dental Office Layout

 

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.

 

Visual Distractions

 

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.

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4 Tips to Prevent Chairside Burnout

 

Everyone has a bad day at work from time to time. But if you find yourself feeling physically, mentally and emotionally drained on a regular basis, you may be on the road to chairside burnout.

 

Chairside Burnout

 

It’s not hard to see why dentistry has one of the highest burnout rates of any profession. While rewarding, the work of a dental hygienist can also be enormously stressful. Hygienists often deal with long hours, tight schedules, and fussy patients in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment. One study found one in eight dental hygienists leaves work feeling emotionally exhausted by the demands of the job.

 

Follow these steps to prevent stress from leading to full-blown chairside burnout.

 

1) Know the Signs

 

Stress is hard to miss, but it’s not always as easy to see a burnout coming. The daily marathon of cleanings and consultations leaves little time to stop and think about yourself. Recognizing the signs of burnout is the first step to preventing it.

 

Burnout is marked by feelings of hopelessness, cynicism, and resentfulness. Once stress takes its toll, a normally-cheerful hygienist may start to become impatient and critical. The job may feel less rewarding or purposeful than it did in the beginning. Enthusiasm is replaced by a lack of energy, leading to less productivity. Some people suffer unexplained headaches or other physical complaints.

 

If you can relate to these signs, take time to gather your thoughts and reflect on your career as a dental hygienist. Try to understand where your negative feelings are coming from. Is it the physical demands of the work? Frustrating office politics? Lack of work-life balance? Like a bad toothache, you can only treat the problem once you’ve found the source of the pain.

 

2) Take Care of Yourself

 

Self-care is important in any career, but especially so for dental hygienists. You must make time in your busy day to do things that help you replenish your emotional energy, like walking the dog, taking a long shower, gardening, or listening to your favourite album. Use this time to focus on the present moment and practice positive thinking.

 

Since being a hygienist is physically demanding, it’s also important to take care of your body. Cardio is proven to help reduce burnout, and light exercise can help reduce the muscle and joint strain. If you’re feeling the burn, ask your doctor about physical therapy or other treatment for work-related injury.

 

3) Maintain a Work-Life Balance

 

Your work as a hygienist is important, but it doesn’t have to define who you are. Don’t fall into the trap of making life all about your job. If you’re constantly thinking about being chairside, even on your days off, you’ll only accelerate the burnout effect on your career.

 

Having things to look forward to outside of work is key to avoiding burnout. It can be something structured, like a college course or a sports league, or a casual hobby like photography. If you’re starting to feel burned out on the job, try something new in your off-time to instill new energy in your life.

 

4) Connect with Other Hygienists

 

It’s said that engagement is the antithesis of burnout, but when you’re having difficulty at work, it’s easy to forget why you pursued this career in the first place. People who experience chairside burnout often lose sight of the things they loved about being a dental hygienist.

 

One of the best ways to stay engaged in your work is to network with other dental hygienists. Your colleagues know the ups and downs of dentistry better than anyone. Sharing stories and advice will help you broaden your knowledge and keep in touch with your passion for dentistry. You can connect with others through online groups and forums, continuing professional development events, and your local hygienist association.

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Fluoride – What You Should Know

 

Almost everyone concerned about the health of their teeth brushes regularly, but they may not know exactly why toothpaste performs the cleansing magic it does. They may not even know they also receive fluoride every day in their community’s drinking water.

 

There are various cleaning components in toothpaste and one of the primary ones is fluoride. The discovery of fluoride's cleaning abilities was a boon in preserving dental health. Toothpaste and tap water then became convenient fluoride delivery systems to aid in the fight against tooth decay.

 

A Natural Cavity Fighter

 

The discovery of fluoride’s ability to keep our teeth healthy dates back to the early 20th century. A pair of dentists in Colorado discovered that people in the area had teeth unusually resistant to decay. This was due to the high degree of natural fluoride deposits in the area, which had found their way into the local drinking water. Fluoride became a regular part of toothpaste beginning in 1914.

 

In the 1940s, a multi-year study began with the goal of determining whether adding fluoride to drinking water made a notable difference for dental health. The results showed a 60-65% decrease in tooth decay in children born after the experiment began. As a result, a number of states in America began water fluoridation programs to improve their citizens’ oral health.

 

How Flouride Works

 

The enamel of your teeth is the natural coating that helps to protect them. When children’s teeth are first forming, fluoride combines with the enamel to help stave off decay during a time of life when teeth are particularly vulnerable to cavities. Fluoride remains valuable throughout the life of your teeth by helping protect them against the ravages of sugar and plaque.

 

Rare Health Risks

 

As mentioned, almost everyone’s teeth come into regular contact with fluoride through exposure to drinking water and toothpaste. There are additional fluoride supplements in the form of drops or tablets, and it is also an ingredient in mouthwash. The degree of fluoride in the latter is quite high, so do not swallow it.

High doses of fluoride in water can be bad for you, but this would require ingesting a volume of water with fluoride going well beyond what the normal person drinks.

 

Excessive fluoride can cause conditions known as dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis. You can only come down with dental fluorosis as a child, as ingesting too much fluoride at a young age can lead to white spots appearing on your permanent teeth. Fortunately, degrees of this condition ranking above very mild are almost non-existent.

 

You can also acquire skeletal fluorosis by taking in too much fluoride. However, you would have to have a very high amount on a daily basis for a very long period. As with dental fluorosis, the odds of contracting this problem are extremely rare.

 

Government oversight helps to ensure the level of fluoride in drinking water does not exceed safe rates. In Ontario, municipalities follow the guidelines laid out in the Safe Drinking Water Act managed by the Ministry of the Environment.

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10 Tips for Oral Health Care

 

Tooth Care

 

You know the basics of oral health care: brush twice a day, floss your teeth, avoid sugary snacks, and visit your dentist at least twice a year. Here are 10 tips for oral health care you may not know (and a good refresher if you do!)

 

1) Brush Smarter

 

Which is better: a humble manual toothbrush or a fancy electric one? They can be equally effective, but what really matters is your brushing technique.

 

Don’t just brush up and down or back and forth. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle and use a gentle, circular motion to clean each surface of the teeth, including the chewing side and the side facing your tongue, for at least two minutes. Brushing harder or faster doesn’t do you any good. In fact, it can actually lead to tooth and gum damage! 

 

2) Don't Forget to Floss

 

People often think flossing is secondary to brushing, but they are both essential to good oral health. If you aren’t flossing, you’re leaving a third of the surface of the teeth unclean.

 

The ideal flossing technique is a forward or backward motion, with the floss forming a curved ‘C’ shape around the tooth. Use a fresh part of the floss for each tooth so you aren’t re-inserting the bacteria you just removed.

 

3) Pay Attention to Sensitive Teeth

 

Sensitivity to heat and cold is a common dental complaint, and it’s often a sign of an underlying issue like tooth decay, gum disease, or tooth grinding. It’s important to find and treat the source of tooth sensitivity, even if the pain is mild. See your dentist at the first signs of sensitive teeth.

 

4) Eat Well and Brush Often

 

You’ve heard it since you were a kid: sugar causes cavities. True, a diet high in sugar can lead to cavities, but the real cause is plaque, produced by bacteria in your mouth that eats the carbohydrates left on teeth after a meal.

 

While sugar is the biggest cavity culprit, even healthy food leads to some plaque formation. This is why you should brush after every meal, not just after dessert, and avoid eating or drinking anything, aside from water, after you have brushed your teeth at night.

 

5) Watch Your Fillings

 

Do you have fillings? If so, you can usually expect them to last for eight to 10 years. However, some fillings break down earlier than that. When a filling starts to chip and break apart, food and bacteria can get caught underneath, causing decay deep in the tooth. Be sure to make a dental appointment if your tooth filling is not holding up.

 

6) Wear a Mouth Guard

 

Mouth guards are standard equipment for contact sports like hockey and football. However, less confrontational sports—such as baseball, skiing, and skateboarding—can also pose a risk of injury to your teeth. Even minor dental injuries can lead to long-term consequences, so a mouth guard is a good investment for anyone who participates in a sport on a regular basis.

 

7) Read the Ingredients on Toothpaste

 

What’s in your toothpaste? Different kinds of toothpaste—those for desensitizing, tartar control, whitening, et cetera—consist of different active ingredients. Understanding how these ingredients work will help you choose the right toothpaste for you. You should always choose a toothpaste containing fluoride, even if your tap water is already fluoridated. 

 

8) Beat Bad Breath

 

There are many possible causes of bad breath, but poor oral hygiene is a common source. When you don’t brush and floss regularly, odor-causing bacteria can accumulate between teeth and in the back of your throat. However, bad breath can also be a sign of a medical problem, so have a dentist rule out any oral hygiene issues first.

 

9) Use Mouthwash as Directed

 

Mouthwash cannot replace proper brushing and flossing, but it can help boost your oral hygiene and control issues like bad breath, plaque, and oral sores. Be sure to read the instructions on the bottle before using it. Depending on the ingredients, the manufacturer may recommend using it either before or after brushing or flossing for the best results.

 

10) Make Regular Dental Appointments

 

Do not wait until you have a problem to see your dentist! Even if your teeth and gums seem fine, the dentist might notice things you can’t feel or see. Scheduling regular dental exams will help you detect and treat cavities, tooth decay, gingivitis, and other oral health issues before they become painful and/or expensive to fix.

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8 Things You’ll Learn About in Dental School

 

Everyone knows dental hygienists clean teeth. But did you know they also examine patients for signs of disease, provide preventative treatment, and educate people on good oral health? Here’s a sneak peek at some of the amazing things you’ll learn in dental school.

 

Practical Skills

 

Dental hygienists do more than just clean teeth. They examine teeth and gums, chart cavities, place brackets and bands, install arch wires, and take a hands-on role in all kinds of dental procedures. These practical skills are the core of any dental hygienist program.

 

Once you have learned the fundamentals, you’ll begin to apply what you have learned in a mock clinical setting until you’re ready to assist with real patients.

 

Tools of the Trade

 

What's the difference between electric and air-driven handpieces? You’ll know soon. Dental hygienists use a wide range of dental equipment and tools, from simple picks and dental mirrors to high-tech equipment like X-ray machines.

Dental school will teach you to pick the best dental tools for the job.

 

Treating Different Patients

 

No two patients are exactly alike. Different people have different needs when it comes to dental care. In dental school, you’ll learn to provide top-notch treatment to people of all ages and backgrounds. Some schools offer courses focusing on the unique needs of people who are elderly, disabled, or have other barriers to receiving dental treatment.  

 

Human Biology

 

Dental hygienists not only learn the ins and outs of oral anatomy, they also acquire in-depth knowledge of the human body in general. They study various aspects of human biology, right down to the microscopic make-up of tissues and the mechanisms of disease.

 

 

Community Health and Advocacy

 

As members of the dental profession, dental hygienists have a platform to advocate on dental health issues in the community. Many dental schools have a course on public health and advocacy, where you learn how to improve access to dental care and spread the word using marketing and mass media.

 

Nutrition

 

Diet plays a huge role in oral health. To help your patients maintain healthy teeth and gums, you must know the science of nutrition. Dental hygienists learn the function of basic nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in the body, along with the impact of nutrition and nutritional deficiencies on oral health. By the time you’re finished dental school, you’ll know more about healthy eating than a dedicated health nut!

 

Communication Skills

 

Do you have good people skills? If so, you’ll have a leg-up in the dental profession. If not, dental school will help you catch up! Dental hygienists often spend more time speaking with patients than dentists do, and they teach patients to maintain and develop good dental habits. With good communication skills, you can help make the dental office experience more comfortable and beneficial to patients.

 

Yourself

 

Dental school is no walk in the park. Mastering the practical skills takes a great deal of physical strength, endurance, and manual dexterity. Your science courses will demand hours of reading and dedicated studying, testing your ability to analyze problems and think critically. However, at the end of this long road lies a career full of potential! Going through the rigors of dental school will help you discover whether the dental profession is right for you, and if so, what role you want to play within it.

 

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Ergonomics in the Dental Office: Helping to Ensure You Remain Healthy and Comfortable

 

There has a lot of news recently about the injuries office workers can face if they do not have the proper ergonomic equipment available to them. Proper chairs, monitor height, and stretching exercises are just a few of the recommendations.

 

However, ergonomics is important in many professions, including dental practices.

 

Patients likely do not realize just how much physical work is involved on a daily basis for hygienists. However, the hygienists themselves soon come to realize the hard way when aches, pains, and nagging discomfort make themselves known.

 

Hygienist Jamie Collins, RDH, CDA, recently wrote about this subject for Dentistry IQ, covering the commonly known ailment nicknamed “hygiene hip.”

 

Aches and Pains

 

For most people, adjustments and medical appointments follow discomfort. Jamie admits this was also the case for her, but points out hygienists should follow the example set by dental schools and practice prevention.

 

After all, once discomfort sets in, it means your body is ailing.

 

Sometimes, these aches and pains indicate that issues are no longer reversible. You don’t want to spend all that time learning your craft only to find yourself in need of a career change because your body is ailing.

 

Hygiene Hip

 

As you likely know from your day-to-day duties, you often must spend time in unnatural positions, particularly if the patient complains about the angle you have them on. This increases your danger of hip injuries, and raises the possibility of upper and lower back, neck, and wrist issues.

 

Musculoskeletal Disorders

 

Have you started to experience problems like this? Chances are, you have.

Jamie points out that 64-93% of dental workers suffer from some kind of work-related Musculoskeletal Disorder. Stiffness, soreness, hip popping; are all signs of MSD, and indicators that you need to make some modifications.

 

Change Your Chair

 

How long have you had your operator chair? It is crucial for your body to have proper positioning throughout the day. If your current chair has become misshapen, or was not the best product to begin with, it is time to invest in a new saddle stool to improve your work posture. If the dentist is not willing to cover the cost, consider digging deep and buying the stool yourself. It beats spending time and money at the chiropractor and many uncomfortable days and nights.

 

Proper magnification and Instrumentation

 

Don’t forget the other equipment you work with. The better the magnification of the oral cavity, the less you have to bend, so consider adding a personal light to your loupes.

 

Practice preventive maintenance with your instruments. Sharp instruments decrease treatment time and physical strain, and a cordless handpiece helps to reduce possible wrist fatigue.

 

Breaks and Exercise

 

Frequent breaks help to prevent muscle fatigue, which leads to poor posture and discomfort. Practice stretching exercises during your shift, and be sure to exercise off the job. Pilates and yoga are very helpful, but Jamie emphasizes the key is to take time for your body and listen to its needs. Being comfortable aids productivity, which improves performance and the quality of care you can provide for your clients.

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Remembering “Just” What a Hygienist Does

 

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.

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4 Behind The Scenes Tasks Dental Hygienists Do

 

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 Hygienist

 

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.

 

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