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.
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.
This article provides an overview of the role of hygienists in assisting stroke patients with oral hygiene care.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Know the facts on oral cancer. Dental hygienists should be confident in their knowledge and ability to locate, review, and update baseline data.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.