Tough times come and go, and one of the challenges is we never know exactly when they will strike. It could be a national emergency like COVID-19, a tragedy in your town, or even a personal setback.
In any case, these kinds of events can exacerbate what is already one of the biggest challenges in the dental profession: burnout.
Dentists, hygienists and other dental professionals report a very high incidence of stress and burnout, with concerns ranging from litigation to regulation to maintaining high standards of patient care.
What does burnout look like, and how can you avoid it in these difficult times? Below, we’ll help you recognize the warning signs and outline ways to build your resilience – whether times are good, bad, or somewhere in between!
What is ‘Burnout’ in the Dental Profession?
Burnout is a state of overall exhaustion that affects your mind, emotions, and body, caused by exposure to prolonged and excessive stress.
When you’re going through a personal struggle or affected by an event like COVID-19, there will always be times of greater stress in your life. Add that to the day-to-day challenges of managing your business and career… it’s easy to see how these forces combine into a recipe for burnout.
Burnout can stem from anything in your life that causes long-term stress. Living through a long, stressful period in your practice, whether your business is struggling to survive or overloaded with patients, is a common cause. Even if you don’t own the clinic directly, the strain from these types of situations can get to you – in fact, dental assistants show higher burnout scores in studies than other staff.
What Burnout Looks Like
Burnout makes every day feel like a bad day. It often feels like you have lost your passion for everything, and work that used to excite and challenge you suddenly seems dull and pointless. You may feel like nothing you do makes a difference, even when it does.
The main difference between ordinary stress and burnout is that burnout is a chronic condition. While stress is temporary, burnout is constant. When you’re experiencing stress, cynicism, exhaustion and frustration day in and day out, you could be experiencing dental burnout.
Everyone reacts differently to prolonged stress, so burnout won’t look the same in each person. It’s important not to discount your burnout simply because it looks different than someone else’s.
Physical illness, including headaches or digestive issues
Feeling exhausted no matter how much you sleep
Overall disengagement with work and your personal life
Once you’ve hit burnout, you may need professional help to recover. Don’t be shy about looking for a therapist, counsellor, psychiatrist or another mental health professional to help you get back on your feet.
How to Be Resilient and Avoid Burnout
The key to avoiding dental burnout is to prioritize your own needs. That can be very hard for dentists and hygienists, who feel they have such a strong obligation to others’ needs.
Because dentistry is a caregiving profession, it’s easy to get so focused on taking care of your patients and others in your life that you forget to nurture yourself. This is especially true if you spend a lot of time with patients, hearing their stories and sharing in their challenges.
However, you can’t give back when you’re pushed up against the wall. Taking care of yourself is how you maintain your ability to care for others.
Chances are you’re familiar with the notion of “self-care”, but many people are mistaken thinking it’s all about pampering yourself. Self-care goes far deeper than that. Pampering is great, but you need to take other steps as well!
Here are some ways to care for yourself:
Calm your mind with meditation or other mindfulness practices
Eat healthy meals that provide you with the energy you need
Furthermore, since you spend practically all day helping people, you’re dealing with prolonged exposure to physical and psychological stress. Chairside burnout is a genuine and problematic issue for many hygienists.
Taking care of yourself as a dental professional is a must! Here, we’ll discuss 7 tips that’ll help you perform at your best on the job without compromising your physical or mental health.
1. Focus on Ergonomics
In short, ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. Really, the idea is for you to be honed in to your own posture and position.
One example of an effective ergonomic measure is using anatomical or “handed” gloves instead of ambidextrous gloves (which put up to 33% more pressure on the thumbs and fingers). Also, remember to stretch regularly throughout the day!
2. Practicing Yoga
Since you’re a hygienist, you must find the balance between physicality and mentality. And breathing techniques employed in yoga can be that centring factor.
Yoga’s focus on breathing and posture helps combat the various musculoskeletal issues and burnout you might face.
Having first been used in Japan in the 1970s, cryotherapy exposes the body to a -100°C temperature for around one to four minutes. Cryotherapy chambers can be entire rooms or structures that resemble barrels that expose you, neck-down, to the liquid nitrogen.
There is an array of studies and scientific evidence that prove the value of these treatments. Namely, for dental hygienists, cryotherapy helps treat musculoskeletal pain and related ailments.
4. Visiting the Chiropractor
Chiropractors use a holistic approach to treating musculoskeletal disorders. Primarily, such treatments center around proper spine alignment. With the adjustments provided, chiropractic professionals believe that healing is enabled without the need for surgery or pharmaceuticals.
There is a wealth of techniques and methods of treatments, such as manual-diversified techniques. All chiropractors are different, so treatment lengths differ depending on their philosophy.
5. Treat Yourself to a Massage
While the title of this section suggests that massages are something of a treat, in your profession, they’re a necessity for keeping happy and healthy!
In utilizing rhythmical pressure and stroking, massage therapists help prevent, develop, maintain, rehabilitate and augment physical function while relieving pain.
Now, the benefits of massages can be short term, but they do improve lymph flow and prevent fibrosis, for instance. Also, they increase serotonin levels and provide endorphins, which helps with the anxiety and stress you may feel on the job.
6. Stick to Acupuncture
Not only does acupuncture have proven results, it’s specifically been useful for dental hygienists who’ve been suffering from musculoskeletal disorders.
This form of treatment theorizes that an imbalance in the body’s energy flow (or chi/qi) causes illness. This flow of energy is accessible through around 350 points on the body where thin needles are inserted to restore balance and harmony.
7. Take Time to Meditate
It’s believed by many that meditative practices play a big part in improving psychological, neurological, and cardiovascular function.
Best of all? There’s no gym membership or meditation guru needed. All you have to do is sit upright and still while focusing your attention on something like breathing.
With these 7 methods of self-care, you’ll feel happier and healthier in your dental practice!
Are you experiencing discomfort in your back molars or your gums at the back of your mouth? Do you have trouble opening and closing your jaws, bad breath or a low-grade fever? You may need a wisdom tooth extraction to remove an impacted third molar and prevent further discomfort and infection. Before you have your tooth removed, there are some critical facts you need to know about wisdom tooth extraction and the alternatives.
Alternatives to Wisdom Tooth Removal
Extraction is often recommended for wisdom teeth as a preventative measure to minimize misalignment, eliminate overcrowding, or when the tooth is infected. However, in some cases, you may not need to have your wisdom teeth removed.
A coronectomy is an alternative to wisdom tooth extraction and is recommended for patients when the wisdom tooth is impacted and presses on the lingual nerve or inferior alveolar nerve. These nerves control the sensation in your tongue, lips, and chin and can affect speech and chewing.
A coronectomy removes the crown of the tooth, leaving the roots in place. If the wisdom tooth root is not infected, a coronectomy may be an ideal alternative to wisdom tooth removal.
An operculectomy removes the gum tissue that can develop over a partially erupted wisdom tooth. Debris and bacteria can get caught in this tissue, causing painful infections and inflammation. Removal of the operculum reduces the risk of bacteria build-up and may prevent the need for a wisdom tooth extraction.
Bring a Chaperone to Your Appointment
Whether you have a wisdom tooth removal, operculectomy or coronectomy, your dentist will still administer anesthesia to make you more comfortable during the procedure. In most cases, the site will be numbed using a local anesthetic. However, for complex wisdom tooth extractions or if you suffer from dental anxiety, you may need to be sedated.
The side effects of sedation can take some time to wear off, so it is essential to bring someone along with you to drive you home after the procedure.
Rest with Your Head Raised
Your body’s natural reaction to tooth extraction is inflammation and swelling. However, uncontrolled swelling can lead to infection. To keep the swelling under control, rest with your head slightly elevated to drain fluid away from the area. You can also apply cold compresses to the side of your face and take over the counter anti-inflammatory medication.
Skip the Toothbrush
Avoiding brushing isn’t advice that you’ll usually hear from your dentist; however, you need to avoid using your toothbrush near the extraction site for the first 24 hours after surgery.
Also avoid spitting and rinsing, as well as drinking through a straw. The reason for this is that the blood vessels inside the empty tooth socket form a clot that seals the socket and prevents infection.
If the clot becomes dislodged, you are at risk of developing a condition called dry socket where the nerves of the tooth are exposed.
Stock Up on Soft Foods
Hard and chewy foods can aggravate the wound site, causing discomfort. Some nutritious foods for post-surgery recovery include yogurt, oatmeal, fruit and vegetable purees, eggs, and smoothies. Cold and tepid foods can also help to alleviate post-surgery swelling.
Bleeding Is Normal After Surgery
Although you may have stitches in the tooth socket, it is normal to experience some bleeding after surgery. Your dentist packs the empty socket with gauze which you should hold firmly in place for 30 minutes. Repeat until the bleeding abates. If the bleeding is excessive, call your dentist immediately.
Symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore include fever, numbness, increased swelling, pus from the wound or nose, and trouble swallowing or breathing. Any of these symptoms could indicate infection or nerve damage and need to be assessed by your dentist immediately.
Keep Your Wound Clean
There are several ways you can keep your mouth clean and hygienic. Rinsing with a saltwater solution helps to eliminate bacteria, clear debris from around the extraction site, and reduce discomfort after surgery.
Combine one cup of warm water with ½ a teaspoon of salt and gently swish the solution around your mouth for 20-30 seconds. Instead of spitting out the rinse, tip your head over the sink and open your mouth to expel the water gently.
Wisdom tooth extraction is a standard procedure to prevent impacted wisdom teeth from affecting your remaining teeth and jawbone. However, it isn’t always necessary to have your tooth extracted.
Dr. Fadi Swaida first graduated from the University of Western Ontario with an Honors BSc in Biology before graduating from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Dentistry. He is an active member of his church and enjoys football and being by the water! His outgoing personality and fun-loving character will ensure you always feel welcome at Dentist North York.
Recently, writers at Today’s RDH posed its readers a rather thoughtful question:
How do you, as a dental hygienist, define ambition?
A total of 82 dental hygienists, young and old, shared their answers. And it probably won’t surprise you to learn that every one of them had a slightly different approach!
Many of the people surveyed equated ambition to career growth, and outlined what they planned to move forward: sharpening their skills, furthering their education and so on.
Some thought back to the reasons why they entered the profession in the first place, while others took “ambition” to mean broadening their role as a hygienist.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this survey is the desire dental hygienists have to do more. The responses paint a colourful picture of all the ways this career can evolve.
In the spirit of the new decade, let’s celebrate a few of the ways our fellow dental hygienists have defined their ambition in 2020 and beyond!
1. Focusing on Preventative Dental Care
“My ambition is to bring the public forward in knowledge of what a dental hygienist is and start having people get healthy. Change the model of dental health from restoring and treating disease to prevention.”
Bit by bit, the model of dental health is evolving from a restorative approach to a preventive one. And no one is in a better position to champion this shift than dental hygienists! Since you work closely with patients even before they require treatment, you’re in the perfect place to impart advice that can benefit their oral health for years to come.
2. Deeper Role in Day-to-Day Operations
“Ambition is the continuation of advancement, whether in the continued pursuit of clinical excellence or transitioning into different aspects of patient care.”
“Looking beyond the dentition to the entirety of the head and neck and oral/oropharyngeal cavity. Embracing all there is to know about not just the oral-systemic link, also the cancers of the head and neck oral and Oropharynx, and our role in each area.”
“Ambition would be to work on legislation to advance a dental hygienist to a position like a PA. Not necessarily the dental therapist model but very close.”
Do you dream of one day being able to practice hygiene independently? Wish you could apply your knowledge of dental care delivery in a senior role? Well, you’re far from alone in that! In fact, there are scores of dental hygienists out there hoping to expand our opportunities outside of the operatory.
Hygienists are increasingly seizing the chance to lead initiatives, manage teams, and advising policy. There are more non-traditional career opportunities for hygienists in healthcare, management and sales than ever before! What’s more, some hygienists, like the individual quoted above, are also advocating for a broader clinical scope of practice ‒ perhaps along the lines of a dental therapist.
5. Mastering the Art and Science of Hygiene
“My definition of ambition in the dental hygiene profession is someone who does their best work on each and every patient.”
It’s an exciting time to be a registered dental hygienist. As the scope of practice continues to expand, so too will the career opportunities...but only for those who are prepared to take them!
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or well along the path, it’s never too late to refine your knowledge, improve your skills, and continue your hygiene education.
You know it just as well as I ‒ dental hygienists provide pivotal, foundational services that keep a dental practice thriving. We work hard every day to make a difference in the lives of our patients and work functionally alongside dentists and other dental professionals.
In some ways, you could say that we’re the face of the dental field.
So, do we deserve a raise?
Not sure where to start or how to approach your boss about asking for a pay raise? Below, I’ve listed a few suggestions that I’ve picked up over the years from other veteran hygienists. All of these will help you to put your best foot forward when it’s time to have that all-important conversation!
1. Understand Your Contributions
Blindly asking for a raise won’t get you far, but conducting a thorough “self-review” before requesting a meeting with your boss will help you build a foundation for a powerful argument.
As hygienists, we spend our days caring for each of our patients while assuaging their fears, guiding them toward better oral health, and ensuring that their experience in the dental chair is a positive one. With all this in mind, it’s easy to forget that our practices are businesses, too!
Examine how you contribute to the overall functioning of the practice as a business, and use these facts to defend your request for a pay raise.
2. Back Yourself Up
Never underestimate the power of backing up your request with the facts.
Document your increase in production, list the ways that you’ve improved your place of employment, include patient reviews that you’ve collected during your self-review, and let your boss know whether you’re responsible for an increase in returning patients.
When scheduling your meeting, avoid late afternoon or after-work hours.
At the end of the day, both you and your boss are likely to be tired (and maybe even a tad cranky). Not only does this mean you won’t perform at your best, but your request may more easily be shrugged off or flat-out denied. Instead, try for a lunch meeting.
Also, consider aligning this conversation with annual reviews or your anniversary as an employee, but don’t ask for a raise if your office has just invested in some new, expensive equipment! If this is the case, wait a bit.
4. Have Some Numbers in Mind
Your boss is likely to be more responsive to your request for a raise if you’ve already considered the increase you’re looking for.
Don’t put them in a difficult spot by requesting a raise and leaving the numbers completely up to them. Instead, requesting a specific increase will not only move the process along more smoothly but also open the door for further discussion and negotiation.
Balance is key here. By asking for too much, you risk appearing self-important and unprofessionally unrealistic. However, don’t ask for so little that you’re not fighting for what you deserve!
There’s a lot to be said for an attitude that’s balanced with both confidence and humility.
While it’s important to assert your self-worth, dedicate part of your meeting to emphasize how grateful you are for the opportunities you’ve received as part of the practice. Let your boss know that you’re always looking for ways to give back and make the office a better place.
You’re asking for the practice to value you, so be sure that you value the practice right back!
6. Prepare for Possible Outcomes
In a perfect world, your conscientious request for a raise would be honoured without question.
In reality, however, the results of your meeting may not be so simple. Regardless of whether or not you deserve a raise and regardless of how thoroughly you’ve proved your worth to your boss, your request may be declined simply because the office is financially unable to honour your request. This does not mean that your boss doesn’t value your contributions!
If you’re denied a raise, you may consider negotiating some non-financial benefits such as equipment upgrades, commute reimbursement, or vacation pay.
Above all, remain professional throughout this process; no matter the outcome, take pride in yourself and in your work. If at first you don’t succeed, wait several months and try again!
Geographic tongue, an inflammatory condition in which red, smooth patches without papillae appear on the surface of the tongue, is generally harmless. However, the pattern of these red patches (often called “islands”) may appear dramatically “geographic” in some patients and cause cosmetic concern. Often, these smooth, red patches will also migrate across the tongue, hence geographic tongue’s other name—benign migratory glossitis.
That said, let’s dive into how you might diagnose geographic tongue, some symptoms to be aware of, and the available treatment options.
Symptoms of Geographic Tongue
In most cases, geographic tongue is asymptomatic, but the inflammation can become uncomfortable for some patients. Aside from the appearance of physical symptoms, patients with geographic tongue may also experience increased sensitivity or tongue tenderness.
Sensations of pain or burning are sometimes reported when those with geographic tongue consume foods and beverages which are spicy or highly acidic.
Diagnosing Geographic Tongue
Due to its dramatic, characteristic appearance, diagnosing geographic tongue is typically rather straightforward and can be confirmed with only an outward examination of the tongue—it's the management of this diagnosis which makes your awareness of the condition so important.
Understanding Geographic Tongue’s Implications in Overall Health
If geographic tongue is harmless and infrequent, you may be wondering why it’s essential to understand its signs and symptoms in order to make an appropriate diagnosis.
As a dental professional, the role you play in the overall well-being of your patients is crucial—by having awareness of geographic tongue and its implications in an individual's overall state of health, you become a valuable contributor to their quality of life.
And, while geographic tongue is generally considered idiopathic, ongoing research suggests that it may actually be a manifestation of systemic disease.
For example, scientific literature has suggested a relationship between geographic tongue and psoriasis, indicating that geographic tongue could be an oral manifestation of this skin condition. As a result, it’s recommended that general practitioners and dental professionals work together prudently to check for oral symptoms in psoriatic patients and to check for skin lesions in otherwise healthy individuals diagnosed with geographic tongue.
Others have posited that geographic tongue might be caused by vitamin B deficiency or irritation from alcohol or particular foods. For reasons we don’t yet understand, geographic tongue appears less frequently in people who smoke and more commonly in those with allergies.
In other cases, however, geographic tongue manifests in otherwise healthy individuals, complicating the search for a direct cause or consistent association with other diagnoses.
It’s critical that you partner with a patient’s other healthcare providers in order to suggest appropriate management, especially when the patient experiences physical discomfort or anxiety surrounding geographic tongue.
For example, you might recommend rinsing with lukewarm saltwater, alkaline rinses, or anesthetic rinses to provide relief for mild cases of geographic tongue, or you may suggest that a patient follow up with their dermatologist if you suspect that their geographic tongue may be linked to a skin condition like psoriasis.
It has also been reported that some psoriasis patients who utilize systemic treatments have found improvement in their oral health and symptoms of geographic tongue, too.
Your Role as a Dental Professional
While we don’t fully understand the reasons why geographic tongue occasionally manifests, your prudence in identifying this condition during routine dental hygiene appointments and examinations can make all the difference in how a patient manages their overall health.
Remain aware of your duty to consult with their other providers and be prepared to provide information in order to educate the concerned patient. Your contributions will lead not only to better oral health but also to improved overall wellness.
As a dental professional, your handpiece is one of your single most important tools of the trade. You’d like to keep this trusted instrument performing good-as-new for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, handpiece maintenance isn’t always as simple as the sales brochure makes it out to be. Keeping a handpiece in top shape requires that you follow a strict regimen of cleaning and lubrication. That’s a lot to ask of anyone in a fast-paced, fully-booked dental practice.
Wish there was a way to extend the life of your favourite handpiece and spend less time on maintenance? It could be easier than you think, if you choose your maintenance supplies wisely.
Why Your Handpiece Lubricant Makes a Difference
As you know, cleaning and lubrication are the cornerstones of basic handpiece maintenance.
Handpieces must be cleaned after each use (even between sterilizations) to avoid cross-contamination, and daily lubrication is necessary to keep the turbine, air motor, shank and head in good working order.
It is important to follow cleaning with lubrication, as the abrasives found in handpiece cleaners can get into the mechanisms of the handpiece.
Today, many clinics use automatic handpiece maintenance systems to lubricate multiple handpieces simultaneously. However, lubricating a handpiece manually is relatively simple:
Disassemble the handpiece and remove the burr so you can reach its internal components.
Inject lubricant into the air drive port so that it reaches the turbine.
Lubricate both ends of the contra-angle, or remove the cylinder from the prophy angle and lubricate both ends.
Re-assemble the handpiece and operate, head down, for 10-30 seconds (depending on the manufacturer's instructions) without a burr to purge excess lubricant. Wipe any excess lubricant remaining on the handpiece using a dry gauze pad or paper towel.
10 Tips to Extend the Life of Any Dental Handpiece
Proper lubrication is essential to getting the most life and the best possible performance from any dental handpiece.
Here are a few pointers on choosing a handpiece lubricant that can help you minimize downtime, reduce the frequency of repairs and avoid unnecessary costs while extending your tool’s lifespan.
Lubricate the Handpiece Chuck Separately
The handpiece chuck generally requires separate care and a direct dose of lubricant.
Lubricate Before Sterilization, Not After
A high-quality handpiece lubricant like Sable EZ Lube will not break down in autoclaving temperature or otherwise be affected by the sterilization process. Lubrication prior to autoclaving has also been shown to increase the longevity of air-turbine handpiece bearings.
Avoid Overlubricating Low-Speed Handpieces
Applying too much lubricant to a low-speed motor can saturate it and cause it to become sluggish.
Use a Product That Cleans And Lubricants At Once
This saves you valuable time when it comes to preparing your handpiece for sterilization. We’ve developed Sable EZ Lube to remove dirt and stains from handpiece surfaces while it lubricates.
Don’t Lubricate ‘Lube-Free’ Turbine Bearings
Certain Kavo and Star Dental handpiece turbines are not designed for direct lubrication.
Use a Food-Grade Handpiece Lubricant
We know that a handpiece can discharge lubricant in the direction of the bur for some 40 minutes after lubrication. Using a food-grade synthetic lubricant will ensure that this will not affect your patients.
Never Use Any Non-Dental Lubricant For Your Handpiece
Safety comes first! Non-dental lubricants may not be safe for your patients or good for your handpiece. Sable EZ Lube was developed in conjunction with Aerospace Lubricants Inc. specifically for dental handpieces.
Always Follow the Handpiece Manufacturer’s Instructions Maintenance standards can vary between different manufacturers, and in different models from the same manufacturer.
Use The Adapter That Corresponds Your Coupling System This will ensure that you deliver the right amount of lubricant to the deepest recesses of your handpiece. Our Sable EZ Lube comes in 500ml aerosol cans with nozzles available for most handpieces, including contras, straights, heads and low-speed motors.
Don’t Skimp on the Lubricant! Your handpiece can’t function properly without proper lubrication! If cost is a concern, there are affordable handpiece lubricants on the market. Sable EZ Lube is affordably priced, with cost savings of 20-30% over other top lubricant brands.
Have any questions about our handpiece lubricants? Get in touch with us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
Dentistry is as noble a profession as it gets, filled with some of the most caring people on earth. Still...it’s always taken a special kind of human to look someone in the eye, tell them to open wide and then courageously yank their teeth out!
Visiting the dentist is no longer something most people lose sleep over...however, the same cannot be said of decades gone by. The age-old practice of the tooth has changed so much thanks to modern medicine and state of the art machinery. Dentistry has not always been so painless!
Let’s dig in to the long, rich and occasionally painful history of dentistry, including a few fun facts you probably didn’t learn in hygiene school.
1. Barbers Used to Double as Dentists
These gentlemen were known as barber-surgeons. It may seem quite barbaric to have the local barber extracting teeth and bloodletting, but it made sense in the medieval times, since it left more doctors available to attend to the war wounded.
Nothing quite like getting your wisdom teeth carved out with the same blade you were just shaved with!
2. Ornamenting Teeth Was All the Rage
The ancient Mayans used to bejewel their teeth by chipping at them and embedding small gemstones with glue. Although the outcome would be a dazzling and mesmerizing smile, the process was certainly not for the faint of heart.
In the industry today, this ancient practice by the Mayans isn’t too far from the modern practice of bejeweling your teeth...without the gruesome chipping part, of course. Nowadays, they’re called tooth gems, which some people use to give an extra shine to their smile.
3. Ever Wondered Where Toothbrushes Came From?
The need to maintain dental hygiene is not a 21st century phenomenon. In ancient times, people would snap a supple twig and chew the edges to spread out the fibers. Even today, some people prefer the twig toothbrush over the conventional toothbrush.
The Europeans used a rag and salt or soot for brushing their teeth until the English inventor William Addis invented toothbrush. This was in 1780 but by 1498, Chinese artisans had invented the toothbrush as we know it by using animal hair as bristles.
If you’re feeling naturally inclined to use a twig toothbrush, then you can consider trying a twig from the toothbrush tree.
4. Anesthesia Was Gross and Ineffective
Archigenes was a tooth doctor back in 15 A.D Rome. His idea of anesthesia for dental works was ointment made from hair-raising ingredients including roasted earthworms, spikenard and spider's crushed eggs. He would drill into your tooth then apply the ointment to relieve pain.
It’s hard to imagine that ointment would actually reduce pain, yet it was widely used ‒ maybe the sheer shock of having dead spider babies smeared on your gums was enough to kill the pain?
5. The Electric Chair and Teeth Have a Lot in Common
What does an electric chair have to do with teeth? Well, luckily not much...other than the fact that the inventor of the electric chair was also a dentist by profession and a professor who taught dental medicine at the then-University of Buffalo School of dental medicine in New York.
The good news is that he invented the electric chair in the mid 1800s specifically for the purpose of execution and not dentistry. It’s a mild relief knowing that Southwick had no intention of experimenting the efficacy of electric current on tooth cavities.
6. Dentist Power Drills Were Powered By Feet
You might know that the dentist attending to the first president of the United States, George Washington, invented a foot engine to power his dentist's drill.
What you might not have known is that he used his mother’s spinning wheel making it into a torque to power the drill!
7. Dentistry Was a Lonely Profession
Until the year 1960, dentists were expected to do everything while attending to their patients. They would handle every procedure and tool on their own with no assistance! The result was weary and lonely dentists.
This continued until four-handed dentistry was introduced, providing two extra hands (and a lot of camaraderie!) to help.
8. Tooth Decay Was Caused By Worms!
...Just kidding! Of course that was never true. But for a time, that’s what people really believed.
After all, worms drill holes, and tooth decay is characterized by holes in teeth. This was a logical conclusion at the time. This old explanation for tooth decay was so believable it carried on in many cultures until the 1900s.
Today, we’re thankful for miracles like Novacaine and other tools and treatments that make your life (and the lives of your patients) easier. But we should also be thankful reflecting back on the dentists of old. Though they may have been misguided at times, they’re the ones who made it possible for us to offer the quality of care we can today!
Thyroid conditions present oral and systemic manifestations that can challenge even the most seasoned dental professionals. Up to 15% of the general population has some form of thyroid abnormality, and many people have never been properly diagnosed - which makes treating them all the more complicated.
As a registered dental hygienist, there are ways you can help to identify and manage the oral manifestations of thyroid diseases. Here, we’ll discuss two of the most common thyroid diseases you’ll see in your practice: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Many people who have hypothyroidism present only a few or very mild symptoms. However, those with severe hypothyroidism can experience numerous symptoms including slow metabolism, weight gain, lethargy, sensitivity to cold, and puffiness of the face.
When treating a dental patient with hypothyroidism, you may notice one or more of the following common oral manifestations:
Salivary gland enlargement
Compromised periodontal health
Glossitis, or inflammation of the tongue marked by soreness, swelling and change in colour
People who experience severe hypothyroidism as a child may present long-term dental and craniofacial manifestations in adulthood, such as:
Micrognathia, or undersized jaw
Macroglossia, or oversized tongue
Oral Manifestations of Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism, also called overactive thyroid, is the unregulated production of thyroid hormones. It is most often called by an immune system disorder called Grave’s Disease and usually affects women under 40, but it can occur in people of all ages.
Many of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism mirror hypothyroidism in reverse - sensitivity to heat, weight loss, increased cardiac output are common. It can also cause emotional instability, tremors, abnormal heart rate and hypertension.
A dental patient who has hyperthyroidism may present the following oral manifestations:
Increased susceptibility to periodontal disease and dental caries
Enlarged extraglandular thyroid tissue (mainly in the lateral posterior tongue)
Treating Dental Patients Who Have a Thyroid Disease
As a registered dental hygienist, it is important to understand how thyroid dysfunction could affect your patient care.
First, you are well-positioned to notice the symptoms of hypo- or hyperthyroidism and aid in early diagnosis. Your keen eye could be what points a patient in the right direction to receiving treatment for their condition.
For patients who have confirmed thyroid disease, it’s also important that you and your colleagues deliver care that will help, not harm. Complications can occur from improperly treating dental patients with thyroid disorders.
Rebecca Marie Friend, BS, RDH demonstrates this perfectly in a recent column for Today’s RDH. When an elderly patient came in presenting with hypothyroidism, Rebecca took the time to carefully review the patient’s health history and discuss the patient’s medications, including over-the-counter remedies. Not only did this discussion reveal an important oversight by the patient’s doctor, but Rebecca was able to provide the patient with a better understanding of the condition.
Rebecca also provides the following recommendations to hygienists and other dental professionals in treating dental patients who present with thyroid disorders.
Establish communication with the patient’s endocrinologist and other healthcare providers. This will ensure that you are kept up to date with the patient’s medications and the rest of the healthcare team is aware of the patient’s oral manifestations.
Plan treatment in a way that limits stress and infection. Patients with hypothyroidism are at greater risk of infection due to increased bleeding and delayed wound healing.
Treat the oral manifestations of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism as needed, including periodontal disease, caries and xerostomia.
Conduct an extraoral head and neck examination at each appointment. This will help you detect changes to the patient’s thyroid region.
Be sure to always use a thyroid collar when taking patient X-rays. The thyroid gland is very sensitive to radiation, and excessive exposure is a known risk factor for thyroid conditions.
Help the patient feel comfortable in the chair. People who have hypothyroidism could use a blanket to help keep their legs warm, while those with hyperthyroidism might appreciate you turning the thermostat down a few extra degrees.
In any business, there are customers that we like and customers that test our patience. The same goes for the patients that visit the dentist’s office.
And sometimes, it’s hard to handle them so that they have the best experience and you can do your job.
Here are 4 types of patients that can be difficult and how to manage them.
1. The Google Expert
We all know that one patient.
They know all the latest and greatest medical news and can’t wait to share with the dental hygienist. Instead of giving them a cleaning, we’re bombarded with questions that have taken four years of dentistry school to learn.
“Why didn’t you use this treatment?’
“Shouldn’t you be doing this?”
It can be exhausting.
It’s wonderful that the patient is enthusiastic about getting involved with the process, but it can hinder dental hygienists’ trying to do their job and sometimes even be harmful to the patient.
It’s 3:50. Their appointment was at 3:30. At this point, we’re assuming they just aren’t coming.
That’s when they stroll on in. The only thing more frustrating than that is if it happens on the regular.
Lateness has a domino effect. Regardless if all the next patients are on time, there’s no way to get back that 20 minutes. The worst part is making other patients wait just because someone has chronic tardiness. It isn’t good for anyone.
The best way to manage lateness is to incorporate a late policy. And stick to it.
Anyone that is more than 15-20 minutes late to their appointment, cannot be seen that day and will have to reschedule.
Generally, patients will respect the set appointment time and it will reduce the amount of late arrivers.
As dental hygienists, no one wants to see a patient cringe and tense as we recline the chair or pull back their cheeks. But no matter what we try to do to calm them, nothing works.
Sometimes, their discomfort and tension can radiate onto us, making us nervous too.
The best advice is to stay calm yourself. This is much easier said than done but often times what you put out into the world you get back in return.
It may be beneficial to open up the floor to a discussion about what is causing the anxiety and how we, as hygienists, can ease that discomfort. By knowing what makes them the most worried, you can avoid or minimize that factor.
In extreme cases, the patient may need to consult their doctor for anti-anxiety medication to take before appointments.
4. The Chatty Cathy
You love them, but at the same time they can be quite frustrating.
These are the types that will get to know you, ask about the kids or about upcoming vacations. They are often the sweetest patients you’ll get!
As much as they make the workday go by faster, they can eat into the appointment through their conversations and suddenly we’re behind schedule!
It can be challenging when managing a Chatty Cathy because we don’t want to be rude in any way but we also have to get the job done on time. But like any skill, managing chatty patients comes with time and experience.
Focus the conversations towards the beginning and end of the appointment as well as during the period of time before the patient is seen by the doctor. These time zones are optimal for conversations because they don’t interrupt your job but also give the patient a chance to socialize.
Not only that but it will also build a better relationship with the patient!
While these four types of difficult patients can pose a challenge, there’s nothing we, as dental hygienists, can’t handle.