Dental hygienists certainly work diligently each day to create health and prevent disease in our patients. Despite our best efforts, we have staggering current statistics from the CDC; nearly half of all adults aged thirty years or older show signs of gums disease. This begs the question, “Is what we are currently doing actually working?”
Dental hygiene is one of the last preventative health industries left in our society. If you think about it, most health care providers see patients once they are already sick or show signs of disease. That sounds more like sick care to me, not healthcare. As dental hygienists, our job is to prevent disease, and keep our patients out of the restorative dental chair.
The restorative dental chair is just one of the many doctor chairs we hope to keep our patients out of. How about the cardiologist’s chair, the neurologist’s chair, or the oncologist’s chair? I’m talking about the oral systemic connection and our duty as dental hygienists to do our part in preventing these oral related systemic conditions.
We hold strongly onto the way in which we strategize our dental hygiene appointment time. Some of us even have our dental hygiene appointments broken down into two-minute increments just so that we can stay on time. As hygienists, we like our routine, and we will resist anyone or anything that will force us to change our dental hygiene appointment playbook. However, if the industry of dental hygiene is tired of being underrecognized as healthcare providers, and we are tired of our patients being non-compliant, and we want to change the statistics in society on oral disease, then we MUST DO BETTER. We must execute our dental hygiene appointments differently than we are currently executing them now, in order to get different results. Technology helps us do that.
Dental hygienists are like chameleons. We are constantly changing our approaches to meet the needs of the patient that is presently in our chair. We do this every hour on the hour, socially and emotionally meeting our patients where they are in order to get them where we need them to be. The magic happens when we finally find the strategy that works best for that particular patient. Is it a bit of fear that drives that patient? Is it positive reinforcement? Either way, communication is key, and learning the best way for our patients to receive information is part of our daily work.
The intra-oral scanner
This tech has been around for years and is mostly utilized by the dentist. I am here to tell you – this is one of our best weapons in the dental hygiene room when it comes to educating our patients and streamlining adjunct therapies. Imagine this. You scan every patient when they first get in your chair, and then you carry on with your appointment. You finally are ready for the periodic exam, so you go to get the doctor. The patient mentioned they were interested in take-home whitening trays, and you discussed it, but they didn’t commit. In comes the dentist, and after a thorough exam, the patient mentions to the doctor they would like take-home whitening trays. The doctor looks at you, what do you do? In most cases you would have to move the patient to another chair if one is available or re-appoint that patient twice, once for impressions and once for delivery. That’s two opportunities for the patient to change their mind, cancel, or no show. The intra-oral scanner allows you to streamline this without having to reappoint the patient. Since you have already procured your scan, you can let the patient know that they can expect their whitening trays and gel to arrive at their house in two weeks with instructions. No need to re-appoint; the scanner’s relationships with at home whitening services takes care of everything.
I just cannot say enough about this tech. There is nothing like it and the feedback from patients is above reproach. This methodology has taken the entire dental hygiene appointment and reorganized it in a way that is evidence based, minimally invasive, and pain free. They’ve named it GBT, or Guided Biofilm Therapy. GBT is the approach European countries have been practicing for years. GBT’s migration to North America has been successful following a COVID rebound year. Guided Biofilm Therapy utilizes a lip and cheek retractor for an increased field of vision for the clinician, systematic disclosing gel, warm water, pressurized air, and erythritol based powder, a natural antimicrobial that has the capability to enter up to four millimeters subgingival with the airflow handpiece. For deeper pockets, the perioflow handpiece and disposable nozzle is used. This handpiece and nozzle decontaminate the biofilm deep inside periodontal pockets which allows the clinician to return with the pain-free piezon to remove any residual calculus. Recare appointments are based on assessments, and patients are returning sooner with pinker, firmer tissue.
Voice Activated Periodontal Charting Software
With communication being key in the dental hygiene room, what’s better than periodontal charting that works like Siri? With one person charting and less risk of contamination, this software emulates a computerized comprehensive periodontal evaluation. With warning sounds set to “on,” patients can hear words like “warning” or “danger” when the clinician is recording pockets depths. This software also assists in staging and grading of periodontal disease, all while easily recording risk factors, recession, mobility, exudate and bleeding.
To summarize, the job of a dental hygienist is substantial. We have a lot of work to do to inform the public about the importance of their oral health. Technology in the hygiene room is our friend, and I look forward to seeing the positive outcomes of the patients whose clinicians make the conscious effort to incorporate technologies like these into their dental hygiene appointment.
About the Author
Sarah Crow started in the dental industry in 2004. She has earned numerous awards throughout her education and career as a dental hygienist. To name a few, in 2018 Sarah was named “Component Hygienist of the Year” by her colleagues and was most recently voted the 2021 “Massachusetts Dental Society Hygienist of the Year.” Sarah currently serves as the Immediate Past-President, for ADHA Massachusetts, and is the co-founder of MDHA’s Mentor Liaison Team. Sarah is a Senior Executive Consultant for Cellerant Consulting Group and is a National Trainer in the field of Guided Biofilm Therapy for EMS Dental. Sarah enjoys working chairside with patients one on one in Salem, MA where she is given the opportunity to exhibit her passion for helping others to improve their oral and overall health.