Hygienist

hygienist

Most patients understand who a Dental Hygienist is and the integral part he/she plays on the dental team but here also a little pre-explanation of her procedures can reduce a great deal of stress.

“Hi Mrs. Jones, I am Jane Smith, the dental hygienist and I will be cleaning your teeth for you today. I want to be as thorough as I can so I want to briefly look around your teeth. I see you have some hard build up behind these lower front teeth and back here along this molar gumline. I will be extra careful in those areas and we’ll see if we can get all that off of those teeth so your gums will be healthier.” Now instead of the patient jumping out of the chair at the first attempt to scale a sensitive root surface and being on edge for the rest of the (usually shortened) hygiene appointment, they have been prepared for some troublesome areas and minor discomforts.

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The intra-oral camera is also an excellent tool for educating your patient. Every patient is fascinated to see their mouth on screen. By showing areas of calculus buildup, receded gingiva, or inflamed gums, the patient can already start to understand the reasons for the hygienist’s careful instrumentation.

If the hygienist will at first scrape a few small bits of calculus off enamel only, stop and ask “Was that OK?” the patient will almost always indicate it was fine and then the hygienist has raised the pain threshold of the patient considerably and can attempt more thorough scaling with less objection.

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Unfortunately, many of your patients (older ones especially) may have only had a “rubber cup cleaning” as their total hygiene experience and a scaler is foreign to them. They also only know calculus as “tartar”. Educate and explain. “That build up you might know as tartar we call calculus and we have special instruments to carefully remove it!”

In addition, many “prophy” patients are really “periodontal” patients, once a thorough exam is performed. And it is unrealistic to expect the patient’s periodontal needs to all be addressed by the hygienist in one visit. However, she/he can be the gateway to the general dentist or periodontist for definitive diagnosis. “Mrs Jones, you have some really deep areas around some teeth where that build up has caused the gum to pull away from the tooth and bone to dissolve from around the root. This is something Dr. Smith will need to evaluate when he examines you to decide best how to treat those areas”. Voila, patient is alerted that dental health is not just “Do I have any cavities?” (see Periodontics page.)

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