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October is National Dental Hygiene Month!

October is National Dental Hygiene Month!

Recently, I was reading a post from some dental professionals who took a selfie, sharing that they were getting their teeth “cleaned”. Huh? “Cleaned”…really? Is THIS how dental hygiene is thought of in 2015? This makes my head spin like a scene in a horror movie!

Did you know that the idea of cleaning teeth with regard to dental hygiene is so 1913?  That’s when the first Dental Hygiene training program was created to address prevention rather than the traditional treatment of decayed teeth at the time.

Lots of things have changed in dentistry since 1913.  Now dental hygienists are trained to educate, co-diagnose, perform screenings, and provide treatment to save lives.  So, if your patients’ oral health has meaning, then the dental hygiene visit isn’t just a cleaning. 

Seeing that October is National Dental Hygiene Month, perhaps now’s the time to define the role of the dental hygienist and the hygiene visit.  Below are a couple of suggestions to share with your practice and team members on things to bring up during hygiene appointments.

Go ahead and begin simply with the ADHA’s The Daily 4 campaign. The goal is to discuss with our patients the importance of brushing 2 times a day (2 minutes each time), flossing, rinsing, and chewing sugar-free gum.  But why not give The Daily 4 your own spin…

1) What kind of toothbrush is a best fit for your patients? Give them some tips on picking out a brush and let them know the importance of proper brushing technique.

2) Flossing isn’t a “one size fits all” proposition. Be sure to suggest not only floss, but other hygiene aids that might better remove food and plaque in-between teeth.

3) Rinsing is confusing. Are you treating specifically VSC’s for bad breath, is this patient a high caries risk, or do they have active periodontal disease?  Know what you’re dealing with and be prepared with options.

4) Chewing sugarless gum is proven to increase saliva and promote remineralization of enamel.  Recommend some brands of gum or, better yet, give them some samples!

October is also breast cancer awareness month and those who are going through chemotherapy are also dealing with unique oral health side-effects.  Maybe a dental hygienist could reach out to those battling this disease to educate on how dry mouth, enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, inflamed gums, bad breath, or decay may be side effects of treatments.  This would help them recognize what to look for in their mouth that may be abnormal from treatment and lead to recommending oral health products to help them.

Of course, the above suggestions were not even considered in 1913, and your job today isn’t to simply clean teeth.  You can provide a lot more value during any dental hygiene visit. Every day, ask yourself how you can “Take What You Learn & Make A Difference With It”!

Anastasia L. Turchetta, RDH
America’s Dental Hygienist

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