Advances in science and technology have evolved the tools that dental hygienists use to provide patient care via new equipment and innovative products and diagnostics. In addition, the variety of settings in which dental hygienists work to serve their patients and practice scope are ever growing and evolving.
Education for dental hygienists is evolving as well. The way that faculty engage the student and the sheer growth in knowledge and experiences that are required for graduation requires constant redesign and flexibility in the curriculum. Our resilience especially shined through starting in early 2020 where so much changed so quickly. Finally, the ways we obtain our continuing education to keep current in this evolution after we graduate must adapt as well.
Two things have remained exactly the same. First is the dedication to patient care. We are proud when patients follow our recommendations and health is improved or restored, and we are proud when we are able to change a patient’s life, spanning from brightening their smile for an upcoming life event to restoring health and detection of early pathology.
Secondly, prevention is our expertise. With about half of Americans exhibiting signs of periodontal infection1, no substantial decrease in caries rates in this century2 and significant disparities still found in some population groups3 our passion for prevention and patient success is now more needed than ever. Also, the last 20 years of advances in science have shown that inadequate plaque control in the long term can lead to moderate to advanced periodontal disease, and this disease doesn’t only stay in the mouth but can burden our patients overall systemic health.
The great news is there is a path to prevention which includes education on why oral hygiene is critical, how to perform it and the need to do it early and often. We can’t underestimate the power of educating our patients on the foundational importance of daily effective plaque control for both caries and gingival health.
Many dental hygienists underestimate how influential they are as healthcare providers. In the same way patients expect product recommendations from medical doctors for treatments to improve their health, your patients expect treatment recommendations based on your expertise. Whether the product is obtained OTC or from the pharmacy, both are viewed as “prescriptions” for health improvement.
For optimal mechanical plaque control, there is no longer the question of manual versus electric toothbrush. The evidence demonstrated by multiple systematic reviews and meta-analyses
confirms that Oscillation Rotation offers significant gingival health improvements over manual. In fact, one study shows that when patients make the switch from a manual toothbrush to an
Oscillating Rotating Electric toothbrush they have a 14.5x better odds of transitioning to healthy gum state4 defined by reduction of bleeding sites, regardless of baseline levels of disease.
Even with an electric toothbrush we know patients can leave plaque behind and are still not cleaning thoroughly in between their teeth, a common site for caries and gingivitis inception. In
addition, brushes don’t stop plaque from coming back. This is where the addition of chemistry plays a role that many dental professionals often overlook. Most toothpastes offer basic benefits of caries protection and remineralization through fluoride. However, the type and formulation chemistry of toothpaste have come a long way from simple cavity protection. In addition to anti-caries treatment, bioavailable Stannous Fluoride dentifrice, like Crest® Gum Detoxify, also helps in the management of plaque toxicity, gingivitis and bleeding gums, erosive tooth wear, hypersensitivity, and even bad breath. Patients typically brush with a toothpaste, why not change the one they use to one that will reduce their bleeding sites by an average of 51%?5 In addition, patients will benefit from the added benefits offered by this advanced chemistry. We should not undervalue the benefits of advances in toothpaste. Instead, we should communicate them to patients.
So, while the treatment options, settings and technology change around us, Dental Hygienists are still recognized as leaders in prevention and optimal oral health. Our passion for our patients and the care we provide can make all the difference. With the right regimen and patient compliance, you can transform your patients gingival health starting with day 1.6
MS, RDH, Crest® + Oral-B® Global Professional & Scientific Relations
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