A Growing Role

Sponsored by PDT, Inc.

As hygienists take on leadership roles, education and training are more important than ever.

As group practices continue to grow and staff more hygienists and doctors, experts fear that patients are at risk of slipping through the cracks. For instance, when patients are not seen at repeat visits by the same hygienist and dentist, signs of inflammation or changes in the oral cavity or in restorations are sometimes missed, leading to systemic oral health risks, according to Susan Wingrove, RDH, BS and spokesperson for Paradise Dental Technologies (PDT), Inc.

It’s essential to implement an educational system designed to evaluate and monitor all patients, consistently looking for signs of inflammation, bone loss, pathology, oral cancer and infections, Wingrove points out. In addition, hygienists must accurately assess the need for treatment, and be able to communicate this need to dentists. “This is also applies to home-care recommendation,” she says. “If each hygienist tells a patient something different, it can become very confusing for that patient.”

Hygienists today must assume a larger leadership role – something they can’t do without proper education and guidance, notes Wingrove. Typically, they spend a limited amount of time with patients, during which they must evaluate any potential problems and communicate this to the dentist. To do their job well, they require a level of training that allows them to comprehensively evaluate patients’ health history and problem areas (i.e., restorations that need to be replaced), as well as signs of pathology, periodontal or peri-implant disease.
Too often hygienists are rushed, and only evaluate for periodontal disease and eliminate any calculus present, Wingrove explains. They often are not trained to remove biofilm, especially when a patient has a history of health risks, which can affect his or her overall health. “Biofilm removal is now the key to successful professional and at-home maintenance,” she says. “The mouth is the mirror to the rest of the body. If it is healthy we have done our part in the patient’s overall health.”
Companies such as PDT offer continuous education, as well as product solutions that address today’s dental challenges, says Wingrove. PDT’s instrument innovations are designed to help clinicians work more efficiently and effectively, better adapt to tooth surfaces and evaluate patients more accurately. In turn, the patient experience is more comfortable and satisfying, she adds.

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