I'm often asked if I miss my days in the operatory. The answer depends on the day, but it’s often “Yes.” I miss my relationships with the patients, the laughter in the halls with the dental team, and the opportunity to make a difference in patients’ health numerous times a day.
When I left the operatory, digital x-rays were just becoming popular. Lasers had not been embraced as a desired treatment, while guided biofilm therapy and noninvasive perio trays were on the distant horizon. I miss clinical care when I look at the numerous opportunities dental hygienist have to make a larger and more defined difference in patients’ overall health. Hygiene isn’t just about removing calculus anymore, it now includes everything going on around the calculus. From defining pathogens in the saliva to reviewing more in-depth health history, patient care encompasses so much more now than it did in the past.
My last clinical day was in May of 2008, which serves as an indicator of just how much our scope of practice has changed in 15 years. It’s exciting to think of where we will be in another 15 years to wonder whether we will have embraced the magnitude of how important our role is in the overall health of each patient. Unfortunately, there are still hygienists who have not embraced the life-saving potential of the profession. They still just see the calculus on the tooth.
This month, RDH recognizes Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Kathryn Gilliam shares a personal story about our role in head and neck cancer screenings and provides startling numbers on increased HPV cases. Are you screening your patients, and if not, why?
We also embrace more information on oral-systemic health. From advanced technologies to salivary testing, microscopes, probiotics, and understanding the microbiome, this issue takes your knowledge to the next level. In addition, Anne O. Rice shares her knowledge on nitric oxide, and Katrina Sanders educates us on the use of probiotics.
After neck surgery in 2021, it is evident that I would struggle in the operatory these days, and I’m thankful that the RDH career path affords many opportunities. But, I am honored to know and listen to those who have acquired knowledge that needs to be shared with the hygiene community. Together we will work to elevate our profession and build awareness of the magnitude of the dental hygiene clinician.