As all dental professionals know, a year ago at this time, the landscape of dental care in the United States was at an unprecedented crossroads. On March 16, 2020, the ADA was one of the first national professional health associations to recommend postponing all but urgent or emergency procedures. By May 2020 and into the summer, practices were reopening—but with notable and significant changes regarding PPE, fluctuating hours, and appointment length.
RDH reached out to several hygienists who are currently treating patients to ask them to share their experiences with and reflections on a year like no other: Brooke Crouch, RDH; Crystal Spring, RDH, LAP; and Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH.
[Editor’s note: Some answers have been edited for clarity.]
Are you seeing more or fewer patients in a day at this stage of the pandemic?
CS: We are seeing more patients than ever before at our school-based and nursing home clinics. There is a lot of backlog, and it is difficult for people to get into their dentist. Indian Health Service has been open for mainly emergencies and not prevention so there are even more patients to be seen.
AH: We are scheduled for the same amount (60 minutes per patient) but have more last-minute cancellations than we are used to.
What is the most positive transition that occurred in your operatory due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
CS: We stepped up our game with infection control. We updated all of our policies and procedures.
AH: [We started] to use HVE to control aerosols instead of the saliva ejector. Not seeing sick patients. Improved infection control.
Did you ever consider leaving the dental profession during the past year?
BC: No, but it has certainly made me realize that I don’t want to be in clinic full-time with the new PPE requirements. I am glad that I only work clinically one day a week.
CS: Not once. I was born to be a dental hygienist, and I love the part I play in our public's health.
AH: For a minute in the very beginning, I said I was with clinical, but that lasted three weeks tops. And I realized I was being reactionary and not evidence-based.
What is one change you (personally) made to support the dental office?
BC: During COVID, I helped the front desk with rescheduling patients.
CS: I worked with a life coach. I examined/reflected on myself and what my goals are and made changes to ensure that I am utilizing my strengths to best serve the program.
AH: Research. I have a new role as implementation specialist in my office. So I spend time researching products and technology to see what is the best use of our time and money. Then ensure whatever we bring in we use! So often we bring new stuff and never implement it.
What is one change you (personally) made to support your patients?
CS: Learning about dental codes that will benefit our patients. I worked with our team to ensure that each patient that we see receives the best care possible. We stressed quality work and the need to get it done and not putting it off for the next visit. Unfortunately, in public health there isn’t always a next visit.
AH: Pre-rinse. I wasn’t good about it before and now I’m sticking with it. And I’m using HVE for AGPs.
What is your favorite new product?
BC: My favorite product is my Elevate All Day spray, especially with the added dry mouth from our masks.
CS: It’s not new but I am absolutely loving the scrub cap look. Messy hair, who cares? We can all get a little more sleep at night.
AH: COVID-related: My Lumashield by Lumadent—I didn’t wear a shield before. [As for] just something new I’m using, IsoVac Intraoral suction and my Airflow Guided Biofilm therapy. They’re game changers in the way I practice.
What is the most often asked question from your patients?
BC: What toothpaste is best?
CS: Have you been vaccinated? Have you had COVID? How old are you?
AH: Is it safe to be here?