I am writing to you in response to your Guest Commentary (January 2000) by Janet Culver, RDH. What a breath of fresh air to hear a hygienist speak about what a "team" really is, and I am honored to practice in the same state as she does. If only all of us could feel the same about our teams. I am a hygienist employed in a rural area. We could easily use another one to two hygienists in our practice but have unsuccessfully been able to fill that demand.
Being the sole hygienist in a progressive, prevention-oriented practice is no small task. Detail, quality, excellence, and education are only a small portion of our mission in improving the quality of life to our dental patients. It won`t take a quality, ethically minded hygienist long to figure out you can`t do this alone.
I have had the opportunity in the last year to work with a hygiene assistant who is not only professional and caring but has been a true asset to my ability to provide my patients with a quality experience above and beyond what I could have provided them with alone. What used to be an hour appointment has not only been maintained but also often extended while I am able to provide quality dental hygiene care to another patient at the same time.
I have heard many hygienists speak on assisted hygiene only to hear them tell of how the assistant breaks down and sets up another room. What a terrible lack of confidence to what a properly trained assistant can provide to our hygiene patients. Assistants are truly knowledgeable on preventive and restorative, as well as the cosmetic, care many of us suggest to the patient. Assistants are also have the valuable time needed to answer questions and direct our patients in making decisions that change their lives.
Allowing more hands-on time to our dental assistants in hygiene allows the hygienist more time to be effective in supportive periodontal therapy and co-discovery. It is a win-win situation. Hygienists do not burn out with assisted hygiene. They become not only more productive but more focused on the delivery of patient care.
In our battle over expanded functions and coronal polishing of teeth, it is important to remember why we chose this profession in the first place: To provide comprehensive dental care to individuals and, in doing so, improve the quality of their lives. No one ever said we could do it alone. Empower others on our team, and it only leads to a wider path on which we will be empowered. Let`s take dental hygiene on a path in the next century that makes us valuable "team" players, not our own worst enemies. Our patients will be grateful, we will be less stressed, and our profession will be taken to new heights.
Cynthia T. Neuhausser, CDA, RDH, BS
Charlestown, New Hampshire
To submit letters to the editor for publication in Readers` Forum, send by:
* Mail - P.O. Box 3306, Tulsa, OK 74101.
* E-mail - [email protected].
* Fax - (918) 831-9804.
Signed letters must include the city and state where the reader resides or practices.