by Karen Kaiser, RDH
Downbeat comments about being employed in the dental profession have been heard one time or another by most dental hygienists. “How do hygienists work in someone else’s mouth and clean teeth every day?” This is a familiar comment from “expert” patients who are not familiar with what we do. What such remarks may actually suggest is, “How does one work in a small mouth, doing the same thing seemingly over and over daily?”
As dental professionals, we realize every mouth has unique needs. There is nothing commonplace, ordinary, or mundane about any mouth. Even a patient of record for years has different presentations from visit to visit. Cleaning teeth every day is not as routine as patients’ remarks may indicate. Nonetheless, many dental duties require habitual routines, and there are products where both patients and practitioners benefit from being used each day.
Whiter smiles rank as a high priority for many patients. Unfortunately, tooth sensitivity may be a part of the process, and this discomfort may slow or stop treatment for those who experience the undesirable feeling. Preventech offers a prescription-strong whitening sensitivity gel called Dayli in response to bleaching sensitivity. The gel is brushed on by the patient and delivers 5,000 ppm neutral sodium fluoride and 5% potassium nitrate. Patients worry when whitening if the products we recommend will stain their now white smile. Not to worry — Dayli gel is a clear, dye-free formula that also incorporates xylitol in grape or spearmint flavors.
Part of daily home care would wisely include effectively cleaning the tongue. After all, the tongue fosters bacteria growth that coats and cakes, contributing to stale breath. 3M ESPE produces the Tango Daily Tongue Cleaner, which is a sturdy, stainless steel scraper. A coated, colored grip (blue, yellow, or white) is dishwasher safe. A value-added service to the patients is to de-plaque the tongue at recare visits and offer the Tango for patient purchase.
Plaque removal is a daily dilemma. For patients suffering with arthritic conditions, traditional floss products may be difficult to maneuver with feeble fingers. Johnson & Johnson offers its maneuverable REACH Access Flosser. The handle is longer, more like a toothbrush. The floss head is replaceable, prestrung with a minty shredless floss. (A click sound lets the patient know that the floss is engaged properly on the handle.) Try offering the REACH Access Flosser to noncompliant patients along with professional education, and at the next recare, see if compliance has increased due to the ease of using the flosser.
The daily maintenance of dental instruments requires several steps to ensure uncontaminated tools. From pre-soaking to the cycles of sterilization, general purpose products must be efficient and time-saving. Several infection control products are available in many different modes of mixing, ranging from concentrated granules, to effervescent tablets, to ready-to-use liquids.
Hu-Friedy offers its IMS Daily Clean for instrument care. The cleaner comes in “butter tube” containers and is a cost saver as the clinician mixes with water to activate the concentrate. Biotrol’s Restore Daily is an ultrasonic cleaner that can also be used as a soak for heavily soiled (stainless steel) instruments and used without diluting from the premeasured pour bottle.
Familiar daily duties do not need to become routine. If your current mindset is geared to performing lackluster cleanings — change your routine with the addition of new, exciting products. Daily drudgery of instrument preparation prior to sterilization cycles can be accomplished effectively with the use of daily dirt dissolvers and designed soaks. For patients’ home care use, recommend products specific to their daily needs.
The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned.
Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis’ Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates.