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Proud of My Op

June 2, 2018
Donna Avakoff, RDH, a California dental hygienist, realizes how special her long-term operatory is after providing treatment in temporary offices.

After temping, California dental hygienist realizes her
ideal operatory is where she has always been

Left: After air polishing, a warm, scented towel is provided for patient comfort. Right: Donna Avakoff, RDH, displays her operatory.

After visiting several different dental offices as a temporary dental hygienist, Donna Avakoff, RDH, realized how proud she was of her long-time operatory. Avakoff began temping when a dentist employer of 15 years passed away, and she wanted to continue providing patient care. Avakoff has based her career as a part-time dental hygienist for two different offices in Foster City, Calif., which is in the heart of Silicon Valley and the biotech industry.

“It was losing the three-day-a-week job that put me out there temping,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot during this time temping and doing working interviews.”

One thing she learned was how proud she was of her operatory for her other part-time job, the dental office for Dr. Stephen Henry.

“I cannot be prouder than to now say I work in an office that has a great operatory for both the patient and the hygienist,” Avakoff said. “I am equipped with ergonomic state of the art devices to best address my patients’ needs. The reason I say this is that after recently temping for a few months I realize the lack of attention to the working operatories that are out there. I fully understand the need to be comfortable in a space to reach the next level of patient care.”

She has been employed at Dr. Henry’s general practice for varying days each week for more than 20 years.

“I am comfortable with my chair, slow-speed handpiece, ultrasonic unit + the inserts, my scalers are of my choice, XP technology, the diode laser is by my side, as well as an air polisher,” she said. “I have an assortment of oral aids I pull out to address each individual patient’s needs, and I am abreast of new research on systemic links to periodontal disease and able to demonstrate it through proper visual aids.”

The newest item in her operatory is an Air-Flow Master unit (Hu-Friedy EMS). “This has been a tremendous service to the appropriate patients. The Air-Flow Master Air Polisher allows me to more effectively manage biofilm,” she said. She attributes the cordless Midwest RDH Freedom (Dentsply Sirona) as being the device that has helped her prevent occupational injuries.

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Avakoff said a new item among her home-care samples has been a floss. “Cocofloss has been a real game changer for many of our patients,” she said. “It makes flossing more enjoyable through clever marketing while getting patients more compliant through the experience of superior cleaning!” Her operatory also dispenses GUM End Tuft toothbrushes (Sunstar), Nimbus toothbrushes, Q Brush interdental brushes (Nexadental), and BreathRX tongue cleaners (Philips Sonicare). For specific patients, the practice also recommends the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean or the Waterpik Aquarius water flosser.

She believes patient care starts with the body support by the memory form pillows developed by Crescent Products. Avakoff said, “The Crescent memory foam that I saw at a dental convention in Hawaii gave the old chair a great facelift! Patients admit to being more comfortable. I wanted to make them feel pampered as I did when I had facials. The knee pillow made such a great improvement in patient comfort.”

Essential oils also help patients relax. Staff members prefer a Citrus Bliss blend from DoTerra, but they will also use a lavender blend for calming patients. The citrus scent is “a staff favorite for its fresh smell and mood-lifting properties. Cleansing the air is a bonus! It certainly puts us in a good mood that is reflected in patient care.”

A large screen monitor allows patients to clearly see detailed images of x-rays, intraoral photos, and perio charting.

Patients receive an extra touch at the end of appointments too when they receive warm scented towels (White Towel Services, Inc.) and a coconut oil gum massage. For the latter, she expanded on gum massage learned in dental hygiene school when she began using a diode laser in periodontal therapy.

“I learned that vitamin E or coconut oil was a way to hydrate and sooth gingival tissue by massage after SRP and laser curettage. Hence, a new protocol was developed. Only now I use it more often when there is much gingival inflammation and instrumentation on their maintenance visits too. It’s soothing and leaves the patient tasting the nice coconut flavor when they leave the office.”

Foster City is part of San Mateo County on the San Francisco Peninsula. The county is home to such companies as Facebook, Oracle Corporation, Visa Inc., Sony Interactive Entertainment, Electronic Arts, YouTube, Genentech, and Gilead Sciences.

“We care for patients of all ages,” Avakoff said. “And the techs love our equipment!”

As for her personal life, Avakoff enjoys baking and walking her two Golden Retrievers in sunny California. She and her husband, Ed, enjoy entertaining friends with an wood-fired pizza oven.