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What's on my tray: A new grad faced with a pandemic

May 27, 2022
Picture this: You graduate from dental hygiene school in 2020, excited to begin an exciting clinical career, only to be faced with...a pandemic.

There is nothing like graduating from college and fulfilling your dreams of becoming a dental hygienist. We all remember walking across that stage, eager, emotional, and excited for the future. We also recall the stress of acclimating to clinical practice post-dental hygiene school: the difficulties of going from three-hour appointments to one-hour appointments, learning how to navigate new dental software, and going from two patients a day to eight. It was an exciting, yet scary time.

I want you to remember these feelings and add the uncertainty, confusion, and panic of 2020. Do that, and you will have this month’s dental hygienist’s experience. Emily Andrade, BSDH, RDH, graduated in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to find herself part of an at-risk profession that was being forced to quickly adapt. Emily credits her success these past two years to working for a great dental practice and having access to innovative products. This month’s recommendations are the Aerosol Assist, Boka toothpaste, and the NSK Varios 970.

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Relevant beyond COVID-19

Prior to 2020, most clinical dental hygienists were not using aerosol-reducing devices, but that quickly changed with the development of an airborne virus that started to plague the world. We quickly began implementing such devices and found no one-size-fits-all when it comes to aerosol reduction. Some devices only reduce aerosols, and others also have water control. There are both hands-free and handheld devices. Emily wanted to implement something into her practice that would require minimal adaptation; that’s how she found the Aerosol Assist. The Aerosol Assist is a hands-free autoclavable aerosol suppression device with fluid removal. Emily loves the Aerosol Assist because “It keeps my hands free. I can use both hands without having to reach for my suction.”

The Aerosol Assist by Pivatool is a cylindrical device with a funnel-like opening and a buccal plate. The buccal plate is placed onto the patient’s buccal mucosa, and the inferior opening of the Aerosol Assist is attached to the high-volume suction. While some might be concerned with hanging a device from a patient’s cheek, Emily states, “It’s very comfortable for my patients.” It’s so comfortable, in fact, that her patients often don’t even notice the device. She says, “It helps me control the water mist that’s created with ultrasonics that often lands on my patients’ cheeks.” While the Aerosol Assist is an aerosol-suppression device, it also enhances the patient experience by reducing the amount of water and mist projected onto patients and provides constant water suctioning during the dental procedure. The Aerosol Assist is advertised as a device that’s meant to reduce aerosols from all airborne diseases, not just COVID-19. Emily states, “the Aerosol Assist makes me feel safer, as it minimizes aerosols.”

Open your Boka

As hygienists, we all know there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dental product recommendations. We are taught about fluoride in school, but often we are not educated on nonfluoride alternatives. Upon graduating, Emily found that many of her patients were looking for alternatives to traditional toothpaste. In her hunt for a fluoride-free product, she found Boka toothpaste, a “natural, 100% nontoxic and fluoride-free toothpaste.” Boka features nano-hydroxyapatite and is an alternative for patients “who are sensitive to mint-flavored toothpaste or want a fluoride-free product,” Emily reports. Boka cites a 2014 research article by Pepla et al. that says, “The nano-hydroxyapatite is a revolutionary material with a wide use in dentistry. With regard to restorative and preventative fields, nano-hydroxyapatite has remarkable remineralizing effects on initial lesions of enamel.”1 Emily states, “I feel confident when I recommend this to my patients as it has nano-hydroxyapatite.”

Love at first scale

Unlike many dental hygiene programs in her area, Emily attended a program that included experience using both magnetostrictive and piezoelectric technologies. Unsure of her preference, her decision was solidified when a few months after graduating, Emily was given the NSK Varios Piezo 970. She hasn’t looked back since. “The Varios 970 is definitely one of my favorite things in my operatory!” The Varios 970 features an LED-illuminated handpiece and automatic adjusting frequency of the piezo. “I love the Varios 970 because it has multiple settings that I can use during treatment. It also has an LED light that turns on when the pedal is pressed,” explains Emily. Additionally, the Varios 970 is slim and lightweight, and has a pedal with 360 touch. “The pedal is also very sensitive, and not a lot of pressure is needed for the piezo to be activated,” says Emily. With several unique features, we can easily see why the Varios 970 is one of Emily’s top picks.

You can follow Emily Andrade’s journey on Instagram @emily.kristell.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the March 2022 print edition of RDH magazine. Dental hygienists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.


  1. Pepla E, Besharat LK, Palaia G, Tenore G, Migliau G. Nano-hydroxyapatite and its applications in preventive, restorative and regenerative dentistry: a review of literature. Ann Stomatol (Roma). 2014;5(3):108-114.