Keep cool on the hot seat

July 1, 2009
Scheduling dilemmas are not enjoyable, especially in the hygiene realm. Patients are not pleased when they have to wait ...

by Karen Kaiser, RDH
[email protected]

Scheduling dilemmas are not enjoyable, especially in the hygiene realm. Patients are not pleased when they have to wait past their appointment time because the hygienist is running behind. Sitting in the hygiene “hot seat,” so to speak, is uncomfortable because we manipulate the appointment time. If you’ve ever faced scrutiny from a patient, you’ve probably felt obligated to apologize for your actions. Regrettably, equipment and treatment products sometimes fail, and this is one way we fall behind schedule. But one way to avoid the hostile hygiene hot seat is to organize required items that are used regularly during appointments.

Patients don’t welcome anything hot in their mouths. A “hot” tooth that needs endodontic treatment because of a necrotic nerve is painful. An exposed root surface that feels “hot” stimuli is uncomfortable. Also, allowing a prophy cup to sit on top of a tooth for too long during a polish produces a “hot” sensation for the patient, which is a distressing feeling. A prophy cup that features an oscillating motion (versus a circling rotational motion) may offer increased comfort to sensitive patients due to reduced frictional heat. The Twist disposable prophy angle by Crosstex works without lifting the cup off the surface, so prophy paste and saliva don’t fly around. Frictional heat build-up will not occur from applying constant pressure on the tooth surface. The designed movement of the angle allows pressure to be exerted when stubborn stains are present. Also, staying on the tooth with constant speed produces optimal results.

Hygiensts are increasingly finding soft–tissue lasers helpful. Laser energy is primarily pigment and blood absorbed, so lasers during periodontal therapies work well to sterilize with pinpoint accuracy and eradicate bacteria. When the light-focused beam is activated, a red glow at the tip helps to aim. When using the laser in the sulcus, the hygienist should move the laser tip quickly and steadily in order to avoid heat build-up. Again, this could cause unwanted heat and produce an undesirable feeling for the patient. Therefore, the hygienist should move the tip’s energy deliberately to get results without surfeit heat.

When mouth pain strikes, therapeutic products that do not sting or burn are recommended. Aphthous ulcer irritations from orthodontic hardware, cheek bites, and similar injuries can be agonizing. Products that soothe, such as maximum strength Canker-X by Sunstar Butler, form a relief gel barrier against the burn. Soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, sodium hyaluronate, and polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) coat the lesion when one or two drops are directly applied to coat the sore.

Outside the oral arena, “hot” is more welcome. Sterilization equipment must reach hot temperatures to ensure sterilization of dental instruments. Programmable autoclaves use hot steam with each cycle and feature ergonomic handles and lighted displays. The Midmark Company Ultraclave has a convenient fill tube in the front (which is accessible when the door is open), which allows for easy filling and draining. In addition, when a sterilization cyle is complete and pressure is within range, the door opens automatically. This eliminates waiting around at the end of the workday to vent the autoclave. Pelton & Crane has the new Delta Q sterilizer with closed-door drying. The unit also has the ability for a PC cable to download the unit’s sterilization history.

When the dental office heats up, maintain your hygiene cool with products designed to reduce hot situations.

The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned.

About the Author

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. She can be contacted at [email protected].