Are you Stuck

Jan. 1, 2000
It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to cling to or rely upon the information we learned while we were in school.

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to cling to or rely upon the information we learned while we were in school. As I travel around the country, periodically I will hear a hygienist say, “But that's not what I learned in school.” School taught us basic clinical skills and helped us learn to think critically, but that was just the beginning.

Unless you graduated five minutes ago, it's time to update many things you learned in school. Science and technology are changing the knowledge base faster than most of us can keep up. While it's easy to practice dental hygiene just the way we were taught, going on autopilot without considering the amazing advances that crop up every day leads to boredom.

I began my career in dentistry as an assistant in 1968. That's four decades ago! I can safely say there is nothing I do today as a clinician that is the same as what I learned in school. Mirrors, gauze, infection control, ultrasonics, prophy paste and fluoride treatments are all different. Loupes, headlights, sealants, remineralization and bacteriological testing were not even on the radar screen. The concept of minimally invasive diagnostics or treatment hadn't even been considered. We were bare handed, up to our knuckles in spit, doing prehistoric bloody prophies day in and day out.

If you're feeling stuck or want a little more excitement in your practice, think about incorporating some new ideas, technology or products into your daily practice. There is a special place in my heart for any innovation that makes clinical days easier, safer, or helps provide better patient care. There are a lot of products and concepts that I love and it's impossible to discuss every one in a single column, but here are some favorites that make my day.

Thirty-seven years ago, I stumbled across the original version of the Plak Check kit, a disclosing system that uses a fluorescent yellow dye and glows brightly under a special blue light. It's hard to ignore bright yellow biofilm. It's like a truth serum or a final exam, and gets patients' attention. The real difference between this system and all others is that the fluorescent dye does not stain the lips, tongue or gingivae for hours on end. Patients really appreciate not leaving the office with the telltale residual red stain. Sunstar's version of this technology is packaged with single-dose disposable disclosing solution applicators, which makes it easy to apply as well as comply with today's infection control requirements.

More and more clinicians are now wearing magnification loupes, which are rapidly becoming the standard of care. Orascoptic's Revolution loupes are the epitome of hybrid technology. The through-the-lens loupes, mounted on a flip-up carrier lens, attach to a lightweight, sporty frame, giving clinicians the best of both worlds. Adding a headlight system to your loupes improves visual acuity even more. While I prefer a corded fiber optic halogen system, many of today's clinicians are opting for compact, portable LED lighting systems that attach directly to their loupes. If you're not wearing magnification and illumination, you don't know what you're missing.

The illumination from Zirc's Crystal mirror is revolutionary. Forty-three layers of metal oxides are fused directly onto a composite or metal mirror head that screws directly into an existing mirror handle. Another version of the Crystal mirror has a wonderful cushioned grip handle that lightens the pinch grip. The Crystal mirror surface is bright, reflects more light, and provides truer color rendition than traditional rhodium mirror surfaces.

Tip For Wiping Mouth Mirrors

Here is a great off-label use for Oasis Moisturizing Mouthwash. Periodically wipe the mouth mirror with mouthwash-dampened gauze. This cuts down on fogging as well as decreasing the surface tension on the mirrors so moisture sheets across the Oasis-coated surface rather than forming impossible-to-see-through droplets. The Oasis formulation keeps the mirror clear longer than other rinses.

When it comes to polishing, three novel products have caught my attention. The Young Contra Elite is is my favorite traditional prophy angle. The subtle bend in the body helps keep the wrist in an ergonomically favorable wrist position. The new Elite cup, designed with oblique ridges on the outside of the cup, adapts to tooth anatomy, especially interproximally, with ease and reduces splatter significantly, even with the creamiest paste. Slipping the angle gently onto the handpiece keeps the angle quiet and running smoothly.

Just when you think you've seen it all, a product pops onto the scene that challenges conventional practice. Butler's new Paste-Free Prophy Angle is a novel hybrid polishing concept. The cup, impregnated with fine silica, polishes without additional prophy paste. Paste-free polishing seems strange at first, but makes sense after a few tries.

Initially, the cup feels a bit stiffer than a traditional cup, but polish posterior surfaces first to loosen up the cup. Pasteless polishing means better visual acuity, no splatter, no grit, and no flavor, and there is less stimulated salivary flow. This unique angle is designed for light to medium stain, but at times works well on some heavy stain. Patient acceptance of this product is quite favorable.

Every one of us has sensitive patients. They dread their appointments and we cringe when we see their name on the schedule. Despite our best efforts, it's hard to make these people comfortable. ProClude desensitizing prophy paste has transformed my ability to care for patients better than any other desensitizing product I've tried through the years. Other products provide relief, but in my experience ProClude works better, faster and more completely than anything else. Application is the key.

Before scaling, polish ProClude on with a prophy cup or apply it with a cotton-tipped applicator. Don't rinse the paste off immediately. Let the chemistry work for your patient. While this product is classified as a prophy paste, don't expect it to remove heavy, tenacious stain. Its benefits are in its ability to make your patients comfortable. In addition, it works wonders for sensitive patients who really want to lighten their teeth. Consider recommending the companion home care toothpaste, DenClude, to keep patients pain free or as a pre-whitening desensitizer.

As a clinician, it's intriguing to find new, novel approaches to practicing dental hygiene, ideas that make your day easier or help you take better care of patients. This is a great time to be a dental hygienist if you are willing to seek out new information and embrace fresh concepts. Life as a clinician can be fun and rewarding.

My list of favorites is way too long for one column, so check out the July 2008 issue for more recommendations about products that will help you and your patients stay in the Comfort Zone! And who knows what new, exciting products will emerge on the horizon in the next 30 days. Until then, if you've not tried some of these products, give them a chance and let me know your thoughts.

About the Author

Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, is the senior consulting editor for RDH magazine. She is an international speaker who has published numerous articles and authored several textbook chapters. Her popular programs include ergonomics, patient comfort, burnout, and advanced diagnostics and therapeutics. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award, Anne is an ADHA member and has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston since 1971. You can reach her at [email protected] or (832) 971-4540, and her Web site is