Calculus detection tip for dental hygienists

July 17, 2024
It takes patience to master your calculus detection skills. But here's an expert tip from Hygiene Edge to move along faster with that process.

When I was teaching in clinics at dental hygiene schools, without fail, students would ask me, “When will I know what calculus feels like?” or “When will I feel confident in my calculus detection skills?” as they were learning how to use an explorer. How would you answer this question based on your experiences after graduating dental hygiene school and going into private practice? 

Calculus detection is a tricky skill that takes practice, patience, and experience. The more an explorer is used, the easier it becomes. I personally have seen this time and time again. But as a new dental hygienist, it can be hard to wait out the learning curve. What are some other things we can do to learn this skill and feel more confident in our detection? Watch this video about a helpful tip to increase your detection skills. 

My answer to students about how long it takes to feel confident was usually, “Honestly, it will be a few years after graduation.” I feel like being involved in education has helped with my detection skills since I checked patients with all different levels of health, disease, and calculus every day. Leaving dental hygiene school gives us the basics and gets us well prepared to see patients, but the experience of seeing many different types of patients in private practice helps solidify each skill, especially calculus detection.

So, if you find yourself in the thick of learning and relearning this skill, know you’re not alone. I was in your white-leathered clinic-required shoes before I navigated the weird world of dental hygiene instrumentation with confidence.

Hygiene Edge was created by three dental hygiene educators who love both dentistry and education. With over 40 years of experience both in the education space and in the dental field, Melia Lewis, Jessica Atkinson, and Shelley Brown love sharing their knowledge through helpful, short videos online, speaking, and working with amazing companies. You can find more information at Hygiene Edge, on YouTube, and Instagram  @hygieneedge. Have a question or a tricky area? Let us know! We'd love to help.


About the Author

Melia Lewis, MEd, RDH

Melia Lewis, MEd, RDH, graduated in 2009 and has been working clinically or as an adjunct professor in Canada and the US. She is cofounder of Hygiene Edge, an online education platform full of tips and tricks to make dental professionals' lives easier. She has a passion for education and empowering dental hygienists to be their best. When she’s not talking dentistry, she’s planning her next trip. She has of two daughters and loves being in the mountains with her family. Contact her at [email protected] or on Instagram @hygieneedge and @meliardh.