Knowledge is power. Did you know that a dental hygienist’s job description covers patient care and after-care treatment? The contention that dental hygienists only clean teeth misleads aspiring professionals. Also known as dental assistants, hygienists work with dentists to treat and offer services that go beyond flossing and brushing teeth.
Here are eight common dental hygienist duties that should prick your interest in the career.
1. Screening Patients
One of the dental hygienist duties is to screen patients. To establish the overall health of a patient’s teeth, the hygienist conducts a quick exam before the patient is ushered to the dentist. These tests depend on the state of the patient’s teeth, gum and oral health. At this level, signs of gum disease and tooth decay are diagnosed. The hygienist then reports the findings on the patient’s teeth to the dentist who then completes the examination process.
2. Educates the Patient
Patient education is an essential part of the job description of a dental hygienist. Not all patients know how to effectively care for their teeth. Some come to see the dentist when suffering from serious gum disease, a number of cavities, and with one or more missing teeth. Others are so afraid they avoid a dentist’s appointments like a plague.
Dental assistants educate patients on how to brush their teeth for enhanced oral health. The management of bridges and teeth implants and the value of regular appointments with a dentist is vital for patients. They allay patients’ concerns during an appointment.
3. Counselling the Patient
Another important dental hygienist job duty is patient counselling. Patients who avoid seeing the dentist for prolonged periods feel uncomfortable and worried about the possible dentist’s reception during the appointment. To calm the patient down, the hygienist assures them that the primary concern of the dentist is to care for and treat their teeth.
Patient counselling goes beyond the treatment phase. For instance, during root planning and scaling down where gingivitis is present, the dental assistant provides instructions to the patient on what should be done at home.
4. Creating Dental Health Awareness
The dental hygienist is not just an office job but a community undertaking. The hygienist is useful in conducting informative engagements and seminars in schools and community centers.
These conferences promote oral and dental hygiene. The dental assistant explains the importance of dental care and treatment and demonstrates the effects of poor oral hygiene. He or she provides leaflets to audiences explaining good habits for dental hygiene.
5. Keeping the Dental Clinic’s Desk
The dental assistant is in charge of keeping maintaining the dentist’s desk to ensure efficient quality services. This may include making plaster cast models of dental forms for enhanced studies. It may also include making patient’s charts on the status of their hygiene and oral health in addition to keeping patients’ records.
It is the dental hygienist’s duty to document and keep patient files for future references. He or she is responsible for equipment, tools, and workplace conditions. The hygienist also sharpens blades and chisels and sterilizes dental instruments.
6. Taking X-Rays and Impressions
Dental assistants usually take x-rays in dental offices. X-ray machines are available in many offices. Hygienists are trained to take a number of images within a few minutes. Dental impressions for oral appliances, dentures, and implants are done by hygienists. He or She is able to provide the dentist with written interpretation of the impressions and X-rays.
7. Treating Patients
Most of dental assistant duties involve the administration of treatment to patients. These include giving fluoride treatments and applying sealants to damaged or cracked teeth. Removing plaque from teeth and the build-up of tartar, regular cleaning and thorough tests on existing and new patients is part of their duties.
As part of their duties, dental hygienists also offer treatments such as root scaling and planning. Other duties include minor repairs to the dental structure. Those with the necessary qualification and expertise to administer local anesthesia to patients can add this to their to-do list. The hygienist helps to prevent tooth decay and cavities by applying fluoride and prescribed drugs.
8. Documenting and Reporting
The dental hygienist serves as the primary source of professional data to the dentist. He or she documents vital data about each patient; either in words, charts, pictorial, and X-ray files. The hygienist reports these official findings to the dentist and may recommend the appropriate treatment approach. For instance, should there be a medical problem with people from a certain area or section of the community, the hygienist is usually the first to take note. He may thereafter propose a set of corrective measures to solve the problem.
A career in dental hygiene is highly fulfilling and rewarding. The average hourly rate of $34 is not bad considering the national average is less this rate by half. Besides, dental hygienists are indispensable professionals in the society.