You walk into your dental office, you are greeted by a dental hygienist. He or she brings you back for your appointment and performs a series of highly specialized, professional services that are virtually painless. You are now set up for premium dental health for the next six months, provided you don’t dip your teeth into vats of cotton candy and soda upon leaving the office.
Too often, we take our dental hygienists for granted, thinking that they are merely there to clean our teeth. Our respect and consideration are saved for the dentist, but we may only see that dentist for a few minutes as they are flying from patient to patient, getting updates from……you guessed it…..the hygienists. We need to begin changing our attitudes and shifting some of that respect back to our dental hygienists, who have been with us from the beginning. Here’s why a dental hygienist is an integral part of dental care:
They Are Highly Trained
Hygienists need to graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program, and they must pass a series of proficiencies and exams before being granted a license to practice. In addition, they must stay abreast of industry changes by undergoing continuing education practices and additional certifications, if necessary. They know far more than we realize.
They Truly Care About Patient Care
Hygienists don’t go into the business unless they are passionate about patient care. Their first concern is for patient comfort and care, and they will not hesitate to speak up if they feel that there are practices that violate ethical and professional standards in the industry that would compromise care.
They Become Valued Members Of Your Care Team
Quite often, you have a better relationship with your hygienist than you do your dentist, as you see them more often. A hygienist is looked to for advice, education, and even training on how to perform dental hygiene practices at home that promote oral health. You can visit the same hygienist for years and become good friends that establish mutual trust and respect for one another.
They Are Exceptional Educators
Hygienists have all the tools, both physical and educational, to provide you with comprehensive care. They are preventative and inflammatory experts who will work with you to design an individualized care plan. Quite often, dentists look to them for suggestions on what best practices would be for you. The trust that you establish with your hygienist will allow you to ask questions and receive educated answers from them that will enable you to make informed care decisions about your dental health.
They Are Team Players
They understand what it means to be a valued member of a team, and they work to support all aspects of life in dental care. They are invested heavily in your dental health and in the success of the practice, and they work to support both as they do what they are called upon to do. These silent superstars are in the trenches, making sure you get the best care and that the dentists they support are getting information in order to make the right choices for your dental health.
They Know Who To Defer To
Hygienists strike a delicate balance between decision making and deferring more difficult matters to their dentist. Knowing which hat to wear and what to do in each role takes an immense amount of intelligence and skill, and they are there performing comfortably in both capacities to make sure you get the best care possible.
A hygienist will perform all duties of patient care from beginning to end; they are there as primary caregivers during important exams, and they are there to assist the dentist with more complicated dental procedures. They may even cover aspects of follow up care by making appointments, dealing with payments, and other aspects of the job that remain unseen by us. We need to give proper respect to these hygiene warriors, as without them, we’d be smiling more painful smiles.
A dental hygienist is an integral part of an oral health team, and without them, life in the dental office would look and feel drastically different. The next time you have an appointment with your hygienist, thank them for who they are, what they do, and the level of expertise and passion for patient care that they bring to work with them everyday, and smile while doing it!