Both practices in which I work are highly motivated when it comes to periodontal disease. Each practice has a team of three hygienists/therapists and most patients will come into contact with one of us through their patient journey. In this world of great expense, patients want their treatment to last and be as trouble free as possible.
Motivating a patient with no aim is extremely difficult. If you can find what interests or concerns your patient, and focus your instruction and treatment with that in mind, then it is so much easier to instigate change in their mouth care at home.
At the practices, initial nonsurgical therapy is carried out over a three-month period with the aim of optimum plaque control and no bleeding on probing (BOP), then a re-evaluation with their dentist is done. Depending on what the patient has achieved in their oral health, a long-term care pathway is recommended and this may involve quarterly supportive hygienist therapy.
I really believe in demonstrating in the mouth. You can’t have a driving lesson without a car, so how can a patient understand what you want them to achieve and, more importantly, feel, if the lesson is not taking place inside their mouth. I like Oral-B Braun electric toothbrushes. I use one myself and recommend them, especially for perio patients, I recommend the sensitive, precision clean and interspace heads. I prefer dental tape to floss and I like the Oral-B Satin Tape and Glide Tape. I love the Vision Interdental Periodontal (VIP) mini brushes from Comply and I instruct my patients to use these before considering an interdental brush with a handle. I recommend the TePe manual interspace brushes with soft bristles.
I am a pictorial person so I make pictures in my patients memories. I use analogies and phrases they can remember. I get them to do the things I want them to do at home while in the surgery. I have models and flip charts and I give my patients copies of their chartings. I have even made videos and taken pictures with their smart phones so they can replay them at home. I am more than just an extension of a scaler tip. I don’t want to clean off Mrs Smith’s calculus that I removed three months ago. I want her to come back with less and get praised for her efforts and for her to know that her health is improving!
Top 5 tips for a happy hygienist
1. Listen – to your colleagues but, more importantly, to your patients; only then can you understand and help
2. Learn – and never stop learning. Dentistry is a modern science that is constantly changing
3. Cooperate – there’s no I in team. Without the help of your colleagues and your patients, how do you stay good at your job?
4. Smile – no one likes miserable people. We work with smiles so show yours!
5. Passion – have it in bucketfuls and don’t let anyone take it away.
Kai King has worked for more than 20 years in private, specialist practice and in the NHS general dental service for more than 10 years. She has established a reputation for excellence in the field of dental disease prevention. She currently holds the position of assistant honorary secretary for BSP helping Philip Greene in his presidential year 2013.