7 Things Your Dental Hygienist Wish You Knew

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Dental hygienists are very grateful to their patients, and they realize patients have chosen a dental office for assistance during the journey of keeping their teeth for a lifetime. It is a hard task for some patients to even show up for appointments due to perhaps anxiety or a dental phobia, a demanding work schedule, or daily life responsibilities.

So, kudos and thanks to all patients for showing up and doing their part in the pursuit of happy, healthy teeth and gingiva! I acknowledge all of that just to say this: There are a few things that your dental hygienist would love for you to be aware of before your next dental appointment.

1) Stop Telling Us How Much You Hate Being Here

In no other profession or social setting would this be an acceptable thing to say. As I’ve mentioned, some patients have anxiety and expressing that is perfectly understandable. Part of our job is to help alleviate those fears and address concerns dental patients may have.

However, starting off the appointment with comments about how you hate dental care really does put a damper on the time we have together. Imagine being invited to the home of a friend, and as soon as you are greeted, you begin telling them how much you hate being there. It’s kind of the same thing.

2) Be Truthful About Your Medical History

We are not just being a nosey rosey when we ask about your recent medical changes. Many systemic conditions and diseases can affect your dental and overall health. We need to be updated to be able to take the best care of our patients. Some medications can cause adverse effects in the mouth, such as xerostomia. Some surgeries, such as joint replacements, may require patients to put off a dental cleaning for a certain amount of time due to risks of infection. Current A1Cs are important to know as it directly affects current healing abilities.

So, please be truthful about any changes. P.S. A list of updated medications would be wonderful. There’s no need to play the guess-the-medication game.

3) Please Brush Your Teeth BEFORE Your Appointment

We understand that people are busy. Sometimes it isn’t possible to brush prior to leaving for a dental appointment. But it’s always possible to do so once you arrive at the office. Some offices have pre-pasted brushes just for this purpose. If not, just ask for a toothbrush and paste, and give those teeth and gums a good, thorough brushing.

It’s great not to have to pick food out of a person’s teeth. More importantly, it really does give us an opportunity to evaluate how well you are brushing and give you pointers or tips on how to improve. It’s hard to do that if you don’t brush before your appointment, so thanks in advance.

4) Yes, Dental X-rays are Necessary

Health-care providers attempt to assess the health of teeth and gingiva during appointments. We rely on radiographs (aka x-rays) to help us with this task. There are areas that we just simply cannot see with the natural eye such as interproximal spaces, the area between your teeth where they contact isn’t visible. Nor are any of the root, bone, or underlying structures visible without x-rays.

To be sure that a patient does not have any dental decay between the teeth, any gingival or tooth abscesses, pathology such as tumors, and to evaluate the bone that supports teeth, x-rays are a vital part of the dental examination. So, for goodness sake, don’t refuse x-rays. Remember, it’s always easier and less costly to fix something when it’s small than to wait until it’s much larger and able to be seen visually.

5) Please Put the Cell Phone Away

Really, it’s just common courtesy to put your phone away in silent mode until your dental appointment is over. At times, it is necessary to have your phone available, and we understand that. If, for example, you are a caretaker of a parent or have a sick child, you need to be able to have your phone close by.

Otherwise, trying to text, Snapchat, or answer calls while your dental appointment is happening is impairing our ability to do our job efficiently if we are having to stop to “answer this real quick text” or wait for you to “let me grab this call, I won’t be long.” Imagine if we were doing the same thing? Kind of rude, isn’t it?

6) We Truly Care About Our Patients

Taking care of patients is a top priority for us. We want you to leave your dental appointments knowing any existing problems that may have been discovered and the options for resolving them. We want you armed with education, knowledge, and samples that allow you to take care of your teeth and gingiva daily.

Any recommendations that we suggest is not an effort to pad our pockets. They are treatments or products that we believe would be beneficial in the daily care of your oral health.

7) Cancel or Confirm Appointments

It is so very important to confirm your dental appointments in a timely manner. We have reserved that specific date and time for you, and we are looking forward to seeing you. On occasion, life happens, and that date may not be as perfect as it seemed six months ago when it was agreed upon.

If that is the case, please call as soon as you can, preferably 48 hours or more prior to your appointment and reschedule for a better date. This allows the appointment to be moved to a time that is better for you and allows us an opportunity to fill the appointment time with another patient who needs to be seen.

We love taking care of our patients. So, try to love us back.

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Kim Kiser, RDH
Kim Kiser, RDH, whose career spans over 30 years, looks forward to sharing tips and topics that other fellow hygienist may find helpful, funny, and educational in their pursuit of ultimate care of their patients. A 1992 graduate of Trident College, Kim has a passion for educating patients with the best and most up to date products and techniques available, so patients fully understand how to properly be the best advocate in the care of their own oral health. Kim is a mother of 2, with one granddaughter, and resides in the beautiful North Georgia mountains with her husband, Mark. Outside of her love for dentistry, Kim also enjoys baking, gardening, painting, and enjoying all the beauty North Georgia has to offer.