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Lara James, RDH

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Lara James, RDH, is a licensed dental hygienist of clinical hygiene, including corporate, dental management, and private practices. She graduated in 2004 from Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon. Lara has created DentalAisle.com, a dental blog, to educate consumers on dental products and dental issues. Lara also has written an online continuing education course on dentalcare.com. For more information, email her at lara@dentalaisle.com.

Scalene Muscles: Poor Working Posture Can Lead to Pain in Hygienists

The scalene muscles can either be a dental hygienist's friend or nemesis. When the muscles are healthy, they keep the neck positioned correctly, tilt the head side to side, and turn the head left or right. When they are an adversary, the scalene muscles can feel disabling to the upper extremities. Scalene muscles are affected by the postures of working...

The Uvula: Conditions that Dental Hygienists can Observe during an Exam

The uvula should not be neglected when evaluating the oral cavity for any discrepancies. The uvula is a fleshy, soft tissue in the middle of the soft palate that hangs down in the back of the throat in front of the tonsils, resembling an oval or teardrop shape (see Figure 1). The uvula’s flexibility prevents food and liquids from...

Understanding How Menopause and Andropause Affect Oral Health

In The Female Brain, a man's neurological reality slowly wears down over time while a woman's brain is erratic. The author of the 2006 book, neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine, wrote, "His is like a mountain that is worn away imperceptibly over the millennia by glaciers, weather, and the deep tectonic movements of the earth. Hers is more like the...

Mutual Respect: Avoid Referring to Dental Colleagues as ‘Just a …’

After graduating from the dental hygiene program, I temped for about a year since I had no previous dental experience, and I wanted to see what dental hygiene opportunities were out there. One office where I temped was interesting enough that I am here 17 years later writing about it. The office was a father/daughter dental practice, and he...

A Deep Dive into Core Muscles: The Foundation of Hygienist Ergonomics

The core, a group of midsection body muscles, is essential to strengthen and maintain for overall health. The back is one of the most compromised groups of muscles and ligaments in the dental profession ‒ even with good ergonomics. A static, unnatural position can initiate or accelerate an injury, whether short-term or long-term. Depending on the patient or self-induced...

Dental Fear, Anxiety, and Phobia: Discerning the Difference and Treatment Tips

Fear, anxiety, or phobia, tend to be used interchangeably when describing emotions about the dental office, and I’ll refer to these terms as a whole as being apprehensive. Fewer dental patients are enthused about visiting the dentist versus those who don’t. Dental apprehension can affect oral health by delaying or avoiding care, causing extensive or complex treatments, including oral...

Oral Health: The Difference between Genetics, Hereditary, and Lifestyle

How often do we hear, “Just take my teeth out and give me dentures because my parents had them,” from dental patients? Or, “I’m prone to cavities because I was born with soft teeth” as they drink soda and brush once a day? “Prone” is thrown haphazardly around since everyone is prone to something. Prone is having the natural inclination...

TMJ Disc Displacement: Hygienist Finally Seeks Care after Year of Self-treatment

I suddenly became my own dental patient one day after years of clicking and popping in my right side temporomandibular joint ‒ nothing painful or even uncomfortable. I just knew that I would feel and hear my jaw when I ate. For many years, my “normal” jaw included painless popping and clicking, more so when opening. It didn’t keep me...

Dental Prevention vs. Treatment: Breaking It Down

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and preventing disease is preferable to curing a disease. Prevention is the action of stopping something from happening or arising. Treatment is care given for an illness or injury. Even when illness is treated, one may not fully recover. Prevention saves money, time, pain, and inconveniences. Treatment costs money,...

Unique Features of the Mouth that Help Forensic Investigators

The mouth is one of the most unique features of the body ‒ most valuable in the basic survival of speaking and eating. The mouth is also very valuable in providing identification. Fingerprints have distinct attributes, and so do the lip, tongue, teeth, and rugae. These prints can identify people in uncertain situations such as crimes, mass disasters, missing...

Eagle Syndrome: Dental Professionals can Identify Painful Condition on Panoramic Radiograph

Eagle syndrome (stylohyoid syndrome) is within the category of many other conditions since there are no definite known causes. Pain is experienced in the head and neck region, and the symptoms can mimic other conditions that cause head and neck pains. Tonsillectomies are considered a likely factor as a result of possible scarring and injury from the procedure. Other factors...

Dental Customer Service: The Benefits of a Pleasant Experience for Patients

If customer service seems worse these days, it’s quite delightful when good experiences do occur. I’ve had my share of awful experiences lately, and, based on the complaints of others, declining customer service trends seem like the new normal. When I do receive good customer service, I thank the person for being helpful, kind, knowledgeable, and efforts. An article a...

Dental Professionalism: An Overview of Professionalism in the Dental Office

Professionalism is the way a person represents themselves or the business they own or work for. Professionalism is defined as a professional character, spirit, or methods ‒ the standing or practice of a professional as distinguished from an amateur.1 A professional is also defined as relating to a job that requires special education, training, or skill; done or given by...

Metabolic Syndrome: Multiple Health Conditions Influence Path of Dental Care

Metabolic syndrome represents multiple conditions that have risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The term is not for a solo disease but rather a group of medically high-risk conditions. When combined, the conditions cause serious health issues. According to the International Diabetes Federation, metabolic syndrome is defined as “a cluster of the most dangerous heart attack risk factors: diabetes and...

Cold, Flu, and Sinus Infections: Dental Care while Sick with Viruses

It's that time of year when patients and dental professionals are more vulnerable to getting sick from the seasonal flu or common cold. Many dental hygienists still go on with their day ─ even though they are not at their peak yet in recovery ─ and they do not feel bad enough to use a vacation day for being...

Tunnel Syndromes: Dental Hygienists can Seek Treatment for Occupational Injuries

Tunnel syndromes are comparable in symptoms yet are very distinguishable in their characteristics. Many symptoms overlap with numbness and pain, but the locations are the key determinates. While all three of the nerves start in the neck, they travel down the arm and take different paths. Where the pain starts in the arm can determine which nerve is the...

Be Prepared to Provide Dental Hygiene Care for Pregnant Patients

Pregnancy changes the whole body and the changes range from psychological-emotional swings to the more obvious physical changes. The mouth is not an exception to the many changes in the body. Several conditions may appear during pregnancy, including pregnancy gingivitis, to even the beginning signs of postpartum depression.1 Poor oral health during pregnancy may lead to poor health for the...

Oromandibular Dystonia: Symptoms are Easily Observed by Dental Professionals

Dystonia is a rare condition that affects about 1% of the population during their daily lives. The condition causes involuntary, repetitive, and violent muscle contractions as well as movements derived from a neurological disorder. Dystonia may cause squeezing or twisting with other movements or abnormal postures. It can happen throughout the whole body and is characterized as generalized (affecting...

Pain Management: How Dental Hygienists Can Interpret Varying Expressions of Pain

Why is pain so variable with dental patients? How do some patients tolerate non-surgical periodontal therapy along root surfaces with zero anesthetic? They take it like a champ ─ no flinching, no facial gestures, no moaning, no fidgeting, and no “ouch.” After the dental appointment ends, they reflect, “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” However, other...

Tonsils: Close Scrutiny Can Pinpoint Disease and Raise Oral Health Awareness

Tonsils are part of the immune system and contain an abundance of white blood cells to combat germs from entering the body. They are part of mucous-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT).1 Tonsils are made with lymphocytes and cells that prevent and fight infections.1 The tonsils have antigen-presenting cells on their surface that communicate with the B and T cells as...