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Tanya L. Smith, RDH, BS

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Tanya L. Smith, RDH, BS, has been a clinical dental hygienist in private practice in Tucson, AZ, since graduating from Rio Salado College in 2011. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene at Northern Arizona University, Summa Cum Laude, in 2014. A regular volunteer at St. Elizabeth’s Health Center Dental Clinic, she also enjoys writing, research, and traveling in her spare time.

Pediatric Oral Education: Guide Parents Through Risks, Benefits of Pacifier Use

Dental hygienists inevitably encounter the question of pacifier use, and it is important to understand the risks and benefits of non-nutritive sucking habits in infants and young children. Pacifier use in some developed countries is so culturally established that the prevalence is up to 42.5% in young children by the age of one year.1 Nutritive sucking habits are those that...

Poked: Protocol Hygienists Must Follow After Dental Sharps Injury

Dental hygienists are among the 5.6 million workers in health care and related occupations who are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens and other potentially infectious material (OPIM) such as saliva in dental procedures.2 Dental professionals handle dental scalers, burs, anesthetic needles, orthodontic wire, and other hazardous materials daily. Dental facilities should have a clear protocol for sharps injuries...

Taste Disorders: What Dental Hygienists Need to Know to Help Patients

Loss of taste is often regarded as less important when compared to vision and hearing loss. It is poorly studied because taste loss is not considered serious or life-threatening. The sense of taste, however, is essential to the overall health of dental patients.4 Also known as dysgeusia, taste disorders can be frustrating for patients and may negatively affect psychological well-being,...

Interviewing During a Dental Hygienist Shortage: An Opportunity for Change

Many changes in the dental profession have occurred in recent years, notably a dental workforce shortage already in progress before 2020 that became exacerbated by a pandemic. While a workforce shortage places pressure on dentistry, it also allows for growth and change within those dental professions. Dentists are investing in employee retention, and dental auxiliary staff is taking the opportunity...

A Dental Hygienist’s Refresher on Tuberculosis

One of the most important aspects of an appointment is reviewing health histories with patients.  Every dental hygienist has experienced that moment, where one checked box sends our minds searching for the right questions to determine if it is safe to proceed with treatment for both the patient and ourselves. Tuberculosis tends to be one of those recurring conversation topics...

Scleroderma: How Dental Hygienists Can Approach Oral Symptoms

Scleroderma is an autoimmune connective tissue and rheumatic disease that causes inflammation in the skin and other areas of the body, including the face and mouth. Oral manifestations of scleroderma may directly affect a person's ability to maintain optimal oral health. Dental hygienists may be the first health care provider to note scleroderma. Early detection, medical referral, and treatment are...

HIPAA: Do Dental Professionals Fully Understand ‘Protected Health Information?’

Decades after the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was first introduced, it is still one of the most misunderstood federal health laws in effect, including within dentistry. Prior to HIPAA, no generally accepted set of security standards or general requirements for protecting health information existed for health care. Recent events concerning vaccination requirements for employment have...

Green Dentistry: How to Lower your Practice’s Environmental Footprint

Have you ever thought about the amount of waste a dental practice produces? It can be hard to ignore when a large part of our day is dedicated to cleaning and changing over rooms for the next patient. For the sake of time efficiency and maximizing cleanliness, disposable barriers, single-use products, and chemical-laden cleaning agents have become essential. However,...

Oral Health Effects of the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet has many devotees beyond the original intent of a controlled nutritional response to pediatric epilepsy. Dental hygienists have an in-depth understanding of the pivotal role nutrition can play in oral health and disease. Unexplained gingival inflammation can be rooted in what our patients consume daily and can be a small indication of a larger inflammatory issue...

A Dental Hygienists’ Refresher on Periodontal Probing

Dental hygienists learn early on that the periodontal probe is essentially our greatest tool in the assessment of periodontal health. Periodontal probing creates a record of health or disease over time that dental hygienists can reference to, evaluate healing, or determine the possible need to implement a more aggressive treatment plan. Including dental radiographs, a complete periodontal evaluation allows...

The Amazing Oral Health Benefits of Pumpkins

Cooler weather, colorful leaves, and warm drinks around a fire are some of the indications that autumn has arrived, but none are more emblematic than the appearance of pumpkin-inspired treats and décor over-flowing from store shelves. Many sweet treats that come to mind may not strike you as dental hygiene-friendly, but the pumpkin is surprisingly good for your oral...

Oral Piercing, Tattooing: RDHs Can Help Inform Patients about Body Modifications

Self-expression comes in many forms, including body modifications such as tattoos and piercings. Intraoral or perioral piercings and tattoos are more popular than ever. The awareness of how these changes may affect oral health, however, is minimal. Dental hygienists can help answer patient questions concerning oral modifications, provide information about associated risks, and educate on after-care for the best...

Salivary Diagnostics Can Help Bridge Systemic Health for Dental Hygienists

In dentistry, saliva has traditionally been more of a nuisance than anything else. Dental hygienists know the constant struggle of trying to keep patients from choking during a prophy or attempting to keep a tooth dry when placing a sealant. Yet, what if saliva holds the key to integrating medicine and dentistry? Salivary diagnostics is an insightful tool that dental...

Understanding the Therapeutic Dental Applications of Botox

Dental professionals are told all too often by patients how much they do not care for their dental visits. For that reason, dentistry continually searches for ways to improve the patient experience with the most pain-free and minimally invasive treatment options. Botox may be commonly associated with smoothing wrinkles, but the treatments are well-positioned to become the standard of...

Oral Cancer: Update on Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco for Dental Hygienists

The Oral Cancer Foundation states the average age of a first-time smokeless tobacco user is just 10 years old. As seen with the recent trends in vaping, tobacco companies consistently use flavoring and fun packaging to entice younger customers to buy products that are ultimately addictive and damaging to their health. Smokeless tobacco users absorb two to three times the...

Is Community Water Fluoridation Necessary?

There are few other terms in dentistry that can provoke a debate the way the word “fluoride” does. Despite the CDC deeming community water fluoridation as one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, petitions to remove fluoride from drinking water sources and pushback on implementing community water fluoridation (CWF) is not uncommon. This is...

Keeping a Grateful Heart in Dental Hygiene

Dental hygiene is a highly rewarding profession that allows us to serve our communities. We help patients maintain an important part of their overall health, sometimes contributing to transformations that allow people to smile again. We grow with our patients and their families over time, and those we work with on a daily basis become like family. However, as...

Understanding the Monetary Value of the “Essential” Dental Hygienist

Dental professionals could have never imagined a time when dental offices across the country would close with only emergency services deemed essential. The shutdowns imposed on dental offices were meant to shift personal protective equipment to where it was needed most. This created conversations in the dental community on social media filled with worry, confusion, and anger. Most shocking were...

Reviewing the Relationship of Mental Health with Dental Hygiene Care

Dentistry can be associated with anxiety, phobias, and acute stress. Conversely, these psychological disorders can be associated with dental diseases such as erosion, caries, and periodontal disease.5 Stress, anxiety, and depression may negatively affect the catabolic and anabolic pathways the body uses to react and adjust to reestablish homeostasis. The body’s response to stress is to activate the sympathetic...

Peroxide Use in Dentistry: Is it Safe for Oral Health Care?

Every so often, a patient will admit to rinsing regularly with undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide. If you’re anything like me, your mind immediately envisions a thick, black, carpet-like tongue coating in the near future. Thankfully, peroxides have been used safely in dentistry since first introduced in 1913 as a treatment for “pyorrhea.”4 When used in a controlled manner, peroxides...