October is finally here, and it is absolutely my favorite time of year. The leaves are beginning to show their beautiful orange, red, and yellow colors. Temperatures are dropping, and bonfires and pumpkins are a regular sight. The carved pumpkins with the big toothy grins are my favorite! October is also National Dental Hygiene Month, a whole month dedicated to recognizing and highlighting our chosen profession. Dental professionals are given a full 31 days to spread awareness about the importance of dental health and the impact that dental hygienists have on our local communities.
A Challenging Year
2020 has been like no other year, to say the least. Personally and professionally, all of us have had many challenges to adapt to, but I believe we handled the task with grace and strength. We managed to be pliable enough to show our ability to overcome the challenges we faced and emerge even stronger.
Many clinicians adopted different ways of doing our “normal” daily routines within our offices, including temperature checks and new check-in protocols. N95s and isolation gowns have become regular PPE. Teledentistry was needed as never before, and those who support us stepped up with online continuing education courses to help us stay updated with continuing education needs.
Dental hygienists are the first line of defense for optimal oral health and an integral part of helping patients maintain good overall health. Knowing this, we continue to strive to improve our techniques and methods to be able and available to provide care for our dental patients in the upcoming days, months, and years.
We absolutely want to use this month to promote good oral hygiene to our patients and encourage their participation in their overall health journey. Fun ideas for patient participation during this month in your office could include a cash prize for a lucky patient who posts their hygiene goals and successes throughout the month and gets the most likes! In the middle of this pandemic, your office could host a “Smile Ride,” where patients come through by car and receive a goodie bag full of toothpaste, floss, toothbrush, and sugar-free gum.
I am sure you can think of plenty more ideas to thank and motivate your patients. Not only do I want to encourage patients, but I also want to salute dental hygienists! Currently, there are more than 200,000 registered dental hygienists in the United States, and I want to take this holiday to celebrate some fabulous people and why you are an important and integral part of the dental team.1
Typically, patients spend more time and have more regular visits with their hygienists than any other dental team member. In those moments, relationships are built, personal connections are forged, and exceptional experiences happen. These are major reasons that patients return for care.
During a recent interview, Andrea Edelen, the director of dental hygiene for Summit Dental, said, “Although hygienists, like all dental team members, wear many hats in the practice, three main roles of patient care are preventive therapist, periodontal therapist and treatment advocates. As preventive therapists, we perform screenings and assessments, and make customized recommendations based on individual patient risks. We screen for and monitor conditions such as hypertension, oral cancer, and sleep apnea and make the patient aware of any areas of concern. As periodontal therapists, we assess, treat, and maintain all forms of gum disease. We promote overall dental health as treatment advocates by educating patients on the importance of restorative treatment, comprehensive dental care and wellness.”2
I would add that we are available to explain in detail many dental procedures and thoroughly answer questions patients may have.
There are also hygiene educators who are helping to train the hygienists of the future. Clinicians are working for community health, providing care to our underserved populations. Owners and operators of mobile dentistry serve school-aged children and the elderly.
You people are rock stars! You are valued and appreciated! Please enjoy this month dedicated to you and your profession, and I look forward to celebrating with you!
Now Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dental Hygienists. (2020, September 1). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm
- National Dental Hygiene Month: Q&A with Andrea Edelen, Director of Dental Hygiene and Clinical Support. (2020, October 1). Summit Dental Health. Retrieved from https://summitdentalhealth.net/national-dental-hygiene-month-qa-with-andrea-edelen-director-of-dental-hygiene-and-clinical-support/