The hygienist’s blog – valuing your hygienist

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Claire Berry highlights how easy and satisfying a hygienist’s job is when a dental practice and clinician values their work.

Something happened to me at work the other day that made me realise I had made it.

Unfortunately not in a superstar or famous kind of way. In the: ‘I feel like my practice truly values my role’ kind of way.

I already felt valued as a hygienist there, but in that moment it confirmed how they respected my role in the team. I had the biggest inner smile knowing I had achieved what I set out to achieve.

By talking about it, I hope it can become an industry-wide way of thinking. So that all my fellow hygienists experience the same.

Building a solid foundation

To set the scene I work at a couple of practices between Leeds and Doncaster. I feel extremely valued at both of them.

The practice that this occurred in was at the Leeds practice. It is a very busy high-end private practice carrying out smile designs. Some of which are extremely complex cases, specialist endodontics and oral surgery, as well as general dentistry.

They have always had a hygienist and knew this service was something that needed offering to their patients.

I came to work there and set about ensuring all cases that came through the practice saw me before they went forward with their smile journey.

It wasn’t just a complimentary service. To me, it’s vitally important that patients have a solid foundation before commencing with their complex treatment plans. It protects the treating clinician and ensures they carry out their high end work in good health and it is going to last. They can trust that under my care the patient is going to maintain their work.

And let’s also admit, this philosophy will also help to avoid litigation. It protects the patient. After all, spending thousands of pounds on your new smile needs looking after and caring for.

They can trust that as a team we will make sure their investment will stand the test of time, making it money well spent

Doing it the right way

So back to the other day. I was called into surgery while the owner, a well-respected oral surgeon, was talking to a patient about implants.

The patient was working with me for a couple of months due to her periodontal condition. She asked if she could have implants and the response she got was: ‘When Claire says your periodontal condition is stable, when she is happy you are working well together as a team in your lifelong periodontal care, and she believes you are doing all the things in your self care at home that will support an implant, then it is a discussion we can maybe have. It is up to Claire when she is happy for us to have that conversation.’

The inner smile occurred right there!

Turns out the patient in question was not ready to have that conversation at that point unfortunately.

But how much more seriously is she going to take my oral health coaching as a result? And how much more value is she going to place on her oral hygiene and visits to me now?

She knows we will only carry out her treatment ethically and in her best interest, putting increased trust in her overall treatment. She left the appointment checking that her recall appointments to see me were definitely booked in the diary. Because she is committing to doing well.

In my opinion, this practice is doing it the right way. I applaud their smile journey process.

Maintaining oral hygiene

It’s not just implants though. Invisalign treatment, (a breeding ground for biofilm formation) and treatments like orthodontics, require me to ensure oral health is adequate before commencing.

I like to carry out reviews after the initial appointment until oral health is good enough for treatment to continue.

Because of how referring clinicians discuss my treatment with patients before they see me, the patients are always keen to listen. We get amazing results after their initial coaching.

I then see them at regular intervals during treatment to ensure they maintain their oral hygiene. They respond really well to this.

After placement, implants then require regular recalls for life-long care and maintenance. We also maintain composite bonding regularly to ensure it looks as good as it does on day one.

‘Scale and polish’

I love my career more now than I ever have.

And I have worked in the past in situations where despite knowing how I wanted to work, I ultimately worked to give the patient what they wanted.

‘I just want the scale and polish and not the lecture’! We’ve all heard that before.

I have to say, I didn’t like working like that. It was stressful knowing that calculus and stain doesn’t cause disease. Yet that was the focus of the treatment so the patient (and in some cases even the referring dentist) remained happy.

By explaining my treatment properly before the patient even books the appointment means I can do what I trained to do. Stain and calculus removal are now a nice by-product of seeing me.

Catch Claire’s previous hygienist’s blog here.

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