National Dental Hygiene Month is a good time to acknowledge and empower hygiene professionals particularly in laser education.
National Dental Hygiene Month offers a mile marker in the year to acknowledge and celebrate the work hygiene professionals have done to maintain patients’ oral and general health. To provide this service to patients and practices day in and day out, it is essential to arm this niche care community with everything they need, from putting processes in place for additional support, to enabling access to the most modern technology. These steps empower hygienists to perform their role to the best of their abilities, which ultimately benefits the patients and the dental practice itself.
Beware of burnout
Burnout is a significant concern among hygienists, which is quite problematic, as these professionals serve as the gatekeepers for dental practices, handling critical conversations with patients, staff, and providers alike. They are also part of the patient relationship as they perform preventative care tactics and provide key recommendations on how to improve oral (and overall) health. They help practices function at their highest levels. However, recent studies measuring job dissatisfaction, burnout, and intention to leave the clinical practice report that 17% of those selected feel that they are performing mechanically, with only 5% feeling more engaged in their work as time progressed.1
An American Dental Association survey found that the shortage of hygienists was heightened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 80% of owner-dentists who are currently hiring are finding the recruitment of dental hygienists and assistants to be extremely or very challenging. In fact, over 66% of dentists said dental hygienist recruitment was extremely challenging.2
One important aid to recruitment and retention is offering hygienists and, by extension, their patients, innovative technology which includes dental lasers. Knowing that they can and will be armed with the best equipment and training to provide solutions is an invaluable asset that boosts enthusiasm and engagement.
The data above also indicates the importance of expressing well-deserved appreciation to hygienists. There is also a significant need to develop educational programs to teach hygienists strategies to recognize, prevent and alleviate symptoms of fatigue and disengagement in order to prevent potential burnout and indifference to work.
Quality hygienists remain in-demand. In order to attract new hygienists and retain existing ones, measures must be taken to ensure their overall satisfaction, continued engagement, access to education, and provision of high-quality and innovative tools that support the ever-changing dental landscape.
The pandemic is undeniably a major factor
My role as an educator and advocate is even more critical challenge considering the unfortunate and dangerous increase of misinformation promulgated during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is one of the many reasons why I advocate for hygienists to receive, learn, and use high performing equipment and resources. I believe our patients deserve the highest caliber of care.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased patient involvement and interest in healthcare and their providers; and they are more active than ever in understanding and choosing the care they decide to access. Concerns about safety and likelihood of positive outcomes directly impact their decisions.
Dental lasers and beyond
Dental lasers are an example of the tools we have at our disposal to significantly improve patient care. Even before the pandemic, the range of dental care products available for hygienists to help patients has exponentially increased. I believe it is our duty to keep not only ourselves, but patients, informed of new developments in oral health. Dental hygienists are crucial in educating our patients about the best hygiene practices and latest options. The public is increasingly interested in and knowledgeable about recent and emerging dental care resources.
Every day, dental hygienists use a wide range of interpersonal and clinical skills to meet the oral health needs of many different types of patients. Laser technology is a great tool that enables hygienists to support their patients’ needs. Its numerous benefits – including shorter recovery time, less pain, less noise during procedures, more gentle treatment, minimal-to-zero need for anesthesia – accrue to all patients, especially helpful to special population groups like children, the elderly, and the disabled.
Personal experience and teaching
I currently practice clinically 4 days a week and also train doctors, hygienists, and team members on the use of lasers, including strategies for incorporating dental lasers into their protocol. I am very passionate about adopting dental lasers, due to the exceptional results that I have seen firsthand. I recommend others with a similar hunger for knowledge to BIOLASE’s Epic Hygiene Academy, bringing together leaders in the dental hygiene profession to provide improved continuing education in delivering superior patient care through laser technology, open to all dental hygienists who are BIOLASE diode laser users to empower hygienists to utilize dental lasers to provide the highest quality of preventive and therapeutic dental care to their patients.
I encourage hygienists everywhere to keep up on the latest industry news, by attending webinars, listening to podcasts, and participating in organizations devoted to education on the latest technologies, including but not limited to dental lasers.
My top choice for equipment is the Epic Hygiene laser. While many devices are solely geared towards dentists, lasers are utilized by multiple professionals within the industry, especially hygienists. In fact, this laser was designed specifically fordental hygienists by dental hygienists and has continued to arm us with more access to the advantages of laser technology, since BIOLASE first introduced it in December of 2019. It allows us to perform gentler, faster, and highly effective treatments for bacterial reduction, managing periodontal disease, and many other applications.
The Epic Hygiene gives dental professionals a highly versatile solution not only to effectively manage non-surgical periodontitis, but to increase clinical production overall. It includes proven step-by-step clinical protocols – including pocket therapy, laser bacterial reduction (LBR), perio debridement, hemostasis, aphthous ulcer, and herpetic lesion treatment.
Hygienists should advocate for themselves
Solutions to many of these challenges lie in having access to high quality equipment, including but not limited to dental lasers. We all must continue to challenge ourselves and immerse ourselves in the latest dental technology trends.
No matter what age we are, we all benefit from continuing to grow and learn in our careers. I have been using lasers for 25 years, yet I still consider myself to be learning something new every day. This makes my job new and exciting, and I am proud to provide my patients with the highest caliber of care currently available in our industry. During National Dental Hygiene Month, and every day of the year.