Blogs and Articles
What do dentistry and dental professionals have to do with respiratory infections? As it turns out, a lot, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Bullying can have devastating consequences in our workplaces and personal lives. Learn how to deal with bullies in healthy ways to make a positive difference in our profession and in the world.
Our fellow hygienists have spoken. Not just a few of them, but hundreds. A survey from November 2019 to March 2020 asked 770 hygienists about infection control (IC) practices in their clinics. The results clearly show that our profession has an opportunity for growth in this area. We explore three main findings and their significance in today’s dental world.
Can podcasts be useful learning tools? We take a look at the benefits of listening and identify dentistry-specific series aimed to educate and inform.
We advocate for an interprofessional approach to geriatric oral health and existing elder care practices, drawing on our combined expertise in the dental and nursing fields. What is the role of the dental hygienist?
Rather than relying on the false sense of security PPE provides, we should constantly be taking precautions and following protocols that promote safe environments in our dental practices.
Proper infection control and the right equipment may seem like a big investment initially, but you will soon start reaping the benefits—decreased costs for your practice and a new way to market to your community.
If you’ve never smoked in your life or gave up cigarettes recently, you can be forgiven for thinking that you are not at risk of diseases and the health issues that plague smokers. I don't smoke, so I should be fine, right?
Wrong. Unfortunately, due to inhaling secondhand or passive smoke, you can still be affected. Let’s take a look at the dangers attached to smoke inhalation and how you can protect yourself from harm.
What is Secondhand Smoke
Containing more than 7,000 chemicals, some of which are toxic, secondhand smoke consists of the smoke coming directly from the cigarette near you and the smoke being breathed out by the smoker. 1
With hundreds of these chemicals containing life-harming toxins, approximately 70 of which have been identified as cancer-causing or carcinogenic, you are breathing in a hazardous cocktail.
Even at low levels, breathing in this combination of deadly chemicals can do immense harm to your body. Over time, the effects of this harm become even more apparent through the manifestation of illness, and, in some tragic cases, leading to death.
It is estimated that over 2.5 million non-smoking adults have died in since 1964 as a result of breathing secondhand smoke, in the US alone. Even more shocking: it has been estimated that approximately 3,500 non-smoking Americans die each year from passive smoking. 2
Passive smoking has been held accountable for all sorts of health issues, from asthma and other respiratory illnesses, to stroke, heart disease and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Many cancers, including obvious ones such as throat and lung and not-so-obvious ones like breast and brain cancers , are connected to secondhand smoke. There is also a possible link to lymphomas, leukemia and liver cancer in children.
There is much evidence collected to indicate that these diseases can be brought on by exposure to chemicals such as ammonia, benzene, carbon monoxide, cyanide and formaldehyde, all found in cigarettes. 
These serious side effects of breathing in smoke-polluted air become more worrying when the exposure is continuous, but even short-term exposure can be severely damaging. But how can you avoid it?
Tips to Avoid Dangerous Air
Banning smoking in your home is a great starting place to reduce the risks of exposure to you and your family. If smokers visit, request that they smoke outside. The same applies to your car. Don't allow anyone to smoke in your vehicle as, like with all confined and enclosed spaces, the amount of smoke inhaled is intensified and potentially more dangerous.
As the world becomes more aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke, many countries are banning smoking in public buildings, the workplace and even some outdoor events, except in designated areas.
Ireland was the first country to bring in a nationwide ban on smoking in the workplace in 2004, including bars and restaurants with many countries following suit in the years since. Some countries have gone a step further and have brought in by-laws restricting smoking in any area where people gather.
The tiny kingdom of Bhutan, nestled in the Himalayan mountains between India and China, is the first country in the world to have a complete ban on smoking and indeed the sale of all tobacco products in 2010.
The US lags somewhat behind as it does not yet have national legislation on smoking in public places. Each state is responsible for their smoking laws and only 28 and the District of Columbia currently have bans on smoking in workplaces and public areas. At the moment, 22 states are considering or are in the process of implementing laws, some stricter than others.
Therefore, if you are going out for dinner, to see a band or enjoying a night in a casino, you may still be exposed to secondhand smoke. To try to protect yourself, find out the smoking policy of the venue you are going to in advance and if possible, book a table or seating in a non-smoking section. Check if the air conditioning is sufficient to extract smoke or opt for outdoor options to lessen the impact of smoking near you.
By choosing to patronize restaurants or bars with strong no-smoking policies, you reinforce to the owners that there is a whole wave of customers who prefer to enjoy their leisure time in a smoke-free environment. Until tighter laws come into effect, it is your own responsibility to protect yourself as much as possible in public.
In dentistry, we have been attempting smoking cessation programs with patients for many years. Dental hygienists are often the first ones to find abnormalities in the mouth due to smoking. The first thought was to have a discussion with the smoker about what can happen to them when they light up, but the conversation needs to be bigger. Informing patients about the concerns and long-term effects of secondhand smoke, even when they don’t smoke in the same area as their friends and family, will also be important. Though we never want to shame anyone while they are in the dental chair, the idea of secondhand smoke being a risk could help to create an emotional connection to the habit and encourage a decrease in their smoking habit or even cessation.
1 "Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke | CDC." https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/health_effects/index.htm. Accessed 19 Dec. 2019
2"Control of Secondhand Smoke Exposure - The ... - NCBI - NIH." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44326/. Accessed 19 Dec. 2019.
3 "Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke - American Cancer Society." 13 Nov. 2015, https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/secondhand-smoke.html. Accessed 19 Dec. 2019.
4 "Secondhand smoke: Avoid dangers in the air - Mayo Clinic." https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/secondhand-smoke/art-20043914. Accessed 19 Dec. 2019.
5 "Smokefree Air Laws | American Lung Association." 8 Mar. 2019, https://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/tobacco/smokefree-environments/smokefree-air-laws.html. Accessed 19 Dec. 2019.
There's more to this complex, perplexing disorder than meets the eye, as any professional who has been in the field for more than a few years can tell you. Beyond its local effects, bruxism is correlated with many other medical and lifestyle issues.
Dental hygienists (RDH) are more than glorified "teeth cleaners”. This article aims to examine how dental hygienists are an invaluable member of the healthcare team.
One of the most popular questions to ask when you meet someone new is, “What do you do?” It is asked on first dates, in initial meetings, and as a conversation starter because it is supposedly a good way to get to know someone. As a species, humans often subscribe to the attachment theory regarding the meanings they associate with an individual profession. This theory explains that certain values and meanings are linked to different professions within society and intends to clarify the reasons people attach their perceptions of certain fields of work. Tell someone you are a doctor, and you get one response; tell someone you are a mechanic, and you get another. Yet, these responses, and the judgments they often accompany, are based on arbitrary and often untrue assumptions about the different professions. One often-misunderstood profession is that of the dental hygienist.
Some people perceive a dental hygienist simply as a glorified “teeth cleaner” who gets paid a decent salary for doing some “hands-on” work. The error in this misconception is that it over-simplifies the profound importance of the multiple roles of the dental hygienist. It assumes that the job is easy, lacks the requirement of skills, and does not require a comprehensive formal education. That is grossly untrue and an insult to the people who have studied and worked for years to become dental hygienists.
Beyond this oversimplification, lies the idea that dental hygienists are not a true part of the medical field. Again, this is simply false. The education, work lives, and daily stressors tied to the profession of dental hygiene have exceeded what is considered base level for a seated place in the healthcare profession.
One of the roots of the misunderstanding of the profession of dental hygiene is the level of education and training required to be a dental hygienist. Although most dental hygienists graduate with an associate’s degree, education does not mirror the curriculum of most associate degree programs 1B. Dental hygienists are required to take several college prerequisite classes, often prior to program entry, to a two or three-year dental hygiene program. Classes include topics such as pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, biology, microbiology, chemistry, medical terminology, along with english/writing, math, and public speaking, humanities, philosophy and psychology. As a result, many dental hygienists’ programs are equivalent to completing four or even five years of college.
After finishing these school requirements, a dental hygienist must then take an eight-hour written board exam, a five to six hour clinical board (varying upon geographic location), a clinical anaesthesia board, a written anaesthesia board, and a state exam for jurisprudence and ethics. Following the initial years of education and assessment, their education continues, as all healthcare jobs require constant, on-the-job learning and continuing education credits between licensure periods.
Experienced dental hygienist, Anastasia Turchetta, said that she does “a lot more than cleaning”. With over 28 years in the profession, she stated that “cleaning” does nothing to describe all that she does daily. For her, the job is less about cleaning and more about wellness, about health. Within a single appointment, dental hygienists are responsible for reviewing health histories, taking blood pressure and blood sugar readings, taking periodontal measurements, exposing x-rays, performing cancer screenings, managing harmful biofilm, developing a thorough dental hygiene diagnosis, assisting with the dental exam, answering patient questions, writing chart notes, and disinfecting rooms between patients, all on a tight time schedule.
One of the most important tasks a dental hygienist takes on is educating a patient to understand oral disease, their level of accountability, and how their habits affect this. Changing patient behaviors is both fun and exhausting, often leaving us to feel like the bad guys when we are teaching patients about their at-home care and lifestyle choices
Taking care of a patient's mouth is vital, as oral health is an important indicator of overall health. Having a healthy mouth is the first step to having a healthy body. This is because many bodily diseases are connected to mouth bacteria, and inflammation. Dental hygienists play a crucial role in general health, and are just as important as any other healthcare professional. Yet, why are they not treated as such?
Similar to other health professions, dental hygiene practice is accompanied by a fair amount of stress. Many clinicians have a natural desire to comfort, nurture, and counsel their patients, but there is also pressure to stay within stringent time limits. This tension often results in mental stress because clinicians find it difficult to complete everything that is treatment planned during a preventive care visit. This, coupled with poor scheduling management and contentious relationships in the dental office setting, layer on additional stress. These factors are often attributed to a lack of or decreased quality of human relations personnel and business leadership within the various sizes of dental practice settings.
In addition to the mental stress of being a caretaker and employee, there are many physical demands placed on dental hygienists. Dental work requires very precise, yet static movements, and, in combination with the position at which they sit or stand to see into a patient's mouth, dental providers often suffer from back problems, shoulder pain and carpal tunnel syndrome deficiencies. 2
Dental hygienists are medical professionals, we are deserving of respect and appreciation, and the reality is that without these health care providers, the problems would be far greater than lacking someone to “clean the teeth”. The roles of the dental hygienist encompass all aspects of oral health, are integral to a patient’s total health, and the dental hygienist is also the individual who is in charge of a dental clinic’s risk management and asepsis standards.
Perhaps, if more people understand what dental hygiene, as a profession, is really about, then more people would make a knowledgeable decision to enter the profession. Articles that discuss the “ease” of obtaining a dental hygiene degree, describe that dental hygienists can leave the stress at work rather than being on call, and describe “the limited amount of education” to become a dental hygienist, have got to stop Educators and clinical practitioners report that students are entering this profession, then becoming frustrated or burned out because they had no idea what it actually took to obtain a dental hygiene license. Other professions see the dental hygienists lumped in with other career technical categories that are not in the realm of health care providers, and our jobs are mitigated. It is time dental hygienists stand up for our profession and start to shine a light on who we are and what we do for oral health all over the world!
Recently, the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) for dental hygienists changed. The 2010 definition stated dental hygienists “Clean teeth and examine oral areas, head, and neck for signs of oral disease. May educate patients on oral hygiene, take and develop x rays, or apply fluoride or sealants” . The updated 2018 definition for dental hygiene occupational classification reads, “Administer oral hygiene care to patients. Assess patient oral hygiene problems or needs and maintain medical records. Advise patients on oral health maintenance and disease prevention. May provide advanced care such as providing fluoride treatment or administering topical anesthesia” .
The importance of this document, and subsequent change in language, lies in the fact that the national government is now acknowledging dental hygienists as providers of preventive dental treatment. The future is bright and now is the time to inform the public and spread the word regarding the benefits we can give to those who desire to receive them.
8 Hands-On Jobs for People Who Learn by Doing.” 10 Dec. 2019, https://www.smudailycampus.com/sponsoredcontent/promoted/8-hands-on-jobs-for-people-who-learn-by-doing. Accessed 5 Feb. 2020.
1B O'Hehir, T. (2018). Dental hygiene education exceeds the degrees granted: A pilot study. International Journal Of Dental Hygiene, 16(3), 340-348. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/idh.12335
 “5 Reasons Being a Dental Hygienist is Harder Than You Might Think.” 3 Oct. 2016, https://www.dentalproductsreport.com/hygiene/article/5-reasons-being-dental-hygienist-harder-you-might-think-0?cache=true&utm_campaign=Enewsletter%3A%20Modern%20Hygienist%20MODH&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=82733277&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8hq3P-YQmo-MwWuKqpTOEgU6OA8U_IOCok1VkJe58A8LFN6Hc2KVnW67sa0mxlzooewuzl8zWs-qTsFvDyBV2q4WZtRA&_hsmi=82733277.
Accessed 5 Feb. 2020.
 “Dental hygiene education exceeds the degrees granted: A pilot study.” 28 Feb. 2018, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/idh.12335. Accessed 5 Feb. 2020.
 “What’s It Like Being a Dental Hygienist?” 9 Dec. 2019, https://www.valuepenguin.com/whats-it-being-dental-hygienist. Accessed 5 Feb. 2020.
 “ Dental Hygienist: Job Description.” https://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/dental-team-careers/dental-hygienist. Accessed 5 Feb. 2020
 “Why are Hygienists Stressed Out?” 1 Dec. 2004, https://www.rdhmag.com/career-profession/personal-wellness/article/16403846/why-are-hygienists-stressed-out. 5 Feb. 2020.
 "Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences - Wiley Online Library." https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1471-6712.1996.tb00344.x. Accessed 12 Feb. 2020.
 "Adha Annual Conference Research Posters - Journal of ...." http://jdh.adha.org/content/jdenthyg/91/2/62.full.pdf. Accessed 12 Feb. 2020.
 "Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) - Bureau of Labor ...." https://www.bls.gov/soc/. Accessed 12 Feb. 2020.
 "2018 Standard Occupational Classification System - Bureau of ...." https://www.bls.gov/soc/2018/major_groups.htm. Accessed 12 Feb. 2020.