Major side eye is what I usually give when I am given the blanket statement “you clean teeth” after I have told someone my professional title. Registered Dental Hygienist is what “RDH” means. Technically, I do clean teeth; however, my role in the oral healthcare profession encompass more than just scraping teeth.
I know I am not the only dental hygienist that feels like it is an insult when our role is reduced to just scraping teeth. I went through many years filled with hard work and tears to earn the RDH credentials. These credentials identify me as a licensed professional oral healthcare professional. I had to graduate from an accredited program and pass both a national written examination and regional clinical examination. Oh, and let us not forget the jurisprudence examination required by each my state. After successfully completing a grueling academic program and passing several required exams for licensure, I am NOT okay with being considered as just your smiling teeth scraper.
I would say that I promote oral health and prevent and treat oral diseases; I like the term oral health prevention specialist. My focus is to protect individuals’ gums, teeth, and general health from oral diseases. Now that seems like I do more than just clean teeth. Right? Here is a brief list of things that will occur while a patient is in my dental hygiene operatory:
- An oral health assessment, which includes health history review, evaluation of gum health, screening for oral cancer, and dental charting, is completed at the start of each visit.
- Although usually not done at every visit, dental x-rays will be taken to help identify any concerns that are not visible during the initial assessment.
- I inquire about at home oral hygiene practices and based on the response we will discuss oral hygiene practices that help prevent oral diseases and develop an individual patient specific at home oral hygiene plan. Team work makes the dream work and one size does not fit all!
- Here is the tooth scraping part…using my dental instruments, I will remove plaque biofilm/tartar from above and below your gumline.
- I will also assist the Dentist with the diagnosis of any possible oral diseases and discuss further treatment recommendations if needed.
- We celebrate a good report because as Dr. Aguebor of Smile Design Dental Studio would say FLOSS IS LIFE!!
There are numerous things that could take place during a preventive dental hygiene visit. If applicable, I may discuss smoking or tobacco cessation, good nutritional habits that results in not only optimal oral health but total well being, or sleep apnea. I basically take the Whole-Body Dentistry approach because the body is linked, whether directly or indirectly, to the oral cavity. Basically, the spread of oral germs through out the body has been found to either cause or exacerbate many health conditions.
So, the next time you are visiting your “Preaching” oral health prevention specialist remember that they are doing more than just cleaning teeth. They are saving Smiles and Lives One Patient at A Time!