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Turn hygiene into you 'bird dog'

The most important role of hygienist is actually to be an advocate towards the patient, for the patient but also for the dentist. Our job as a hygienist is to be the bird dog or to find any instability that's going on in the mouth because we're in there so often, every three or six months. If we have really great records, we can keep a running tab on the problems in their mouth or the instabilities.

The hygienist's job is to see if there's change.

Hygiene

If there's change, then that's when we can address it and bring it to the dentist. Example, if we have an old silver filling and it's starting to get dark and discolored, and you are starting to see cracks and crazes, at what point does that filling need to be redone or maybe even have a crown put on it? Our goal as a hygienist is to make sure that we have a better understanding of instability and what could happen and breakdown in the mouth.

We must assess the problems of instability.

Finding wear in hygieneIn addition to wear and breakdown of the teeth, we need to have a thorough understanding the periodontal effects. If we are not probing and measuring pocket depth, how do we know that there's change? If we're not measuring for mobility or looking at teeth and seeing if there's any fremitus, then we have no clue of whether or not there is change. Our goal is to make sure that every hygienist has the ability to assess the problems of instability, and then move that patient into the doctor's chair for more treatment. An example of that is the deep-probing depth. Is it because of bacteria, or is it because of bit forces?

Look at the whole patient, not just the symptoms

We have to look at the whole picture every single time that patient comes in. We can use it with medical history, oral cancer exams, and blood pressures. What are the changes? If we're not aware, and we're not doing it, we're not going to know it. So our job as the bird dog to the doctor is to get in there and find the problems that are going on.

Joanne Sciandra, RDH, began her career in 1973 as a dental assistant. In 1978 while in Hygiene School, she was asked to join the practice of Dr. Peter E. Dawson and Dr. Pete Roach. Joanne was a chairside assistant to Dr. Peter Dawson during Hygiene School and then became a Hygienist in his practice. She teaches the “Role of the Dental Hygienist in Supporting the Concepts of Complete Dentistry” at the Dawson Academy. Joanne has lectured in North Carolina, Chicago, Louisiana, Virginia, Colorado as well as St. Petersburg Florida.