Dental Hygiene

Senior (College 4th year) ・Healthcare&Medicine ・MLA

Oral hygiene is critical to the prevention of dental infections and diseases such as oral cancer and periodontal disease. I have always been motivated to pursue a career as a dental hygiene. In order to understand the day to day work of a dental hygienist, I undertook an observation of three dental hygienists working with two dental assistants, two office administrators, one radiographer,an office messenger and three dentists at Hattiesburg Family Dental Care which is located in Hattiesburg, United States.  The hygienists work in shifts with at least two of them available at any moment while the third hygienist is available on call at any moment. The messenger runs errands for not only the hygienists but also for other employees such as the office administrators.I observed the dental hygienists at the dental care on 26th October 2017 in order to gain more insight into their work.

Summary of the responsibilities of the Dental Hygienist

The three dental hygienists have many responsibilities at Hattiesburg Family Dental Care. From the time of reporting to work in the morning, dental hygienists meet clients and explain to them the medications prescribed by dentists as part of their treatment programs. They also demonstrate to patients how to brush their teeth and maintain oral hygiene. I observed that dental hygienist need to have the ability to motivate clients and give them hope that their conditions will improve. I observed the three hygienists at Hattiesburg Family Dental Care remove plagues from patients, demonstrate cleaning and polishing of patients teeth as part of programs to enable patients to improve their dental hygiene. Some patients were also prescribed antibacterial treatments by the dentists at the clinic and as part of the job description of the hygienists; they demonstrated application of the antibacterial treatments in order to prevent tooth decay. Dental hygienists therefore need to be willing to help others as well as the ability to teach which requires patience.

Some of the patients that required surgeries required that dental hygienists give anaesthetics before dentists can perform such surgeries. I observed that dental hygienists apply anesthetics under the supervision of dentists at the Hattiesburg Family Dental Care. As a result, the ability to communicate effectively is essential for dental hygienists to perform their day to day duties.  I observed that dentists and dental hygienist communicate in both verbal and non-verbal communication while working on patients at the dental clinic. The Hattiesburg Family Dental Care is a very busy clinic, attending to many clients on a twenty four hour basis. As a result, I observed that dental hygienists have to multitask between explaining nutritional and dietary prescription to patients and demonstrating effective brushing techniques depending on the oral needs of the patients.

Dental hygienists are also responsible for scheduling clients to meet dentists during dental visits. They also provide dental health education often explaining dietary and tooth care programs intended for different clients. The dental hygienists explain to clients the various informational booklets that contain various steps towards preventing or controlling various dental conditions.The dental hygienists at Hattiesburg Family Dental Care employed various precautions to prevent oral infection at the clinic. The dental hygienists and all other employees are expected to maintain high standards of cleanliness. Secondly, I observed that hygienist used protective gloves, antiseptics and antibacterial agents during screening and monitoring processes. This is important to prevent infection especially when touching patients’ gums during screening or treating gum diseases. It also ensures that sterile conditions are maintained throughout the facility. Dental hygienists also need to be compassionate when treating patients since some of the patients that visited the clinic were devastated and needed reassurance. 

Dental hygienists also worked very closely with office administrators at the Hattiesburg Family Dental Care to ensure that patients recorded were up to date and maintain effectively. On the other hand, dental hygienists have to constantly receive and execute instructions from dentists regarding oral treatments and updates for various patients. As a result, the dental hygienist has to be work well in a team and have excellent communication and interpersonal skills in order to maintain the standards of performance expected from them.

Radiography is critical to any dental clinic. Hattiesburg Family Dental Care, dental hygienists have to take jaw radiographs for patients and interpret them in order to understand the dental condition of patients. Some of the radiographs that I observed at the Hattiesburg Family Dental Care included Bite-wing X-rays, Periapical X-rays and Occlusal X-ray. I also observed dental hygienists explain to patients and discussing with dentists the different radiographs before prescribing treatments for patients. Since taking radiographs is a safety critical process, only the radiographer exposed the radiographs. The radiograph wore protective clothing and the room were radiography was taking place had thick walls as part of the precautions to prevent exposure to X-rays. The radiography room was also always locked and one had to possess an access card and permission to access. During the X-ray process, only the place that required radiography was exposed to the X-ray in order to prevent unnecessary exposure to other parts of the body.

I observed that dental hygienists at the. Hattiesburg Family Dental Care seemed to enjoy their careers. I had an interview with the three hygienists in order to understand their views about their careers. The interview revealed that treating patients and educating them on oral hygiene are some of the most interesting part of being a dental hygienist. On the other hand, treating patients with chronic dental conditions was the least favorable part of being a dental hygienist.

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