Are you read for the new world of hygiene?

April 28, 2006
Here are 12 trends for the future.

By Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, BS
Director of RDH eVillage

Since the future is hurtling towards us at breakneck speed, foresight into the world of oral health care, health care, the world around us, and especially dental hygiene is one way we can cope with the changes. Here are some trends for dental hygiene professionals to watch for as the world of hygiene evolves daily:

1 Entrepreneurial oral hygiene care: autonomy will happen. It's important to keep a pulse on the local and national opinions of health care and on legislative actions. Once the truths about the economics and access to care are proven, things will continue to move forward. As more hygienists begin to own their own practices, spas, mobile care units and more, their profits will soar if they start with quality care and a solid business sense.

2 We need to fully utilize dental hygiene assistants. As hygienists emerge as the primary preventive oral health-care providers, it's logical that the dental assisting profession will benefit from our struggles and further develop their skills and knowledge base. We are forging the way for another oral care colleague.

3 We should provide incentives for patients' effective wellness and prevention self-care programs. This is offering a courtesy to those patients who have no clinical signs of bleeding on probing or white lesions re-mineralized.

4 Evidence-based decisions will not be just buzz words.

5 We will use outcome-based oral health care. We will measure our successes and failures, and this goes beyond spot probing.

6 We will emphasize "patient care" practices with the clinical and administrative teams.

7 We should update our skills and stay abreast of the latest technology. Genetic engineering, biotechnology, regenerative medicines, bioinformatics, mouth/body connections, and anti-aging methodologies will change hygiene. If we don't keep up with the knowledge and skills, we won't be able to keep pace with the expanded career opportunities or salaries.

8 Maximize patient/consumer education. There is a new breed of patients today who are more health conscience and have increased access to information than any previous demographics. I commend you for reading the RDH eVillage. You are probably leaps and bounds ahead of your colleagues. If you are able to provide input into component CE meetings, suggest topics such as Computer or Internet 101.

9 Hygienists may soon work in Wal-Mart or a grocery store setting. Health care continues to evolve. Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana, opened a quick medical center in Wal-Mart. Why not oral hygiene services?

10 We must avoid grouchy operatory manner. Some group medical practice compensation plans are docking or rewarding employees based on customer satisfaction surveys. So it looks like our neighborhood waiter or waitress may not be the only one with less pay if he or she is cranky.

11 We should develop a passion for wellness. Dental hygienists are in the business of prevention and providing the management tools necessary for patients to have healthy bodies and smiles. We will continue to integrate complementary and alternative practices into conventional care.

12 Hygienists are and will continue to be the champions of cross-disciplinary care. We have already set our "egos" aside and reached out to other medical and dental professionals of behalf of our patients. What percentage of the "letter in the patients' chart that deals with pre-medication" did hygienists initiate? My final answer is at least 80 percent.