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Understanding the value of what we bring

May 21, 2020
Dental professionals are currently faced with many unknowns. Lisa Hardill, RDH, writes that as hygienists return to work, they will be needed more than ever, so she's choosing to embrace the unknown and shape her future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed our day-to-day routine. We have each experienced the far-reaching impact on many aspects of life. However, the slow down in dentistry due to COVID-19 has also given us the time to truly reflect on personal and professional experiences.

There are many external sources of information influencing our current views. Some are fact based and others are pure speculation. I have read and listened to endless content focused on the current state of dentistry, and how our industry will survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of this content, in my opinion, is leaving dental professionals with many questions and unknowns. 

For example, how can we go back to practice and create the aerosols we typically produce? How do we best protect ourselves, our patients, our families, and our communities? Will patients who are asymptomatic be capable of transmitting SARS-CoV-2? These are just a few thoughts and concerns for pondering. 

Rest assured, it's perfectly normal to still have questions without answers, but I have recently decided to embrace the unknown, and in the meantime learn all I can to help shape my future decisions. We need to have patience as guidelines emerge and our staged approach is slowly integrated into dental practices.

I challenge you to take this time to really stop and reexamine your thoughts on the future of dental hygiene. I would like to acknowledge that I know the unknown can be frightening for many, but stay strong and focus on the things you can control. 

Let’s choose to see the good! I strongly believe this new era of dentistry we are all awaiting is going to be the beginning of heightened awareness of prevention. I see a future where our patients are going to take their oral health and general health much more seriously. I also have complete confidence that there will be clear direction provided on the measures needed to provide safe and effective care. We just need to have patience.

Some key points to consider as we start to head back to our offices to provide services:

  • One of our goals as dental hygienists is to help our patients achieve as minimal oral inflammation as possible. As we know, this will not only improve their oral health status, but also their overall well-being. 
  • We provide individualized strategies and treatment protocols for chairside treatment and home-care recommendations, all aimed at addressing the bacterial load in the oral cavity. We ensure our patients do not suffer with the inflammatory burden initiated from oral bacteria triggering the immune response. 
  • Periodontal management strategies that are integrated into practices need to constantly evolve. We need to stop and consider the changes or enhancements that could be made with our current perio program. And by this, I mean ensuring we are doing all we canto help move our patients one step closer to being inflammation free. 

I believe when patients start to return for their hygiene appointments, this will be the perfect time to be implementing comprehensive treatment protocols and new technologies—while balancing patient safety and the need to minimize aerosols.

Why now, you ask?

This is because we can expect many patients to be dealing with a heightened inflammatory response due to stress from being laid off work, the stress of the pandemic itself, as well as many patients will be overdue for their dental hygiene appointments. 

With COVID-19 still circulating and the concerns of a second wave in the future, dental professionals will need to have clear focus on reducing oral inflammation, so the burden can be as minimal as possible. This is important for several reasons, but one thought that stands out in my mind is that patients who are in a healthier state will have the best chance at overcoming a viral infection such as COVID-19.