Home Practice ManagementManagementHygiene Management Revolutionizing Dentistry: Latest Updates for Dental Hygienists

Revolutionizing Dentistry: Latest Updates for Dental Hygienists

by Debbie Seidel-Bittke

There are transformative changes happening in dental hygiene!

National Dental Hygiene Month is an annual celebration that brings attention to the importance of oral health and recognizes the hard work of dental hygienists. This year, as we commemorate a vital month in our dental profession, we’re excited to highlight the transformative changes happening in the field of dental hygiene. 

From revolutionary techniques like Guided Biofilm Therapy to innovative smile assessment apps and even various opportunities for hygienists to work in alternative practice, these developments are reshaping the landscape of dental hygiene and turning burnout into an opportunity for growth.

Guided Biofilm Therapy

Guided Biofilm Therapy (GBT) is a groundbreaking approach that’s redefining dental hygiene. Traditionally, dental hygienists have focused on removing plaque and tartar to maintain oral health. However, GBT goes beyond this by using advanced technology to detect, visualize, and remove biofilm – that invisible layer of bacteria that causes oral and total health disease.

GBT employs specialized devices and dyes that highlight biofilm, making it easier for hygienists to identify and remove it effectively. This technology-driven approach enhances patient outcomes and overall dental hygiene. 

It not only provides a more thorough removal of biofilm, but it provides a painless experience for patients. This technology allows dental hygienists to educate patients better about the importance of oral hygiene and motivates patients with self-efficacy. 

The adoption of GBT promises to elevate the role of dental hygienists, making them even more integral to every patient’s total health.

Innovative Smile Evaluations 

In the digital age, innovative smile assessment apps are transforming the way dental hygienists evaluate patients’ oral health. These apps employ augmented reality and artificial intelligence to provide a comprehensive analysis of a patient’s smile.

Using a smartphone or tablet, dental hygienists can capture images of a patient’s teeth and quickly assess various aspects of their smile, including alignment, color, and symmetry. 

These apps enable hygienists to show patients personalized treatment options and visually demonstrate the potential outcomes of dental procedures, such as teeth whitening, alignment of malocclusion, veneers, etc., etc. This not only enhances patient engagement but also empowers patients to make informed decisions about their smile and oral care.

Furthermore, these apps can store patient records securely, streamlining the administrative side of dental hygiene practice. This not only saves time but also ensures that patient data is easily accessible and up to date, contributing to improved patient care.

Expanding the Scope of Dental Hygienists

One option for dental hygienists is the transition into an Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist. This has been a ticket to newfound freedom for many dental hygienists.

Reducing oral inflammation is a fundamental aspect of a clinical dental hygienist’s profession but hygienists now have the potential to move into various alternative settings.

The expanding role of dental hygienists as an Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist involves addressing not just the teeth but the entire oral cavity, including the soft tissues and a patient’s total health. Understanding of how muscles in the oral cavity and soft tissues affect oral health has grown significantly for the dental profession.

Myofunctional therapists can help patients with issues related to jaw pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, tongue tie, and other oral myofascial problems. This expanded role allows dental hygienists to play a more holistic role in oral health and contribute to the overall well-being of their patients. 

Dental hygienists can offer more comprehensive care, enhancing the patient’s total health as an Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist. 

Another significant and recent development in the dental hygiene field is the possible approval for dental hygienists in Arizona to legally administer injectables like BOTOX. While this may seem unexpected, it’s a testament to the evolving role of dental hygienists in the healthcare industry.

Injectables, such as BOTOX, can be used for therapeutic purposes to treat conditions like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) and bruxism. By adding this skill to their repertoire, dental hygienists can offer a more comprehensive approach to oral health care. 

This expanded scope of practice not only benefits patients by providing additional treatment options but also presents exciting career opportunities for dental hygienists.

Hang on tight and let’s see the outcome of this new legislative bill for dental hygienists in Arizona!

New Patient Advisors

Dental hygienists are taking on a new role as patient advisors during the new patient appointment. Armed with cutting-edge technology like Aidite Technology’s latest scanner, iTero, and PrestoSmile, the dental hygienist can be the first to assess a new patient’s smile. 

Beyond just the traditional role of cleaning teeth, hygienists gather essential patient information: health history, gingival status, comprehensive periodontal exams, and initial assessments for sleep apnea and TMJ. 

Dental hygienists capture radiographs and before the doctor completes the new patient exam, they will provide a detailed smile evaluation. This involves discovering what the patient’s smile goals are and creates ease, especially for patients accepting large cosmetic cases.

This proactive approach ensures that when the dentist sits down with every new patient the patient has been informed about any abnormalities. This gives patients time to understand what’s happening in their mouth and time to “own their disease” and “want what they need.” 

This thorough process saves everyone time and instills confidence in the new patients, new dentist, and the entire team!

The dental hygienist is a valuable liaison between the patient and dentist, streamlining the process for all involved.

Turning Burnout into Opportunity

Historically, the dental profession has faced challenges related to burnout, high-stress levels, and limited career growth opportunities. However, the exciting changes discussed above are helping to flip the script on dental burnout. 

Here’s how:

  • Enhanced Job Satisfaction. With the adoption of Guided Biofilm Therapy and innovative smile assessment apps, dental hygienists can offer more advanced and personalized care. 

This leads to greater job satisfaction as they see the direct impact of their work on patient outcomes.

  • Career Diversification. Oral Myofunctional Therapy, various roles in alternative practice, and the possible approval for dental hygienists to legally administer injectables like BOTOX open new career paths within the dental profession. 

Career diversification opens many new doors to explore opportunities in cosmetic dentistry and therapeutic treatments, expanding the horizon and earning potential for dental hygienists.

  • Technological Advancements. Embracing technology not only improves patient care but also streamlines administrative tasks. Dental hygienists can now focus more on patient interaction and less on paperwork, reducing stress and burnout.

To wrap up…

As we celebrate National Dental Hygiene Month, it’s evident that exciting changes are ahead for dental hygienists. Guided Biofilm Therapy, innovative smile assessment apps, and the expanded scope of practice are a few examples of transformations in a dental hygiene career.

These developments are not only improving patient care but also reshaping the landscape of dental hygiene, offering new avenues for career growth and job satisfaction. It’s an exciting time to be a dental hygienist, and these changes are turning burnout into the most wonderful opportunity to work in the dental profession.

Resources: The author has no financial commitment to these companies mentioned.

  1. Guided Biofilm Therapy. https://www.ems-dental.com/en/guided-biofilm-therapy
  2. PrestoSmile. https://www.prestosmile.com/
  3. Aidite Technology. https://www.aidite.com/homePage.html
  4. iTero. https://itero.com/
  5. Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist. https://courses.aomtinfo.org/
  6. Arizona Legislation & Injectables. https://bit.ly/RDHBOTOX

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