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Thursday, 07 November 2013 11:12

Oral Hygiene: From the Beginning to the End Featured

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post 68 picWhether your news source is the old- school newspaper, or online, you can’t dodge news that links your oral health to your overall health. 

The latest article I read was titled, “Research Links Oral Bacteria to Colorectal Cancer.” 

The article describes an anaerobic organism in the oral cavity that is implicated in periodontal disease and has been linked to the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S, colorectal cancer.

The author states that more research is needed, but dental plaque is increasingly implicated in the pathogenesis of some systemic diseases including cardiovascular disease, pneumonia and even diabetes. 

Add to that list colorectal cancer.

Oral health and oral hygiene are increasingly recognized as fundamental to our overall health and the public is becoming aware of this fact.  A major under-used player in assisting with patient education and prevention is the dental hygienist.  Hygiene schools are consistently increasing their graduation requirements. 

The training and education of our dental hygienists requires a broad spectrum of knowledge.  Pre-dental hygiene classes include:  chemistry, anatomy and physiology, English, speech, college algebra, microbiology, nutrition, sociology, and medical terminology. 

Dental hygiene education includes:  pharmacology, radiology, chemistry, anatomy , physiology, mathematics, ethics, medical terminology, English, speech, nutrition, sociology,  head and neck anatomy, medical emergencies, general pathology, periodontology, dental health education and advanced general and oral pathology.

The dental hygiene program provides extensive training in:  risk assessment and prevention, dental prophylaxis, root planing and curettage, dental hygiene, and hygiene aids. 

Dental hygiene education develops a student’s professional judgment and clinical competency through didactic learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and competency- based clinical practice.

Evidence based decision making is a part of the educational process that brings many factors together to bring the best possible treatment to patients. 

The pillar of periodontal treatment, historically, has been periodontal surgery.  The pillar and mainstay of modern periodontics is prevention.   And standing as the first line of defense in this effort is the dental hygienist.

Hygienists maintain a large array of hygiene aids, dietary and general health practices to help patients maintain oral and overall heath.

Today, many who have periodontal disease manage their disease without surgery by using treatment modalities that come at the hands of their skilled dental hygienist, in concert with their dentist or periodontist. 

Upon graduation from hygiene school, in addition to the skills of root planing and curettage, the hygienist has experience with various oral irrigating solutions which may include:  povidone-iodine, chlorhexidine gluconate, or diluted sodium hypochlorite. 

Studies have shown the efficacy of daily home care using diluted sodium hypochlorite applied with an oral irrigating device to maintain periodontal health.  Additionally the hygienist may employ the aid of an antibiotic impregnated fiber, gel or small gelatinous disc, all of which can be placed in the periodontal pocket.

After the usual formalities of going over my medical history, my last dental hygiene appointment began with my hygienist digitally charting my periodontal status.  The virtual charting was accomplished using voice activated software and when I left, I had a hard copy of my periodontal health. As she meticulously went around each tooth, removing my accumulated omissions from the preceding months, she mentioned areas that needed my increased vigilance and recommended some new hygiene aids that I found to be helpful.

Dental hygienists are breaking out of their traditional roles and in some states, they can now restore teeth. This training is most commonly a part of the core curriculum received in the hygiene program.  Additionally, restorative classes are offered by some hygiene schools as a continuing education course for those who wish to add this to their skill set and perhaps update their curriculum vitae.

The increased preparation and training of today’s hygienists will help all of us maintain better overall health and our dentition for a life time.

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Read 2136 times Last modified on Thursday, 07 November 2013 11:35

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