Popular perception still often incorrectly confuses assistant and dental hygienist, limiting these oral health professionals to a function as a second pair of hands for the dentist. However, in the clinic dental hygienists play a crucial role with many responsibilities. The Ordre des hygiénistes dentaires du Québec presents the main lines of the profession.
“Prevention is at the heart of the profession,” sums up Agathe Bergeron, head of inspection and professional practice at the Ordre des hygiénistes dentaires du Québec. In addition to all the cleaning operations as dental health preventive measures, the professional offers personalized hygiene advice to each patient. The hygienist is also responsible to take oral x-rays and to screen for diseases by identifying the signs and symptoms present in the patient.
“Diagnosis then goes to the dentist, which will be partly based on the dental hygienist’s report,” says Ms. Bergeron.
By law, the dentist has the responsibility to check the quality of the dental hygienist’s work. However, the relationship between the two professionals is not one of supervision, but of collaboration.
The hygienist provides the dentist with valuable information to assist in the development of his intervention plan. She can also carry out ten dental procedures herself, including the test for pulp vitality, insertion of dam materials and application of anaesthetic substances.
This college trained professional is not limited to just preparing the patient’s mouth for the final examination, she also instills a relationship of trust! As the first intervener with customers who are sometimes fearful or even reluctant, the hygienist provides essential support.
“Everything that affects the human relationship is a very important part of the job,” says Agathe Bergeron. “You have to love contact with people, have communication skills and demonstrate lots of empathy.”
The qualities of a good dental hygienist
Active listening, control of emotions, empathy, love of the public… human qualities are central in the dental hygienist’s profession. The nature of the work also requires great manual dexterity, perseverance and attention to detail. You have to be meticulous when the space for intervention is also restricted!
In this profession, it is said that a healthy mouth is the basis for better general health. The dental hygienist watches for it by essential preventive vision. Prevention is better than cure, especially in oral health!