A Really Good Day!
As most of you who read my articles know, in addition to working as a consultant with McKenzie Management, I am a practicing dental hygienist and have been taking care of patients for twenty plus years. My day-to-day work consists of new patients, prophys, radiographs, perio treatment, and lots and lots of education. Sometimes I feel frustrated when patients don’t seem to “buy in” to what I am telling them about their perio condition. I try everything from illustrations of perio disease, copies of their probing depths, videos, and their own photos to show them what I am telling them. Even so, some patients just don’t seem to get it. But how great it is when someone does!
Three months ago I had a young man as a patient who presented with serious problems. Heavy calculus, bleeding pockets, and swollen tissues revealed a mouth full of disease. Our first appointment together consisted of an exam with our wonderful general dentist, full mouth radiographs, full mouth periodontal charting, many photos, and a diagnosis of generalized moderate to severe periodontitis. Restorative issues were also revealed, but were secondary to the serious nature of his perio condition. He understood his situation, received an estimate for treatment from our treatment coordinator, and scheduled his first hour and a half appointment to complete scaling and root planing on one side of his mouth, to be followed by another appointment to complete the opposite side about a week later. He understood that he would be receiving periodontal maintenance four times a year thereafter.
Our first scaling and root planing appointment went well. He was happy to be completely numb for the procedure as his tissues were very sensitive. Prior to beginning treatment, I went over the home care routine I wanted him to follow. I concentrated on brushing and the use of a floss aide for interproximal areas. I did not want to overwhelm him with “too much to do each day” for his own maintenance. Our second appointment also went well. He could already see and feel the difference between the treated side of his mouth and the untreated section. Bleeding had lessened and tissues were shrinking.
Fast forward to three months later and here comes my really good day. My patient presented with tighter tissues, much less swelling, a relatively plaque free mouth, and when compared with his previous periodontal charting; the reduction of pockets in all four quadrants! His periodontal maintenance appointment consisted of charting, scaling and root planing of isolated areas, placement of sulcular meds where needed, and reinforcement of home care to include the addition of another “cleaning” aide; a rubber tip stimulator. He and I were both so happy with what had happened to his oral condition. He told me that he felt like a new person. We both agreed that neither one of us ever wanted to see him in his previous condition again. I set up his three month periodontal maintenance appointment and we parted as more than patient and hygienist, but as enthusiastic friends.
This patient personifies the personal rewards I gain from my profession. It is wonderful to see a person regaining his oral health and seeing how much better he looks and feels. It is fabulous to view the positive changes that the application of my services can bring.
When I thought the day could not get any better, it did. My next patient was a person who previously had a tooth extracted due to a failed endo. Retreatment had not resulted in healing, and extraction had unfortunately been the only choice. This patient had opted for an implant and crown and had received excellent care from our general dentist. Her implant was perfect and she was so happy! She could not believe that for all intents and purposes, a new tooth had been miraculously placed in her mouth. Her home care is immaculate and she likely faces a long, happy life with her new replacement. We went over her daily home routine and I gave her some specialized brushes to use around the implant. She was delighted that they came in their own little carrying cases, making them easy to take in her purse. We had a great appointment, and she told me that her sister had also set up a time to come to our office based on her recommendation.
A day like this makes up for all of the days that I feel no one is paying attention to what I am doing to help them with their oral conditions. It helps to think about this day when I have a patient who cannot seem to open his mouth more than four millimeters, or who is so jumpy that I have to keep reassuring them and announcing when I am going to be placing the mouth mirror into their mouths. It helps to think about a day like this day when I am faced with a five-year-old whose father tells him as we walk toward the treatment room: “She won’t hurt you” - thereby raising the question in the little one’s mind - “Why would Dad mention that if being hurt wasn’t a possibility?”I love my profession and I love my patients - even the ones who are sometimes hard to take. I keep trying to reach the ones that don’t “get it” and I try to never give up on anyone. It is satisfying work that means something. At the end of a hard day I have not just been sitting at a computer or moving papers, I have had the opportunity to help someone become healthier, better looking, and happier. It can make for a really good day!
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
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