2.25.11 Issue #468 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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It Is Not Only About The Hygienist
By Jean Gallienne, RDH BS

Having a hygienist that is good at patient care, finding potential work, and promoting your dentistry is very important. However, so is patient comfort, quality of work performed, and operator comfort. Staying with the same type of instruments or manufacturing company because it is what you used in college may not be staying on the cutting edge of dentistry. Of course, if you do not look to see what other options are out there, you will never know what opportunities you are missing. 

So many times, we think about the people and not the tools that are being utilized by the hygienist in order to help increase production. Is your hygienist using the tools of her choice, and are they up-to-date in order to provide the most comfort to the patient and the operator while they are being used? Could your patient retention be less than you want because your hygienist is not able to provide patient comfort during instrumentation?

Let’s go back to the basics for a minute. Does the hygienist have varying sizes of handles in her packet in order to change her grasp? Does she have separate sets of instruments for root planing? If so, does her root planing set have instruments that may work better for deep subgingival calculus removal compared to that of a mouth that has healthy gingival tissue? Are her instruments sharp?  Do they need to be replaced? Remember, instruments are consumable items that will need replacing.

It is recommended to have separate root planing sets. This set should have instruments with a wide-angle blade for deep heavy subgingival calculus, a long blade in order to reach further interproximal, longer terminal shank, a variation of handle to help decrease operator fatigue, and some area-specific instruments for those hard to get concave root surfaces. They should also be sharp. 

Sharp instruments are such an important part of our job when it comes to being a hygienist. It is important when it comes to operator fatigue and patient comfort. Why scale seven times on a tooth with heavy pressure when all you have to do is have a sharp instrument in order to scale one or two times with little pressure? Not only will your patients love you, but so will your hygienist’s hands. Find instruments that stay sharper longer and seem to be the sharpest out of the package. American Eagle Instruments has a wide variety available to choose from. 

Our new favorite instrument made by American Eagle Instruments uses XP technology which is a patented process that hardens the stainless steel, and then encapsulates the steel with a diamond like layer. This enables the edge to remain sharp for months without sharpening. This will help to reduce the force used during scaling and root planing, which will lead to a lighter grip. These combined benefits should help reduce operator fatigue and increase patient comfort. The instruments are designed for fine subgingival scaling and root planing.

Not only are sharp instruments imperative to being able to perform our job, but we also need to know when to replace our instruments. Using instruments past their life expectancy is not good for patient comfort or the career of the hygienist. Maintaining a set of new instruments in order to compare the instruments side-by-side is the easiest way to identify hand instruments that need to be replaced. Another way is to use light reflection, along with loops, or a magnifier to determine if the shape of the instrument can no longer be maintained.

When it comes to ultrasonic tips, they do not last forever either and if they are used past their optimum efficiency, there may be increased patient distress and pain, practitioner discomfort, and reduced deposit removal. They should be compared to the wear indicator card in order to measure the amount of wear your tips have endured. If they are short, get rid of them and buy new.

Having instruments that are well maintained and cutting edge, along with a quality hygienist, may be the answer to increasing your patient retention and employee longevity.

Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.

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