How New Technology Can Help Your Dental Hygiene PracticeJun 13, 2022
Technology in dentistry changes how we practice. As dental hygienists, we have seen advancements in technology that have fostered enhanced care with increased efficiency. From advancements such as digital x-rays and scans, desensitizers and topical anesthetics, slimmer ultrasonic tips, and the latest in air polishing, dentistry is ever-evolving to provide patients with the best care. Thanks to computer software technology, we are able to more efficiently and accurately assess oral health, communicate, and document. While all of these advancements have surely helped dental hygienists in practice, there are other new technologies that can help your practice in ways that you may not have realized.
Technology and Your Typical Day
A typical day for a hygienist is usually a busy one. On a typical 8-hour day, you probably see between 8-10 patients, for whom you provide preventive clinical care. Generally, the focus of those visits is clinical care and patient education.
As oral health professionals, we want to provide that clinical care with patient comfort in mind. And we want to educate our patients in ways that motivate and make sense to them. Technology can help us achieve that goal. But as you are providing care to our patients each day, you probably know that you are delivering that care in ways that take a physical toll. Fortunately, technology is helping us to feel our best each day as well.
Technology and Comfortable Clinical Care
The more comfortable our patients are in the chair, the less stressed they are about their appointments, the more they trust us, and will no longer fear the visits. Considering that between 9-15% of all appointment cancellations are due to patient fears, providing comfort chairside helps patients, the dental practice, and the practicing hygienist whose livelihood is dependent upon a full schedule.
Now more than ever, technology is providing us with more ways to focus on patient comfort. Along with therapeutic and diagnostic technology that is more comfortable, state-of-the-art offices now offer patients comfort amenities such as personalized music, television, blankets & pillows to promote in-office comfort.
Patient comfort isn’t limited to their chairside experience. Because of dental software technology, patients can now access their account information online and even chat with their dental providers via teledentistry, which reduces their dental anxieties.
In terms of comfort, patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from technology. New equipment and operational designs now promote ergonomic delivery of care. Dental loupes with headlights, which reduce fatigue and increase visibility are now lighter and more comfortable for hygienists. Even our operator chairs have greatly improved over the years with designs that focus on proper positioning. Between the instruments we hold, the glasses we wear, and even the chairs on which we sit all day, the trend is geared toward dental hygienist health and comfort.
Technology and Convenient Education
Thanks to technology, we are no longer limited to educating our patients with a typodont and big toothbrush. Now, we have online dental education chairside and mobile apps that can motivate patients once they leave the office. They can track their brushing habits and learn more about their oral health thanks to educational avenues that we can help personalize to their individual needs.
Dental Hygiene Continuing Education
Traditionally in the past, most dental hygienists have fulfilled their continuing education requirements by attending in-person conferences or by completing online, self-study courses. Since many states limit acceptable self-study CEs, live CEs are necessary for license renewal.
While getting together with colleagues in person can be beneficial, it isn’t always convenient. After working all week, sometimes the last thing you want to do is wake up early on a Saturday and drive to an all-day conference. Or maybe you have children who have weekend activities that you don’t want to miss but have to because a course falls on an inconvenient day.
Thankfully, technology provides online courses that are now streamed live and fulfill those in-person requirements. In addition, CE management has allowed dental professionals to keep track of their progress.
Especially since Covid restrictions, even more, options have become available. And although many of us are happy to get out and meet in person again to learn, there are still others who prefer a more convenient option.
Whether you are a new dental hygiene graduate or are a seasoned hygienist with decades of experience, technology can be your friend. Naturally, some may embrace technology more easily, others might be hesitant.
Even if you think change isn’t for you, isn’t it worth investigating if it can make even some of your typical days easier, more comfortable, or more pleasant? Take a moment to learn more about some of the ways that technology has been geared toward dental hygiene practice and how it can enhance your career experience.
About the Author: Suzanne L. Vila, RDH, PHDHP, B.A.
Suzanne is a Registered Dental Hygienist in Central PA who works in private periodontal practice and at a local college as an adjunct dental hygiene faculty. After a thirty-year career in dental hygiene, Suzanne is now creating non-clinical projects involving professional enhancement, public health initiatives, and patient education. In addition to being a passionate dental practitioner, Suzanne enjoys teaching fitness classes such as Pilates and yoga, volunteering with the local dog rescue Pitties.Love.Peace, and spending time with her family and their two rescued pit bulls, Rudy & Freya.