An Insight into the Life of a Busy Dental Hygienist

Child in Dental Chair
Working as a Dental Hygienist involves hard work and detail when with a patient

Often, when I tell people I am a Dental Hygienist they say β€œA what?… Oh you’re the one that cleans teeth” with a look of uncertainty on their face. This is usually closely followed by a running commentary on their last visit to the dentist.So just to put you in the picture, I’d love to share with you what I do in a normal day as a practicing dental hygienist…

Hint – It’s way more than just cleaning teeth πŸ™‚

08.00 – My typical morning begins about 45 min prior to the arrival of my first patient. I grab the schedule for the day and over a cup of coffee, take a look at the patients’ chart. I double check their needs and review their medical/dental histories. During this quiet time, I make notes of things that need to be addressed or reviewed, with the patient and the dentist. This includes

  • Any medical concerns/allergies
  • Ongoing treatments with other medical providers
  • Patient’s current dental status and…
  • Their appointment history

Next I set up the instruments I’ll need for the first patient and make sure I have everything at hand. Finally I double check all supplies, making sure the room is well-stocked and clean.

08.30 am – Next it’s time for our team meeting. We go through the patient cases for that day and review specific treatment plans. This ensures everything flows as smooth as possible, while maintaining the highest standards of patient care. It just so happens that today one of the dental nurses has brought in some doughnuts, so we can’t resist and partake in a sugar fix – Even dental professionals have breaking points you know!

Every day is different and during a typical working day I can see a wide range of age groups and families. I can go from treating a patient will a full upper denture and dental implants to a young child losing their first baby tooth, as well as everything in between; and today is a good example…

O8.45 am – Time to bring in my first patient – It’s a regular who I see every 6 months. I take the patient’s blood pressure and answer any medical question or concerns they may have. The patient is in good dental and medical health and simply needs a scale and polish. There’s very little tartar and the appointment goes smoothly – Great start to the morning!

0920 am– Time for patient number 2 who is 5 minutes late. It’s no big deal as it’s a patient who I’ve been treating for a while so I expect routine treatment only. However it turns out this person needs an x-ray and a full dental exam, so the appointment takes longer than expected. I’m now up against it as I’m running late for my next patient.

10-35 am – I have around 70 minutes scheduled for this patient because they need 3-month periodontal maintenance, a full mouth-probe chart, a series of digital bite-wing x-rays and a dental exam. I enter all details on the computer including treatment and discuss the treatment plan with the patient.

11-35 am – Somehow I’ve managed to get myself back on track..well..almost. My next patient is a newbie or rather…someone who I haven’t treated before. With all new patients, I do whatever I can to make them feel comfortable. That usually means trying to find some common ground. In this instance, it was a recent country we’d both previously visited.

During this appointment, I take a set of radiographs and a series of intra-oral camera pictures and call the dentist in to carry out a complete oral evaluation.

12.40 pm – LUNCH TIME –Β  It’s that much needed break where I get time to gather my thoughts, prepare for the afternoon – Oh, and grab a sandwich – In this case, something light – chicken salad.

1-10 pm – And we’re ready to go again – This patient is just 4 years old. This time it was some dental x-rays, fluoride treatment, and a dental exam. He did great! Surprisingly, I’ve now fully caught up and are actually ahead of schedule.

2-05pm – 5.00 pm – During the afternoon my next 3 patient appointments run like clockwork. They consist of a 12 year old patient returning for sealant treatment, a middle aged man on a 3 month periodontal maintenance program, and another new patient assessment.

5-10 pm – My last patient walks out the door, so now I complete any remaining clinical documentation and ensure my area is cleaned, sterilized, and prepped for the next day.

5-30pm Β Finally after a challenging but rewarding day, I clock out.

As you can see as well as cleaning teeth, I’m facilitating a dental experience that contributes to a lifetime of good overall health. So If you’re scheduled an appointment with your hygienist.. don’t worry, they can help you in more ways than you think.