15 Surprising Things You Probably Don’t Know About Dental Hygienists

14. They have to deal with bad teeth and bad breath It’s no secret that dental hygienists are exposed to seeing some horrible sights and smelling… Simi - June 13, 2018

14. They have to deal with bad teeth and bad breath

It’s no secret that dental hygienists are exposed to seeing some horrible sights and smelling odors that would make most people want to run away. The smell of infection is far from appealing, not to mention rotting food that has to be extracted from where it is lodged between the teeth and gums. Cleaning teeth entail spending all day looking into patients’ mouths.

Hygienists treat some patients with decaying teeth and bad breath. The stench of halitosis or bad breath can be quite overwhelming. Individuals with weak stomachs may want to gag which could upset a patient. They also deal with saliva. If a patient sneezes, coughs or gags, saliva droplets that may carry the disease are released into the atmosphere. Hygienists may also be exposed to blood and vomit.

Halitosis affects about a quarter of the population, so hygienists are exposed to this on a daily basis, and yet they manage to face patients with a smile. Anaerobic bacteria produce volatile sulfur compounds that are the primary cause of halitosis in most cases and cause the ‘rotten egg’ smell. Hygienists play a key role in identifying halitosis and trying to treat and prevent it. Some patients have excellent dental hygiene and still experience bad breath. This is where hygienists have to go outside of traditional thinking and figure out the root of the problem.

Dental hygienists have to have a sense of purpose to be able to overcome the less appealing aspects of the job such as foul smells. When their goal is to prevent disease, they consider what they have to experience worth it for the health of the patient. Bacteria in the mouth have been linked to chronic inflammation which in turn is linked to certain cancers, low birth weight, pre-term babies, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. The health problems of patients are important to them, and they want to do what they can to prevent them.  

15. They work with the public on what the public doesn’t like

Dental hygienists are constantly working with the public which can be hard. To add to this struggle, people generally do not like having dental work done. Dental hygienists have to work hard to change their perceptions. Some patients may even take their fear out on the hygienist because they feel vulnerable and anxious.

Patients can be difficult in many different ways. Some are resistant to care, and others may be combative or insulting because they are in pain. Patients may even try manipulating by using guilt or threats. They may want an inappropriate procedure or a drug they don’t need. When patients are belligerent, engaging in conflict is a bad idea.

 Dental hygienists have to learn how to navigate objections and negative situations. Many people do not want to be told what to do. The dental hygienist has to learn how to speak to patients in a way that makes them realize the benefits of good oral care. They may ask their patients to consider or evaluate suggestions rather than saying they must or should do something. They may ask questions related to any objections, leading patients forward slowly to make their own conclusions.

Dealing with difficult patients is part of the job. It can be challenging, but it also brings out the creativity in finding ways to help these difficult patients and make a positive impact on their lives. These patients need extra help to keep their visits successful and prevent jeopardizing all the work spent to help other patients have positive experiences. Sometimes the appointments for difficult patients can be scheduled for specific times that may be slower or will minimize exposure to other patients. A calm, reassuring tone will often alleviate tense situations.