We are here to dispel myths and give you the facts…
As dental hygienists, we listen to our patient’s needs and concerns. The average age of a practicing dental hygienist in Florida is mid-forties. With all of this experience, we wanted to share with you some of the things about us!
We are highly educated and committed to learning.
Hygienists are required to complete 16 pre-requisites courses and complete dental assistant training before even going to dental hygiene school. Hygiene school lasts for two years and is full-time. Working a full-time job while in hygiene school is out of the question. We either cram into an apartment together or stay with friends or family. There is no long-term program. Classes cannot be stretched out to accommodate our schedules. We take the classes that are required and have to make accommodations in all other areas of our life. We either have a two-year degree or a four-year degree in dental hygiene.
Board Exams are Tough and Don’t Transfer!
In Florida, we are required to take three different board exams (not including what’s required for graduation!). The Dental Hygiene National Board Examination, ADEX Dental Hygiene Licensing Examination, and Florida Laws and Rules Examination are required before we can apply for licensure. Also, our license is only valid in Florida. If you must relocate, it is very important to know what is required for a dental hygiene license for that state. It’s not easy to move states.
Qualified Hygienists in Florida- A Shortage
The population in Florida is about 20 million people. There are about 9,000 licensed dental hygienists in the state. This means there is approximately ONE dental hygienist for every 2,222 people! With 19 dental hygiene programs in Florida, there is still a shortage of qualified hygienists.
It’s Tough on our Bodies!
It may look easy to sit in a chair and lean over someone while looking into their mouths; try doing that day after day for many years. This is why most hygienists do not work five days a week or more. Our bodies need a rest, and we have to take care of our wrists, necks, and backs. We often go to massage therapists and do a lot of exercises to help strengthen our core muscles. You can always help us by laying back in the chair and moving your head as we ask. It may seem awkward for 60 minutes, but it helps us tremendously!
There is a lot of Continuing Education Required.
In each biennium, we are required to take at least 24 hours of continuing education to include medical errors, so we can learn from other mishaps. We also must have CPR training and take continuing education about domestic violence. Not only are we trained dental professionals, but as part of our license, we are required to contact the authorities if we suspect any kind of abuse, including child, domestic or elder abuse.
Hygienists are Part of Your Healthcare Team!
We don’t just pick teeth! Hygienists have advanced training to know about all other areas of the body too! Medication for one condition can have an impact on your mouth, and oftentimes, we see differences in someone’s mouth if they have a particular illness or disease. It is often said that the mouth is the gateway to the body! We are also trained to complete advanced oral cancer screenings. Oral cancer is the 6th deadliest cancer. Dental hygienists, second to a dentist are the highest clinically educated and licensed practitioners in the state.
No, You Cannot Use Your Cell Phone.
When you come in for your hygiene appointment, it is not the time to use your cell phone- whether to play games, text, or call someone. It is simply not safe to have a patient looking at their phone while we have sharp instruments in your mouth. It only takes one surprise text to have you jerk your head, and we really don’t want to hurt you! Also, it is a great time for you to learn about your oral health. We are full of lots of helpful information and love to share it with you. Ask us your questions instead of searching the web for the answers. We know which toothpaste works best, how to safely whiten your teeth, and even why do some dental implants cost so much less. Just ask us! We love to educate.
Go to the Bathroom when You Arrive.
When you arrive at the office, go ahead and go to the restroom. Don’t wait for me to call your name and then ask to go. There is a lot we need to accomplish in your one-hour appointment, and I don’t want to miss any of it!? If you’re just waiting for me, that’s the perfect time to go.
Please, Brush Your Teeth Before Your Appointment.
We are all busy and know what it’s like trying to fit a dental appointment into your busy schedule. Sometimes, you come from breakfast or lunch right before coming to the dental office. Please brush your teeth before you get to the dental chair. If you forgot your toothbrush, it’s ok- just ask, and we will give you one! We want to provide the best care possible, and removing soft food debris even makes us queasy! Our instruments are designed to remove plaque and calculus (not the kind you learned in school- plaque that is left and not removed turns into a hard material called calculus). Spend two minutes beforehand (when you’re taking your bathroom break before your appointment) and just brush.
Those Numbers are Very Important!
At each hygiene visit, we take a small measuring instrument called a periodontal probe and poke it around your mouth. We are taking measurements just like your physician does when they check your blood pressure or weight. These measurements show us the health of your gums and bone. We record the numbers and compare them to the previous measurement. We do this every time because we don’t want to wait if there is a problem! A small problem can be fixed much easier than waiting until it becomes a much larger problem.
Be Proud of Your Results
When you come into the office, it’s not just a teeth cleaning. We do a complete assessment of your oral health. It’s a joint effort! When you came in last, we probably spoke about things that you can do to improve your oral health. If you have done your work and it’s showing, be proud! Some of our patients even take their measurement numbers or even digital x-rays and hang them on their refrigerator. Good health isn’t easy. It takes commitment, just like eating healthy. Be proud of your accomplishments!
Our Recommendations are Based on YOUR Needs.
We aren’t salespeople. We don’t sell dental products and services. We make recommendations based on your particular needs. Over the years, you may have been accustomed to getting just a cleaning when you go to the dentist. Technology and advances in dental products have provided better and more options to help our patients to achieve their dental goals. Did you know that by age 50, Americans have lost 12 Teeth on Average? While dental implants are usually a good option for teeth replacement, there is nothing better than your own teeth! We do everything we can to help you save your teeth.
You’re Not Just a Patient to Us.
We develop relationships with our patients and you are not just a mouth to us! You become a friend. As healthcare professionals, we spend more time with you than most doctors, nurses, and even dentists. We love to hear about your family, vacations, and exciting things that happen in your life. We are also there for you during trying times. It breaks our hearts when we hear that a patient has passed away. We value you and appreciate your trust and confidence in us.
Not Every Hygienist is the Same.
While we all have similar training and have to pass the same exams, we are all different and that’s ok! Sometimes it’s personality or simply having a stronger connection to one particular hygienist, we understand! We are patients too and know that each patient’s needs are different. We don’t take it personally if you’d rather see a different hygienist. With several hygienists here at Advanced Dentistry South Florida, we believe you will have a perfect fit with one of us. If we say something that doesn’t resonate with you or you are offended, please don’t take it personally either!
Dental Hygienist Chaired Board of Dentistry First Time in History!
For the very first time in the history of the Florida Board of Dentistry, a dental hygienist chaired the Florida Board of Dentistry! This is a major accomplishment for dentistry as a whole. Since dental hygienists spend the most time with you and are the best person to clean teeth, it only makes sense to have input from dental hygienists.
As you can probably tell, we are PASSIONATE about what we do! We love being healthcare providers and wouldn’t change our profession. It’s an honor and privilege to have you as our patients. We take that responsibility seriously and if there is anything we can do to help make your dental experience better- just let us know! We are here to help.
**Special thanks to Catherine Cabanzon and Ali Ruple for their input for this article.