When it comes to the most important skills a dental hygienist needs to be effective in their work, think both hard and soft skills. While soft skills are difficult to quantify since they criss-cross different disciplines, hard skills are sector-specific, which means you cannot be a dental hygienist without these hard, technical skills. Below are some of the most important dental hygienist skills you will need to succeed in this career.
1. Effective Oral Communication Skills
You cannot treat patients without talking to them. By talking to them, you get to know their medical history, how they conduct their oral care routine, and let them know what you are doing as you treat them. In other words, talking to a patient as you attend to them puts them at ease. The good thing about oral communication is that it’s a learnable skill. However, one thing is for sure; you will struggle in this profession if you don’t know how to communicate effectively.
2. Carry Out Initial Dental Assessments
This is a must-have skill for every dental hygienist. Without carrying out an initial dental assessment on a patient, you won’t know where to start. Begin by examining a patient’s mouth and then proceed with the appropriate treatment options based on the results of your assessment.
3. Pay Attention to Detail
The truth is always in the detail. A dental hygienist must be thorough and detailed to a fault. Pay keen attention to what you are doing and focus on minor details as you attend to a patient’s gums and teeth. Notice anything that seems off and makes sure nothing is left to chance.
Missing minor details may lead to a patient getting the wrong treatment. You might even end up harming a patient. If you are not a stickler for details, a career in dental hygiene may not be for you.
4. Ability to Remove Deposits from Teeth
A key part of a dental hygienist’s job is to clean a patient’s teeth. You will need to know how to use tools to get rid of tartar, food particles, and plaque. Also, to prevent gum disease, you should be able to clean a patient’s teeth beneath the gum line.
Compassion is one of the more underrated dental hygienist skills. Over three-quarters of those who visit a dentist are somewhat scared of the experience. Others have heard horrifying imaginary tales of dentists knocking out teeth with a sledgehammer. There are also those who were traumatized after watching “Mr. Bean” and his antics at the dentist.
These are the kinds of people you will meet as you begin a career as a dental hygienist. How do you respond to their fears, real or imagined? By being compassionate. Don’t make fun of them or belittle their fears of dentists. Instead, seek to reassure them that the experience is nothing like what they have heard or imagined.
6. How to Apply Fluoride Treatments
Fluoride has been used for years to prevent cavities. To keep teeth healthy, some patients will visit your dental office seeking fluoride treatments. To attend to these patients, a qualified dental hygienist must be able to conduct professional fluoride treatments. This may include brushing a patient’s teeth with fluoride and showing them how to do effective fluoride rinses.
7. Problem Solving Skills
This is one of the most critical dental hygienist skills to possess. Every patient is uniquely different and has their own individual challenges. How you handle these challenges on a case by case basis will largely depend on how good you are at problem-solving.
For instance, if a patient is petrified, you will need to work around their fear in a way that allows you to complete the treatment. You may also come across patients who can barely open their mouths wide. Again, you will need to figure out quickly how you can overcome this challenge and complete the treatment.
8. Imaging/ X-Rays
As a dental hygienist, you will be taking x-rays of patients’ teeth. How to do this effectively is critical since x-rays emit radiation. Without effective dental hygienist training courses and knowledge, you won’t be able to perform this critical task.
Part of the routine will include making sure patients are safe by using protective equipment such as thyroid collars. Knowing how to position an x-ray machine for clear images accurately is, therefore, a critical skill for a career as a dental hygienist.
9. Skillful Use of Hands
A career in dental hygiene involves inserting sharp tools inside the mouth of patients. To avoid hurting a patient and reinforce their myths about dentists, you will need to master hand control to complete a treatment safely. If you are clumsy with your hands and tend to drop items, you might want to keep off a career in dental hygiene. You need steady hands to succeed as a dental hygienist.
10. Ability to Perform Restorative Procedures
As a dental hygienist, you will occasionally be called upon to assist the dentist in performing restorative procedures on patients. These include crowns, root canals, and fillings. You definitely can’t perform this task unless you know how to do it.
You need both soft and hard skills in dental hygiene to succeed in a career as a dental hygienist.