This fall, dental hygienist success stories about how they helped patients regain confidence post pandemic earned them recognition. Two common themes emerged in submissions for the In Good Hands contest presented by Benco Dental. A strong foundation of patient trust, and thorough explanations of safety protocols made a significant difference in the dental hygienists’ ability to resume regular care.
Top three story submissions from dental hygienists earned them each aPRO-SYS® Hygiene Handpiece as part of the In Good Hands contest presented by Benco Dental. The contest, which took place in October, shines a light on hygienists who have helped patients regain confidence post-pandemic.
Kathryn Finch, RDH, Berwick, Pennsylvania said being ‘up front and honest’ with patients was crucial post pandemic at Dr. William Padner’s office
“It’s making people feel comfortable so they’re still able to get their cleanings done,” said Kathryn Finch, RDH.
A hygienist for 14 years, Finch earned first place with her discussion of how she helped patients at the office of Dr. William Padner in Berwick, Pennsylvania, where she has worked for 13 of those years.
In her entry, Finch explained there was no “grand gesture” that helped, rather, being “up front and honest” was crucial.
“I would love to say that there was some kind of grand gesture, or creative idea I had that got patients back into the hygiene chair. Truly, what it took to comfort our patients was simply being up front and honest about the measures we were taking to protect the public and ourselves.
While making calls to remind patients of their scheduled hygiene appointments, myself and the whole staff faced numerous questions. ‘Are you seeing patients?’ ‘Is everyone in the building masked?’
You could sense the fear in their voices, the apprehension they were feeling. Having known most of these patients for many years helped a lot when assuring them that we were doing everything in our power to protect them.”
Finch said thorough explanations and descriptions seemed to put patients at ease.
“I’m sure that anyone walking in and seeing us in surgical caps, KN95 masks, and face shields could have thought that we looked scary or overwhelming, but we could tell that people were happy to see that we were taking things very seriously.
I have always practiced proper PPE procedures and effective cleaning practices have always been employed in our office, but I have found that verbally describing these procedures to the patient seems to put them at ease.
As much as I never expected to see a pandemic in my lifetime, I am so grateful that we have access to proper personal protection equipment, cleaning agents, and barrier techniques.
A vital element between patients of all ages and the dental team is trust, according to Finch, whose favorite aspect of her career is “getting to work with people.”
Keep looking forward to a better future, and always remember how very important it is to establish a strong foundation of trust with your patients, in any circumstance.Kathryn Finch, RDH, Berwick, Pennsylvania, on helping dental patients regain confidence post pandemic. Finch earned first place in the In Good Hands contest, presented by Benco Dental.
‘In Good Hands’ Contest rewards hygienist success stories. Hear how dental hygienists helped their patients regain confidence post pandemic.
Lisa Little, CRDH, BSM, Spring Hill, Florida said she felt like the ‘Back to the Future movie from the 80s’ but it gave patients ‘an added comfort’
For Lisa Little, a Certified Registered Dental Hygienist since 1993, one of the favorite aspects of her career proved extremely helpful at Spring Hill Dental in Florida during the pandemic. Little said she finds educating patients on the importance of oral health very rewarding.
“In our office, we emphasized to patients the importance of their oral health and their overall systemic health. Most people have skipped one, or in some cases two, cleaning appointments for fear of potential exposure,” she said.
Little, who feels privileged to have started in dentistry at a young age as a dental assistant, explained what she enjoys most about her work with patients:
“Letting them know that the mouth is the first stage to digestion and where bacteria/infection can enter into the body, which could affect overall systemic health. I also enjoy seeing a patients get healthy by improving perio health and restoring function of their mouths with the completion of dental treatment.”
Little said that at Spring Hill Dental they have always implemented PPE, but extra measures added during COVID seemed to give patients added comfort.
Lisa Little, CRDH, BSM, Spring Hill, Florida, on helping dental patients regain confidence post pandemic. Little earned second place in the In Good Hands contest, presented by Benco Dental.
“In 2020, when COVID was at its all-time high, I felt like (I was in) the Back to the Future movie from the 80s. We had practically a spacesuit on with custom-fit respirator masks, full-length barrier gowns and face shields that covered your entire head region! I feel this gave the patients an added comfort, though, in knowing that we were taking these measures into consideration.”
In her contest entry, Little elaborated:
“Not only were we wearing our ‘full body armour spacesuits,’ we also have air purifiers in every treatment room, we have ESD machines (External Suction Devices) in every treatment room, especially hygiene, where aerosols are produced. We also take patient temperatures at the door prior to them coming into a clinical environment, and we have patients do a 60- second Peroxyl rinse, followed by washing their hands BEFORE ever sitting in the dental chair.”
Why does Lisa Little,CRDH, BSM, feel like this the new ‘norm’ in dentistry?
“We are creating a safe environment for not only the patients, but also for ourselves! Education is key, therefore educating the patients on the added infection control as well as importance of dental care in general will bring us back to practicing more on a regular regime and comfort level!” said Little.
The Spring Hill resident became hygienist shortly after entering the field in 1993 and loves it still today.
“I still love, love, love this field … every mouth is different, every dental concern brings on different challenges and opportunities to educate and treat each individual patient with compassion, excitement and care. My motto for most of my career has been the Golden Rule of life; I treat all patients like I myself would want to be treated and that has allowed me to create a great rapport with patients as well as my fellow team members.”
Tammy Roberts, said her hygienist success story during Covid at Kramer, Shirley & Ditty, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, began pre-pandemic
Tammy Roberts, a dental hygienist at Kramer, Shirley & Ditty, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania attributed successful interactions during Covid to rapport with patients.
“I believe our story begins pre-pandemic. We have always cherished the relationship with our patients, particularly as hygienists, and strive to maintain the kind of rapport with patients that builds trust and confidence in us and our practice.
Beyond the trusted relationships, patients knew the office was always clean, not only in appearance, but with procedures designed to mitigate infections and provide the patient with a safe, comfortable experience each and every visit,” said Roberts.
What was one proactive step that helped patients regain confidence post pandemic? Tammy Roberts shared a hygienist success story of what worked in Harrisburg.
“As it became clear that dental practices could reopen in the weeks following the initial pandemic shutdowns, we took intentional steps to build upon the goodwill we had established with our patients over many years.
One proactive step was to invite our patients back by having the hygienists personally reach out to longtime patients with whom we had established, trusted relationships.”Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Dental Hygienist Tammy Roberts on helping dental patients regain confidence post pandemic. Roberts earned third place in the In Good Hands contest, presented by Benco Dental.
Roberts noted that postings to the practice’s social media accounts outlined their upgraded infection control processes.
What protocols helped hygienist Tammy Roberts regain confidence with dental hygiene patients?
Roberts outlined steps taken atKramer, Shirley & Ditty, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
“Cameras were installed in the parking lot, and patients were encouraged to wait in their vehicles upon arrival at the practice. Our team would call them and walk them through a series of COVID screening questions.
A team member would meet them at their car, take their temperatures, and accompany them into the building and directly back to their assigned operatory. Patients were encouraged to wash hands upon entry into the operatories, and we scheduled patients in a way that limited encounters between patients and additional team members.
As hygienists we wore K95 masks, with a face shield, and disposable gowns that we changed between each patient. All pre-COVID sanitization and sterilization practices continued to be employed, along with fogging our operatories between each patient.
But at the heart of our efforts was open and honest communication with our patients that reinforced our long commitment to safety and to their overall health and wellbeing.”Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Dental Hygienist Tammy Roberts on helping dental patients regain confidence post pandemic. Roberts earned third place in the In Good Hands contest, presented by Benco Dental.
How did Dental Hygienist Tammy Roberts know the dental team was on the right track with patients post-pandemic?
Roberts said a patient comment confirmed that their team was on the right track.
“I knew we were on the right track when (a patient) commented to me on her first return visit after the initial shutdowns, ‘I had no apprehensions about coming back, in fact I felt very comfortable because your office has always been very clean, even before COVID. It’s obvious to me you care deeply about the safety of your patients.’ This theme was repeated almost daily in those early months following our reopening.
We were fortunate to have established a history of quality care, cleanliness, and safety, which made getting patients back in the chair less daunting and more of a comfortable return to pre-pandemic routines.”