Two State-of-the-Art Technological Solutions Transforming the Role of Dental Hygienists

Chris Mansfield, Director Applications, Arkenea

The rapid disruptions happening on the technology front are fast transforming every industry today. And although healthcare is often called out to be a slow adapter when it comes to innovation, this industry has rather shown speedy growth in terms of embracing technology.

The field of dental hygiene is no exception. 

Each year delivers more new dental technology that helps dental hygienists complete their duties in an easier, faster, and more patient-centric way than ever before.

In this piece, we will be looking at a few such modern technology innovations that are transforming the role of a dental hygienist for good.

Teledentistry

Teledentistry has been around for a few years now, however uncertainty still exists with respect to how it can prove to be beneficial for a dental hygienist. 

Professionals from other healthcare niches have already observed enhanced outcomes from delivering early diagnostic intervention preventive services, and education in communities using telehealth. 

As Dr Vinati Kamani, dentist turned tech author, rightly points out:

“While it is assumed that telemedicine lacks the comfort of in-person interactions, users reportedly are more happier with virtual visits. Since the providers are not in a hurry to whisk off to see their next patient, it also results in quality interactions leading to increased patient satisfaction.”

So then, how exactly is teledentistry transforming the role of dental hygienists?

Dental hygienists and teledentistry can prove to be the most potent combination  for improving access to care and addressing barriers with respect to patient convenience. 

This new mode of care delivery can also be a breath of fresh air for hygienists looking for a change in their careers. Modestly armed with teledentistry technology and self-contained portable dental equipment, a dental hygienist can furnish preventive care and education of the highest order to patient populations right in the comfort of their own homes.

A teledentistry software program also facilitates communication between hygienists and dentists for evaluation, consultation, referral, and treatment planning. Storing patient data from such a software on a dedicated cloud server further boosts interoperability across the organization and accelerates the pace at which information reaches the hygienist.

Many progressive hygienists across the United States are already using their expertise alongside a teledentistry platform to bring care to patient populations in need of it.

Karen Witkowski, a Registered Dental Hygienist, started Senior Smiles Georgia, which provides care for residents in eighteen senior living communities in Atlanta. 

The dental hygienist and her team use mobile dental equipment to furnish preventive care. They capture important clinical data and intraoral images in a teledentistry software platform, which is then shared with a dentist for treatment recommendations and remote evaluations. 

One technology solution that has continued to benefit both the patient and dental labs are 3D wands. These wands map out the entire mouth in exact detail and are intrusive free. With these 3D wands, a digital 3D scan of the mouth is mapped and can be sent to dental labs to create dental products like teeth grinding guards or retainers. The precision of these digital impressions speed up the process of product to patient,” says Seth Newman, CEO of SportingSmiles.

Teledentistry is changing the way in which patients are seeking oral health care at present, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Teledentistry enables hygienists to make poignant changes to a dated model of care delivery, bringing improved oral health outcomes for their patients, and renewed career excitement for themselves.  

Patient Engagement Solutions

Patient engagement is the blockbuster drug of the century.” This quote from Leonard Kish, a health IT strategy consultant, is frequently quoted in healthcare conferences across the globe. 

Engagement has become a comparatively easier mission for care providers now with the rapid advancements happening on the technology front. It is a key strategic tool to facilitate improved health outcomes and a rapidly emerging trend in healthcare technology.

So what exactly does this mean for dental hygienists?

The field of dentistry truly only functions on how easily one can meet the patient’s needs while maintaining the experience as pleasant and painless as possible. Only when your patients are comfortable with you and trust you enough, will they be able to maintain complete adherence with their treatment plans and follow up with appointment schedules.

Technology can help in more than one way here.

As a hygienist, your patients often depend on you to educate them on their health statuses. Patient education videos and multimedia presentations can provide patients with information to aid them in conveying their problem in a better manner. To be effective for patients, these educational elements need to be easy to understand, short, engaging and consistent.

Augmented Reality (AR)/ Virtual Reality (VR) are also being used by dental hygienists across the globe today to educate patients about their conditions and furnish basic instructions with respect to maintaining good oral hygiene.

When investing in technology solutions, hygienists need to keep a few crucial questions in mind:

  • Does the technology offer customizable, readily available resources that can be used in a variety of settings (such as an onsite or offsite facility)? 
  • Can the technology furnish details for patients in a time-specific manner? 
  • Does the technology explain dental procedures and terminology in a nonthreatening and easily discernible manner?
  • Make sure that you comply with the rules and regulations of the state dental board under which you operate. Each state has guidelines for teledentistry and hygienists supervision requirements.

A dentistry-focused mobile health (mHealth) application is another excellent tech-enabled patient engagement solution that hygienists can leverage for their practices. This is especially true since dental app users report perceived improvement in oral health.

By getting a mobile app developed for their practice, hygienists can do everything right from sending personalized push notifications to patients in order to remind them about their upcoming appointments, maintain communication with them on the app itself since patients can also easily share pictures and other multimedia on these platforms, to easily sharing patient details with dentists and scheduling appointments.

mHealth apps have two-fold benefits when it comes to engagement – both dental hygienists as well as their patients can seek benefits from this particular tech solution.

Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are many other technology-enabled modern solutions in the market today that dental hygienists can look to leveraging in order to make their practice function in a seamless way.

 As a forward thinking leader, you only need to be on the constant lookout for ways you can augment your practice and build strong patient relationships. As a leader, make sure of your dental board regulations and stay in compliance.

Remember, technology is only a facilitator, the true power lies within you.

Arkenea, Dental Hygienists, patient engagement, Teledentistry

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