When it comes to patient care, there is more to a successful appointment than simply scraping and polishing. Complete patient care includes taking time to talk with your patients, listening for insight into their lives and habits, and performing life-saving screenings at every visit.
According to a survey by Delta Dental, about 3 in 5 (59%) adults made a preventive visit in 2021 to reduce their chances of experiencing serious dental issues. As preventative care is on the rise, it's time for the dental community to rise to the opportunity, providing support and education to patients in order to help foster healthier healthspans for patients.
LISTENING FOR CUES FROM YOUR PATIENTS
When your patients arrive, instead of just asking them "how are you today" and making small talk as you walk together back to your chair, take time to speak with them and find out more about their everyday lives and habits. Listen for signs that may identify possible issues such as:
Depression or mental health issues
While it might not be an obvious health issue to listen for, identifying possible signs of depression is critical for their overall health. Depression can often cause people to pay less attention to their health, leading to a higher risk of chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.
Another cue to listen for is the use of dietary supplements. Many patients won't openly disclose their use of them; however, they can have an impact on their overall health as well as cause a possible interaction with medication or dental treatments.
Learning about and listening to your patients will allow you to support and improve their overall whole-body health.
SCREENINGS AND VITAL SIGNS AT EVERY VISIT
It's no secret to dental hygienists that inflammation in the mouth can contribute to cardiovascular disease. However, while it is standard care to take a patient's blood pressure prior to dental treatments, it's rarely done in the hygienist's chair.
Having this information on your patient is important as it will give you insight into the patient's overall health and allow you to support their whole-body health. When you know a patient has high blood pressure, you can watch for and identify risk factors and oral conditions that may be exacerbated by or contribute to the condition.
It is essential for the whole body's system, including the mouth, to have proper blood flow. It is crucial to have a healthy oral vascular system in order to prevent and heal oral conditions. Patients' risk factors for oral diseases increase if their oral arteries and vessels are unhealthy.
Guiding and supporting your patient's oral health is critical. Oral health can be a contributing factor when it comes to developing diseases and conditions such as:
Another screening to perform to help and protect the overall health of your patients is an oral cancer screening. According to the American Cancer Society, squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity and throat accounts for about 45,000 cases each year in the United States, resulting in approximately 8,000 deaths per year.
Although there have been advances in surgical, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment, five-year survival rates of patients with moderate to advanced cases of oral cancer are less than 60%.
Oral cancer screenings aren't optional depending on how much time you have—they're the standard of care and essential to each patient's oral health. - RDH
Spotting the early signs of oral cancer can be truly life-saving for your patient. The ten steps for performing the extraoral and intraoral examination are detailed in an informative blog by DentistryIQ.
PROTECT YOUR PATIENTS: GROW YOUR DENTAL PRACTICE
The LifeGuard Approach™ believes that it's time for dental hygienists and other dental professionals to change their mindset when it comes to patient health. It's time to become active LifeGuards in both the overall proactive and preventative medical treatments for our patients.
Follow us on social media, sign-up for our newsletter, and check out our Resource Library to stay connected and learn how to hone your skills as a LifeGuard.