Ever wonder why it is that you do what you do for a living? Or why you ever chose to go into the career of dental hygiene in the first place. We’ll I got my answer just the other day as I was practicing my clinical hygiene skills. When I heard that I was having a patient come in that was physically and mentally challenged, I had no idea what was going to be presented to me as a clinician. John Doe showed up and when I went out to get him he had a care taker with him. He had to be lead and helped to my chair for observation. Not knowing his medical history I really had no idea of what kind of special needs patient he was going to be.
At first when I asked him to take a seat at my chair he just stood there and did not even say a word. I was nervous not knowing if I was handling the situation well enough. His care taker finally said in a forceful voice, “John sit down!” I was trying to communicate with him in a friendly way, and I could tell that he was really nervous about the appointment. As I went through his medical history with his care giver, I found it very frustrating that she did not know why he was taking any of these medications. However, there was a list of his conditions, so I had to use my best judgment. Also the company had no information on his dental history. I personally don’t think he ever had a dental history, which really bothered me to know that he wasn’t getting his teeth taken care of. John has Down syndrome, with severe mental retardation, along with many other conditions, most of which I found to be linked to each other.
As we started leaning him back in the chair I could tell that he was unsure if he liked what was going on. I found that I had to adjust my level to almost a kid style of learning, showing everything I did before I proceeded onto the next step. I continued talking to him about each step. When I asked him, “John do you brush your teeth?” He replied the only way he could, with a sign, his caregiver then told me he was saying yes. This was great news; I got some communication out of him, which meant that he was feeling a little more comfortable? As I did the periodontal assessment I was amazed at how much biofilm was on his teeth. Every tooth was completely covered with biofilm and it was even colored it had been there so long. Also he had some mobility on a few teeth. I asked his caregiver if she was able to brush their patient’s teeth, and she mentioned that they have to have a certain approval to do so.
I mentioned that it would be beneficial for John’s health, for her to get approved, due to his limited dexterity to properly take care of his own oral hygiene. John ended up being rated a 4/3.5 deposit evaluation. After John left the clinic I thought to myself AHA, this is why I got into dental hygiene, is to help people in need. This new knowledge will affect patient care in the future as a student. I will not be so quickly to judge whether or not a physically and mentally challenged person will be easy to treat. Seeing this patient made me realize how difficult it is to be a clinician, and how you have to adjust yourself to each individuals needs. It really does take a lot of extra time to focus on proper oral hygiene care for these special patients.
My patient care as a future dental hygienist will be definitely affected. I realize now that there are a lot of people, especially special needs patients that aren’t getting the oral health care they need and deserve. As a future dental hygienist I know that we need to get out into the public and fight for our services to be utilized for patients that are lacking oral health. People like the special needs patients, and people in nursing homes, will be a huge target population for me. I have now seen proof that the systems taking care of these people need to be educated, and shown how to properly utilize oral health and the link to the body as a whole. It would be nice to get some of my own programs going in order to further benefit these patients.
Most likely after seeing what I saw with this patient, I will do volunteer work and help the people that have the least likely opportunity to oral health care. After my experience I remember why it is that I am working towards a career in dental hygiene. I will be able to practice my clinician skills and put forth the effort to benefit not only my patients as a student, but when I start practicing in the private dental office. My other focus will be on educating the communities that are underserved. Now, it’s time to get out there and start promoting oral health and overall health and putting my hygiene career to use.