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When the time came for my routine 6-month cleaning, I scheduled my appointment with a hygienist in the new area to which I have moved. My former dentist is one of the best clinicians and persons I have had the honor to know. He is a dental artist and professional extraordinaire. He had to be, given the fact that I am an exacting hygienist (aren’t we all?). His hygienists have been with him for decades.  

As a hygienist with 33 years of experience, professional expertise with toothbrush and floss and consistent schedule of past cleanings, I expected the easy, fast, carefree appointment I have had for the past 16 years.  My appointment did not go as expected.  

My new hygienist had to work over our allotted time to remove old burnished calculus from the lingual of the mandibular molars and elsewhere.  She discovered a bleeding, 6 mm pocket on the mesial surface of tooth #4 requiring root planing, ultrasonic and laser therapy to fully treat. On examination of my old radiographs, the pocket was clearly visible.  I was more than a little shocked and also humiliated. I love every aspect of the industry and pride myself in how much I learn as much as I pride myself in how much I inform.

In retrospect, I knew that assumptions were being made concerning my dental prowess with a brush and floss. I knew that all patients struggle to clean every surface of their teeth.  I knew that virtually all patients have calculus on the lingual of the mandibular molars.  I knew that dental explorers which detect calculus were not being used.  I knew that the latest and greatest techniques in dentistry were not a priority in the hygiene department. I knew all of this.

All my exacting and experience did not matter because I chose to ignore what I knew.  

What don’t you know about your hygiene department?