Employers place a strong emphasis on essential skills in the workplace. Essential skills are used in nearly every occupation, and are seen as ¿building blocks¿ because people build on them to learn all other skills.
Each profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skill is generally performed by the majority of workers in an occupation. The estimated complexity levels for each task, between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced), may vary based on the requirements of the workplace.
Dental hygienists provide dental hygiene treatment and information related to the prevention of diseases and disorders of the teeth and mouth. They are employed in dentists' offices, hospitals, clinics, educational institutions, government agencies and private industry.
- Experience scheduling problems when treatments take longer than expected, when patients arrive late for appointments, staff members call in sick or bad weather causes appointment cancellations. Dental hygienists apologize for delays they cause and offer to reschedule appointments. To ease congested waiting rooms, they may ask for assistance from co-workers or may work faster to get the work done in shorter time periods. (1)
- Observe that patients are extremely fearful and have irrational concerns about dental treatments. Dental hygienists review the rationale and treatment approaches with patients. They assess how much treatment patients can handle within each visit. They may postpone or reschedule treatments or suggest that patients consider sedation. (2)
- Encounter angry and disruptive patients. Dental hygienists remain calm, allowing patients to express their anger and when suitable, presenting patients with alternate treatment options. If patients become verbally abusive and display inappropriate behaviours, dental hygienists must ensure the safety of other patients and may call security to escort the disruptive individuals off the premises. (2)
- Discover patients who present unusual or unexpected symptoms or conditions. For example, when they discover abnormal tissue during patient examinations they consult dentists immediately. They note their concerns and ask for dentists' opinions about appropriate follow-up actions and care. (2)
- Encounter patients, dentists and other health care professionals who disagree with their professional opinions. When dental hygienists and dentists disagree about the appropriateness of patient treatments, they write, date and sign detailed observations in patient records and closely assess patients at subsequent visits. They minimize the likelihood of conflicts with dentists by presenting their concerns to them in a professional manner and choosing to work with dentists who have standards and values similar to their own. (3)
- Decide which instruments to use to conduct dental procedures using well-defined dental hygiene practice standards. (1)
- Decide which dental treatments to administer. For example, they may decide to apply sealants to children's molars to prevent tooth decay. Although sealants are helpful to prevent tooth decay, they should not be applied unnecessarily since they are costly and once initiated, must be reapplied regularly. Dental hygienists follow standard criteria for applying sealants and consider their previous experience to guide decision making. (2)
- Decide the type, intensity and frequency of treatments. For example, they decide whether to schedule cleanings at three, six, or nine month intervals depending on patients' oral health, oral hygiene and financial means. They are guided by their professional training and practical experience when determining recall and treatment schedules. (2)
- May decide where to place the brackets for braces on patients' teeth according to well-defined dental hygiene practice standards. If dental hygienists place brackets incorrectly, there could be significant loss of money, time and credibility of the dental hygienists as well as their practices. (2)
Job Task Planning and Organizing
- Evaluate patients' oral and dental health and identify treatment needs. They examine the anatomy of the mouth and look for calcium deposits, bleeding and infections. They examine the status of the gums, tongue, mouth floor, lymph nodes and glands to identify abnormalities and changes from previous visits. They note any changes, discuss them with patients and communicate any immediate concerns to both patients and dentists. Accurate assessments are important so that patient dental problems are identified and addressed as soon as possible. Dental hygienists in community settings may conduct dental risk assessments to target the most high-risk children for treatments. (2)
- Evaluate the appropriateness and risks of particular anaesthetics, antibiotics and fluoride treatments for patients. They consider patients' overall health, the length of appointments and the location of the teeth being treated before conferring with dentists to confirm their assessments. (2)
- May make preliminary assessments of patients' suitability for orthodontic treatments. They consider the results of orthodontic evaluations, patients' oral hygiene and patients' motivation to undergo treatment. Dental hygienists share their findings with dentists who make the final assessments of patients' suitability for orthodontic treatments. (2)
- Assess the need for fluoride applications. They consider patients' past restorative histories and the amounts of root exposure to determine if fluoride should be applied at home as well as in dentists' offices. Fluoride treatments are important for preventive dental care. (2)
- May assess the effectiveness of community dental health programs. They may analyze and monitor service utilization and dental status statistics to determine if there are changes in children's dental risk level scores. They may also consider input from parents, teachers, dentists and colleagues. Gathering and assessing quantitative and qualitative data is essential to the continued support of many public health programs. (3)
Own Job Planning and Organizing
Dental hygienists working in their own practices plan and schedule their own appointments. They may coordinate their work with dentists closely, allowing patients to see both during single clinic visits. Dental hygienists often revise work schedules to deal with emergencies and unexpected events such as missed appointments or storm days that cancel school dental clinics. (2)
Planning and Organizing for Others
Dental hygienists working in schools and clinics plan the work of their receptionists and assistants, based on the number of appointments they must plan and schedule. Those working in community settings may assist in the organizational planning of community dental health programs. For example, they may select schools to target, set the number of clinic days required and specify the types of services to be provided at each school. (2)
Significant Use of Memory
- Recall patients' names, customs, interests and experiences to establish rapport.
- Recall patients' medical and dental treatment histories before initiating treatments.
- May commit to memory procedure codes to invoice patients for procedures rendered.
- May remember the names of community contacts, such as nutritionists, to facilitate communication with them.
- Find information about dental and periodontal diseases by reading textbooks, journals and other references, talking to colleagues and carrying out research. They frequently use the Internet to access materials at remote libraries and dental health databases. (2)
Other Essential Skills:
Working with Others
Dental hygienists work with dentists to provide oral care and dental hygiene. They assess patients' oral health and conduct dental hygiene treatments independently; however, assessment conclusions are often approved and confirmed by dentists. Dental hygienists in some community health programs coordinate work teams, such as school dental clinic teams and work with other health professionals to provide health education sessions. Dental hygienists may be assisted by dental assistants and administrative staff. (2)
Dental hygienists set their own learning goals and take advantage of a variety of continuing education activities. They take continuing education courses offered by their professional associations or learning institutions and may participate in accredited study groups. They read medical textbooks, clinical journals and newsletters and access medical, dental hygiene and dental hygiene supplier Web sites. Dental hygienists are registered by their provincial regulatory bodies. In some provinces and territories they must complete mandatory continuing education credits to maintain certification. (3)