In this Q&A with Lucy Reed, Hygienist and owner of Lucy Reed Hygienist Clinic, we discover which three Optident brands are, in her opinion, intergral to any hygienist's work, why she set up her own direct access clinic and the top tips for new professionals just starting out.
According to the latest statistics, there is one hygienist working for every six dentists in the UK*
As the popularity in gaining a celebrity smile through cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening and orthodontic treatment increases, so does the demand for good all round preventative oral health care treatments from dental hygienists.
As these trends continue to grow, it seems clear; there simply aren't enough hygienists to go round the mouths of the nation, and the ones we have are extremely busy people.
Hygienist Lucy Reed built her successful hygienist clinic in Cardiff with an uncompromising determination to ensure high standards of care for all her patients.
Here, she tells us how it all came about....
In the beginning
I used to get frustrated working in general practice as I had a diary which operated on a 20 minute turnaround. In my opinion, 20 minutes isn’t long enough to maintain the highest standards of preventative care.
About ten years ago, my outlook changed whilst covering a maternity post. The clinic operated on a 40 minute turnaround. At first, I didn’t know how to fill the time as I was so used to rushing through my routine!
It was during this time that I learned how to give comprehensive, tailored preventative dental care and before long I decided that this was my preferred way of working. The problem was these hygienist positions were few and far between. I longed to be able to make the decisions over my professional and clinical life.
When I heard that the office of fair trading was introducing Direct Access in May 2013, I saw the opportunity to be independent and wanted to find out more. There were many, many regulations and protocols which had to be in place. It took 9 months of planning and research. I was very keen to not isolate myself from the rest of the dental world and with the support of my family and some trusted dental colleagues I opened my clinic in May 2014.
I provide the full scope of practice for hygienists and also include tooth whitening (with the aid of local dentists who provide the prescription). I don't claim to offer what is regarded as a full dental checkup and always refer to a list of trusted dentists for diagnostic and restorative dental care which is outside my scope of practice.
I share my premises with a colleague, Annie Cartwright, an advanced nurse practitioner who operates a facial aesthetics clinic.
I built my business up from nothing. I was very mindful not to steal existing patients. I ran an independent marketing campaign through leafleting, advertising on line and in local business magazines, website and facebook.
"I embrace my professional clinical responsibility and thrive by implementing my knowledge and experience to my clients. I also enjoy having total ownership of my equipment and patient list."
I believe that in the future, experienced and adventurous hygienists will be setting up their own clinics possibly in conjunction with other Allied Healthcare Professionals (AHPs), for example opticians, facial aesthetic, medical and podiatry clinics.
What motivates you?
I am passionate about giving the best care for my patients and enjoying my work. I insist on 45 minute appointments for routine care.
I have done the maths - I can only provide approximately 3000 units of treatment per year at what I consider safe, uncompromising intervals. Because of this, I am soon about to close my books. I have had 1300 new patients walk through my doors in the last 3 years; some whom have dentists and some who don’t .
I feel that direct access is a wonderful opportunity for a member of the public to enter the dental treatment cycle. It is a person's fundamental choice if they choose to see a hygienist before a dentist. Most dentists like to examine a clean, calculus, stain and plaque free mouth as it helps with diagnosis!
"I am very fortunate that in my own practice I have invested in excellent quality materials and equipment to help me achieve my own high standards. I would not want to be without any of my favourite equipment items, and I have Optident to thank for that."
Here are my top three brands..
American Eagle instruments
My search for the perfect hand instruments began whilst working in general practice 15 years ago. At the time the practice didn’t want to buy the instruments I wanted; there were other hygienists in the practice who were using alternative brands. The trouble is they were always thick, chunky and blunt – my pet hate!
From then on I decided to get my own that I didn’t have to share. I discovered American Eagle hand instruments about eight years ago and I have stayed with them ever since.
My favourite is the Eagle Claw because the blades are thin and sharp and can reach almost every surface for routine full mouth scaling. I can access the finest interproximal spaces and get the last little bit of subgingival calculus off.
I also love the fact that I don’t have to use excessive force to remove deposits because XP instruments really do stay sharp for a very long time. I also like the Black Jack and own the titanium Implant scaling kit too.
Airflow Master by EMS
I’d always been an EMS Piezo scaler user my entire hygienist career. I was introduced to the EMS Air-Flow system about 15 years ago. I absolutely loved the results I saw and from that point on, turned my back on using coarse prophy paste and polishing strips.
In my opinion fine calculus is far easier to detect and remove when the tooth surface is absolutely plaque free. Air-Flow easily and gently clears away soft deposits, fine surface stain and biofilm from tight contact points and deep fissures in seconds.
The time saved through complete plaque and stain removal reduces operator fatigue and leaves more surgery time for preventive care. Plus the Airflow Master is great in that it self cleans – another time saver.
I have recently purchased the EMS Airflow Master which enables the revolutionary Guided Biofilm Therapy approach to periodontal maintenance using the Perio Plus erythritol powder. It is a fantastic all-in-one perio treatment. My advanced perio patients find the experience very gentle and I have seen reduced bleeding on probing with regular treatments. It is superb.
Two years ago, I purchased a set of x 2.5 Univet TTL loupes with POV-LED lighting system. Put simply, if you can’t see deposits, you can’t remove them. Hygienists should never rush clinical work and these loupes help me take the time and care over the patient.
I can see every little stain, every contour around enamel, porcelain, composite and amalgam.
I can make far better judgements about a tooth because I can differentiate between calculus, surface stain and intrinsic stain better than a naked eye. Soft tissues are easier to assess and subgingival calculus under healthy pink tissues is easier to identify. These glasses have transformed the way I work.
Lucy's top tips
Hygienists email me and ask me for advice about Direct Access. I tell them it will be the biggest challenge of their life but can offer the most rewarding and fulfilling outcome.
Some of my key points for new starters:
- Develop good communication skills. Cultivate your ability to explain to someone the causes of periodontal disease and its prevention. Use simple language without the jargon.
- Make the time. Insist you have adequate time to work - insist on long appointments and a nurse if possible.
- Try an AirFlow Master Piezon. If someone took my AFMP away from me, I simply couldn’t offer the best care for my patients.
- Keep up to date with new research and information. If you are newly qualified, join a professional body.
What is your biggest challenge?
To motivate a patient to want to consistently brush their teeth and gums well every day to ensure the best oral health. Changing attitudes toward self care is the biggest challenge. Patients think they can just come to me every 3 months and I can fix it - it isn’t enough.
Success story with a nervous patient
A couple of months ago, I had a patient who was so nervous to see me she had written down what she wanted me to know as she knew she wouldn’t be able to remember what she wanted to say when in the surgery environment. When she normally saw a hygienist, she would gag and choke with the water in her mouth and as a consequence was terrified of visiting the hygienist.
Before: Heavy calculus and light staining.
Because I spent an hour at her initial appointment talking with her, taking time and showing patience to ensure she understood and was at ease with everything I was doing, she relaxed, and with some well learned scaling techniques the lady didn't gag during her treatment either.
After: A good result and a satisfied patient.
More about Lucy Reed
Lucy qualified as a registered dental hygienist from University Hospital, Cardiff in 1992. She has worked as staff hygienist at University Hospital of Wales in the periodontal department, along with many years of working in NHS and private practice. Lucy opened the first direct access hygienist clinic in Wales in May 2014. She loves her work and cares passionately about providing top quality, affordable healthcare. Lucy has two teenage daughters, is an avid Liverpool FC fan and loves to talk about health and fitness.
*External Relations - Common Data Counts (June 2017) GDC\jwalker