Monday, January 27, 2014

Dental Curing Light: What is it for?

When you go to dental office to get a filling done, you may have seen the assistant using a blue light on the filling. You might have asked what it's for and found out that the material is hardened by light. This is in fact a curing light. 

What is a curing light?

It is an equipment used in the dental office. The light has a visible spectrum of blue. Curing means polymerization or hardening of monomers in the resin based filling materials. (This is the composite filling or tooth-coloured filling).
The dental curing light produces visible light and not UV light.
Since the prolonged exposure to this blue light can burn the retina, the dental personals use a shield to protect their eyes. 

When was it introduced?

Light curing dental materials were introduced in the 1960s. The curing light was introduced in the 1970s. The first curing light used UV light to cure the material. During the 1980s chemists discovered visible light that can be used to cure resin materials. 

Types of curing light in Dental offices

There are mainly two types of curing lights used by dentists: halogen curing light and LED curing light. 

Halogen curing light has a tungsten filament, which is inside a bulb filled with halogen gas. When the light turns on, current passes through tungsten filament and heats it up to produce UV light and visible light. There is a filter in the equipment to absorb all the UV light, and lights other than the blue spectrum. This unit produces a lot of heat, so a cooling fan is also added in the equipment. Some practices still use this. 

LED is widely used because it is lighter than the halogen. They are more cost effective and longer lasting compared to halogen curing lights. Being battery powered makes them portable as well. The heat generated is very less so no cooling fan is necessary.

With the discovery of curing light, new light activated materials were introduced to dentistry. The new resin materials can be placed directly on the tooth without mixing different materials. It saves time in delivering treatment and the material is cured enough so the filling will be perfect.

What do you think of curing light now? Have you ever thought about the use of chemistry in dentistry? If you have any questions about curing light, please reply below!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Useful links for DentalAssistants

We used to do only one blog post per week on ToothTalkings. When I found these articles on the web, thought the blog readers will be benefited from the information. 

1. Green tea is good for oral health. Some teas can stain the teeth though. Will you be using a straw to avoid staining when drink tea?

2 Will we use 3D printing in Dentistry?. 
I saw 3D printer was used to create heart of the baby in "Grey's Anatomy". Will we be using a 3D printer to make a custom night guard or a crown in the future?

3. According to Forbes, Dental Assisting is a good job for young people.
 They said median annual earning is $33,000. I came across this forum on and many hate being dental assistant. What is your take on it? Is it a job with  good pay?

4.Oil pulling is good for dental health
 Oil pulling is putting one table spoon of oil in the mouth and swish it around for about 15 minutes. Just spit out and rinse your mouth. 
I never tried it. But thinking of doing as an experiment.

5. It is the flue season: Health and Safety policies for dental staff during the flue season
The article is for the dentists. But, it is nice to know what the policy must be. Do your work place has a health and safety policy?

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dental Assisting: 10 tips to be an effective DentalAssistant

We have seen what a Dentist wants from a good dental assistant. Let us look at how we can be more effective at work, so that we can perform better.

1. Get Organised

First thing first. We have to be really organised in the dental office. We need to know where the instruments are, where the procedure tubs are etc. 
I find that keeping the instruments arranged in the order the boss wanted to use.[???] My filling instruments are in the same place. The composite tub always has the extra shades, articulating paper, polishing discs, micro brushes, clear matrix, and so on.
Our Endo tub has all the RCT items like files, paper points, cotton pellets, the endo instruments the dentist really likes and cavit for the initial appointments. I have the syringes for the disinfectant solution for the canals also in the tub. 
If you can't remember all of the steps your dentist follows, then make notes for yourself and keep it in the tubs too. That way you can have a quick look and make sure everything is available within reach before starting the procedure. 

2. Stop Multi tasking

I know, our bosses sometimes want to get things done faster than we can possibly do. But don't fool yourself - just concentrate on the task at hand. We are doing enough multitasking by doing the suction and retracting the tongue or cheek itself. 

3.Know what the Dentist wants

What is the motto of the office? What does the dentist want to project? Is it a whiter smile or a healthier smile? Does the dentist like you giving post op or not? Do he/she like you to move the light to improve visibility? Do they really want the instruments to be passed or want them to be in the tray? Do they like you anticipating the next step and being ready or to take things only after they ask? 
Follow accordingly.

4. Have strong relationships with co-workers

It is very important to have strong relationships with everyone in the office. The receptionist in the office may have been there for a longer time than you. The technician who comes once in a while might know more about the office than you think. The people who comes to pick up lab cases regularly can be of great help, if you have a friendly relationship with them. 

5. Listen carefully

Listen to the dentist. Then listen to patients and co-workers. This helps you to earn more appreciation from your boss and co-workers. 

6. Come Early

I Know it's not applicable to all offices. But if you have a key or your office opens a little bit earlier than the first patient, this is helpful for earning a stress free day. We can prepare things early and be ready for the first patient. Arriving 5 minutes early will make you feel less anxious too. 

7. Be Healthy

We cannot afford to be sick when we earn an hourly rate with no health benefits and sick leaves. 

So take care of you. Eat healthy, exercise and take those flu shots in the winter time. Use hand sanitisers. If the office don't buy the hand moisturizers for the staff, have yours easily accessible for you after each hand-washing. Un-broken skin is your better barrier against the diseases.  Do all thats possible to be healthy. If possible, bargain with the dentist to get a free cleaning for you every 6 months.

 8. Take time to relax

Dental assisting is a stressful job. Make sure to take a few minutes everyday to relax and gain clarity about the work you do. 

9. Never stop learning

Do you think dental assisting is a dead end job? It will be only if you stop learning new things. Learn a bit more everyday. It can be oral hygiene, infection control, or a new dental product. Spend fifteen minutes to watch a dental video or to read a dental blog. Anything is better than doing nothing, right? 

10. Have a positive attitude

Last but not least, have a positive attitude. People love a positive person. Your boss can be mean and co-workers can be bothering. You cannot control other people. We all have control over one thing though: That is ourselves and our attitude, and that is our greatest asset. 

Do you have any other tips to be more effective? Do you like to share your special method to be more effective?
Please share your thoughts in the comments. 


Monday, January 13, 2014

Bells Palsy in Dental Assisting career

Toothache is considered as one of the most annoying and severe pains. In my career as dental assistant, I have seen many people and saw how the dentists deal with the situations. 

It can be from an infection on the root, or may be food stuck in a cavity or a TMJ problem.  There are many types of diagnostic tests to identify the cause of the pain. The cold test, X-rays, palpating around the jaw...It is amazing to see how my boss is ruling out some ot the cause, and asking questions to figure out the exact cause and carefully looking on the X-ray and explaining the findings.  

This particular patient came with pain on the left corner of his mouth. I love to talk to patients, like you talk to someone to know the person. That way, I can remember the name and some of the details of treatments done on that day. That way, I can avoid the mistakes like that in the last post.

Dr. X ordered couple of X-rays, and done  a thorough examination. In the end I heard Dr.X saying there is nothing wrong with the joints or the last molars. There was no wisdom tooth present in the X-ray. The patient was given prescription for pain medication and specific instructions what to do. he was asked to come back in a couple of days to see how is it going. 

The patient came back and told us he had to go to the hospital because he felt numbness on one side of the face the very next day. The doctor diagnosed the condition as Bells Palsy or Facial Palsy. He was given medications to deal with the symptoms. 

Bells Palsy  is paralysis or weakness of the muscles, usually on one side of the mouth. It can affect the taste buds and the production of saliva and tears. It is caused by virus and it is not transferred from person to person.  Most of the time it is completely curable. 

I was just imagining the scariness of all this to the patient, when facial paralysis happened all of a sudden... 

 I think, Dr.X's diagnosis  helped the physician to make the correct diagnosis faster. 

Have you had any such experiences to share?


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dental Assisting Blunder

Everyone in Dental field know December is the busiest month of the year. Not a great time to commit a blunder. You know, when we get busy the stress increases. Then there will be mistakes too.

I started working with this new place only three months back. The owner has two offices and I used to work in the newer office usually. When it was holidays, I was asked to help out in the older office. 

Dr.X asked for two bitewings and a PA. The office was busy and Dr.x took the chart to finish writing. I finished the X-rays, and dismissed the patient. When the processing was done, I was seating the next patient. When the second patient was done with the treatment, I arranged the X-rays and wrote the name I think, belong to the correct patient. The front office filed the X-ray according to the name. 

The patient came after Christmas for the filling. I was again in that office, I had no memory of this patient at all. Dr.X remembered about the X-rays, but they were not in the file. I went to check the usual places I might have placed them... They were not anywhere to be found. You know, how it will look like...

Then, the front office checked the schedule to find out his previous appointment and took out all charts  on that day. There the genius receptionist found out the X-rays filed in another chart, with names matching. But, she being in the same office for several years, happened to remember, that no X-rays were taken for that patient. 
Dr.X compared the radiograph with the patients mouth to make sure. 

Yes, it was my big blunder

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dental Assistant's realization

So you are a dental assistant. How do you help your dentist?

I learned to mix the cements, take the X-rays , transfer the instruments and do infection control. They also taught us we are supposed to talk to the patients while seating them. We also earned to do charting and not to talk about patients and treatments to other people. 
Now, with all this knowledge, we started working only to realize that what we learned is just a small part in real work place.

We need to be very mindful what Dr.X is doing. Sometimes, from our side we may not have a clear vision of what they are working on. So, we will try to move our chair, and oops, we just hit the foot pedal with the wheel of the chair. So, we just stand up to see more. 

While trying to do a good job in suctioning, your other hand should adjust the light so the Dr.X can see it clearly. In my experience, one Dr. X will immediately re-adjust the light. Then another Dr.X insisted that I should not touch the light handle at all. So, we really should know the dentist's likes and dislikes. Otherwise, our life is going to be very miserable and we will see us soon out of the job.

If we know what they are going to do ( from the schedule), we can arrange the instruments and materials before they start prepping. 
While doing the drilling, they may change plans. Instead of a composite filling, she finds an IRM is better. So, we need to put away the materials and ready for the IRM. 

Some offices have the foot pedal with a switch for the water flow. When the dentist take high speed hand piece, some pro-active assistants will turn the switch with foot, so that the dentist don't have to think about it. That is a great way to be the favorite assistant  to a lady dentist. 

 Identify the instruments they use. Even with simple composite fillings, each dentist has a preference of instruments.
One of my favorite dentists love to use hollenback carver whenever she uses matrix band for restoration. The other dentist in the same office do not like a hollenback at all. 
One dentist do not like me taking the curing light until she verbally says to "cure it". 
I lost my confidence over the years by being compared to the previous assistants who already left the office. many many years, I was taken for granted and never been told I did help Dr.X. I used to hate being a dental assistant. Yet I do find few dentists whom i love to work with.

My favorite dentist do tells me things I needed to know about the office, the procedure, and the instruments.

The best dentist I ever worked with was a new grad. I am still doing dental assisting because of the way he treated me. Before that I never considered myself as a good dental assistant. 

 Now, I understand that I have some good qualities which every dentist likes. Even though I am not a 100% perfect assistant, some dentists really love to have me in their office, like my present boss. 

I am thankful that I am lucky to meet few nice people in dental field. 
Dear dentist, your assistant might not be perfectly reading your mind, yet complement her when she is up to your expectation. I know, I will be eager to help you more when I know I am doing something right.