What does a dental hygienist do?
MEET JOEL HUANG
Mr Joel Huang is a dental hygienist at The Dental Studio (TDS), a Singapore Medical Group clinic. Joel is a passionate and caring oral hygienist that takes joy in helping to maintain and restore beautiful smiles for kids and adults alike. In this interview, he shares on what the job and daily life of a dental hygienist entails.
1. How long have you been a dental hygienist?
I graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic with a Diploma in Dental Hygiene and Therapy in 2010. After completing my 2 years of National Service, I have been working as a dental hygienist in the private sector since.
2. How would you describe what you do, and how is it different from a dentist?
As a licensed dental professional, I support the dentists in cleaning (scaling and polishing), x-rays and dental impressions. Sometimes, I also apply various coatings and sealants and assist with the extraction of primary teeth when we have kid patients.
I support our dental specialists with these tasks so their time can be better utilised to handle cases of higher complexity, such as orthodontics, prosthodontics and implant surgery.
Usually, the dentist will complete the examination and diagnosis, the full check-up before I come in to do the cleaning for the patient. From there, if there are any additional finding (which is rare!) I would communicate this to the dentist as it requires their attention.
3. What’s a typical workday like?
On a typical work day, I am involved in non-invasive preventive work. Aside from supporting the dentists, my day-to- day tasks involve giving patients knowledge to prevent certain dental diseases (especially gum disease and tooth decay). I am present at the doctor-patient consultation to give advice on dental hygiene matters. Patient education is the most critical aspect in my job scope.
4. Why did you decide to become a dental hygienist and how did you get started?
Since I was young, I’ve never been particularly afraid of dental visits. In fact, I looked forward to visiting the dentist. Whenever it’s my turn to be on the dental chair, I feel grateful to receive help from the dental operator.
I had always been unsure of the way to brush my teeth, especially the advice on brushing my gums, but I now have a proper understanding and am passionate to share it.
Prior to my studies in Oral Health Therapy, I enrolled in Singapore Polytechnic’s Aerospace Electronic course but found out that I do not have an interest in it after just 2 weeks of school.
During the same year I was visiting my friend whose sister was a dental hygienist. She was one of the pioneers back then and I saw she was playing with a tooth model. I found it interesting and I guess my interest started back then.
5. What education, schooling, or skills are needed to become a dental hygienist?
I took a 3 year diploma course at Nanyang Polytechnic, which included long clinical hours so as to groom our manual dexterity and clinical proficiencies. Through my course, I gained hands-on clinical skills and also learned how to communicate with patients, especially those with increased dental anxiety.
6. What is most challenging about what you do?
The biggest challenge would probably be dealing with patients who have increased dental anxiety. Often times, if we are a tad bit heavy-handed or use words that are not sensitive enough, it can induce fear & anxiety which will affect the treatment outcome.
I treat all patients with an equal amount of sensitivity and care. But for patients with increased anxiety, I would take time even though it may be a straightforward case. Even if I am behind schedule, I would still allow for a minimum amount of time to spend with them because that allows them to be comfortable during the treatment.
7. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It’s rewarding when I see that patients have good oral hygiene and they are able to practice what I have taught them, especially with regards to flossing, interdental brushing, or braces. It is valuable to me if they have understood the importance of oral hygiene and the results can be seen during their check-up. With continued good oral hygiene, we all can have good teeth to last a lifetime.