National Dental Hygienists Week is a time to reflect on what dental hygiene means to those of us in the profession. As Dental Hygienists, we are part of a larger team of health care providers who are passionate about our patients’ health and well-being. Our primary role is oral disease prevention to improve or maintain our patients’ overall oral health. We belong to a regulated health profession, and can work in a variety of settings, including private practice, public health, hospitals, long-term care facilities, educational institutions, and so on. We are dedicated to our profession, being coaches, educators and advocates for our patients.
Our ability to help improve the health of others is far reaching, however, because of this, we often forget about our own health and safety within the workplace. As a Dental Hygienists, we can be exposed to a number of workplace-related health and safety risks and hazards, including ergonomic issues, neck and back strain, and other repetitive strain injuries, percutaneous injuries related to needlesticks, instruments and scalers, exposures to dangerous chemicals and blood borne pathogens, noise pollution, and violence, abuse and harassment from patients, co-workers and employers.
I can genuinely say that there is an incredible need to increase awareness regarding employee safety within our field. I have personally witnessed how health and safety incidents at work can dramatically change the lives of fellow dental hygienists and their ability to work. It is critical that we continue the conversation about risk factors that surround our profession, and that we collectively focus our energy on prevention in order to foster a safe and healthy work environment for all of us.
We often say to our patients: ”Take 2 minutes, 2 times daily to look after your oral health”. Over this next week, as Dental Hygienists, let’s make a commitment ourselves to take 2 minutes, 2 times daily to make sure we are looking after our health and safety at work. Take the time to be reminded of your workplace rights and responsibilities, become familiar with and understand your workplace policies, ask about required and additional health and safety training, and ensure that you are protected at work.
For useful resources and more information about how your dental practice can better protect and promote the health and safety of its employees, click here.