Biological dental hygiene explained

Recently both dental hygienists at The Barry’s Bay Dental Hygiene Clinic, Brooke Plebon RDH, and Marcia Rutledge RDH, have enrolled in the Biological Dental Hygiene Accreditation through the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT).  After posting about it on social media there have been many questions and lots of interest about what it means. Above the author displays her IAOMT certificate. photo Instagram.

image: pinterest

Before diving into this ‘extra’ accreditation let’s review what a dental hygienist is. Often thought of as a mouth janitor, referred to as a ‘girl’ in the office, dental hygiene seems to be a mystery to so many people.  It may be because dental hygienists fulfill so many roles! Dental hygienists are licensed oral healthcare professionals who perform clinical roles of cleaning teeth, treating and preventing gum disease, and using skills in tobacco cessation, diet analysis, caries (cavity) prevention, educating clients on their individual condition and making a plan to treat and prevent any current and future problems.  They use research based information to prevent oral disease and promote health. Being clinicians, researchers, educators, health promoters, managers, change agents, advocates, and public health promoters they wear many hats.

In 1913 Dr. Fones opened his first dental hygiene school where he taught ‘dental nurses’ about prevention of oral disease and started the profession.  Although the role of dental hygienist has changed over the years, his original idea remains, preventive health education for clients.

As licensed professionals, all Ontario dental hygienists must continue to educate themselves and update their knowledge throughout their career with continuing education programs.  The requirement at this time is seventy-five hours within a three year period. In 2020 the IAOMT launched a Biological Dental Hygiene Accreditation program with 10 units and hours of study to allow dental hygienists to; ‘learn to always seek the safest, least toxic way of accomplishing the mission of treatment’. 

This course will not make us specialists in our profession. Our aim is to simply understand more about the safety of dental materials, get more information about clinical nutrition, biocompatibility (how one’s body responds to materials), sleep disordered breathing, myofunctional therapy, whole body periodontal therapy, safety of root canals, and so much more. This extra knowledge is like adding another tool to our toolbelt and will allow us to receive science based information on many topics that get overlooked, skimmed through, or missed completely in conventional training.

The profession, our conventional training, and treatment options will remain the same, and with any luck grow.  This will not make an appointment at BBDHC any different than it has been in the past, unless we learn something that could benefit your individual condition.

The hope is that with every continuing education course we take a step closer to health integration and collaboration with other health professionals. For many years dental hygienists and dentists treat mouth conditions and doctors take care of the rest of the body. This has proven to be an old way of thinking, and research has proven many links between oral and overall health — not surprising when you think about how important your mouth is to the rest of your health, and the fact that it is the ‘top of your tube’ that runs throughout your entire body. We need to become more knowledgeable and have a strong voice to advocate for clients, but also to collaborate with their other health providers to create seamless care.

Being registered for the Biological Dental Hygiene Accreditation through the IAOMT is exciting, it re-lights the fire and passion we have for our profession and we welcome any new knowledge about safety for clients, and dietary and alternative methods to treat and prevent oral disease. These are exciting times in the medical field with research changing the way we do things very quickly.

Our social media pages @BarrysBayDentalHygieneClinic on facebook and instagram provide updates on the Clinic, what we’re learning, how we keep you safe, and general oral health information.  Stay healthy, and keep smiling!

About the author: Marcia Rutledge RDH has owned and operated the Barry’s Bay Dental Hygiene Clinic since 2010. She loves being able to provide individual care to each and every one of her patients. Preventive dentistry is Marcia’s passion.


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