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Inside Dental Hygiene
April 2023

Take the Lead on Clear Aligner Therapy

Understanding the various options and the hygienist’s role

Tracy Butler, CRDH, MFT

As dental hygienists, we know that straighter teeth are healthier teeth. Additionally, a straighter arch generally leads to an easier appointment for both the patient and the hygienist. Clear aligners present an increasingly effective option to achieve a functional, healthy smile, and the dental hygienist's role in that treatment is important.

Hygienists are masters at assessment. Because we spend the most quality, one-on-one time with the patient, we often have a sufficient rapport to enroll patients into necessary treatment that will benefit them. The hygienist's role does not end there, however. In the implementation phase, we can function as oral health coaches, offering praise, education, and other feedback in addition to answering questions. The initial conversations need to address time of wear and the importance of diligently cleaning both the teeth and the aligners twice daily throughout treatment. As treatment continues, we need to monitor patients to ensure that their aligners are seating properly and tracking correctly.

In this advisory role, understanding the various systems that are available is key. All aligner systems are not alike, and many offices now offer more than one option. Perhaps the most critical differences involve convenience and cost. Systems that are targeted and approved for mild to moderate tooth movement may cost less and offer greater convenience in terms of remote monitoring. Other systems can be used to treat any type of malocclusion; these systems may have attachments and other accoutrements, along with a higher level of expert support. Complex aligner cases require the vision and guidance that come with advanced software, materials, and case setups.

Today's dental consumer has an expectation regarding aligner options. If we do not offer and discuss this type of therapy, the patient will perceive us as not being innovative. They have seen the various television advertisements, and they have an idea of what should be available to them. If we do not offer these options, they will turn elsewhere for them. When we decide, however, that straighter teeth are healthier teeth and we want to offer these options to patients sooner, those patients tell other people, and it becomes a practice builder. Dental hygienists are leaders and chairside champions who have strong relationships with patients, so leading the clear aligner discussion and process is a perfect fit.

About the Author

Tracy Butler, CRDH, MFT, is the chief visionary officer for Creative Ventures Development Group, Inc.

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