New model in team care

FRONT LINE: Islington Dental oral hygienists from left to right clockwise, Kristy Darken, Jenna Aldridge, Joanna Davies and Carolyn Houston.
FRONT LINE: Islington Dental oral hygienists from left to right clockwise, Kristy Darken, Jenna Aldridge, Joanna Davies and Carolyn Houston.

Modern dental care has shifted significantly in recent years from the old “drill and fill” approach   to a focus on prevention being better than cure.

STATE OF THE ART: Islington Dental oral hygienist Jenna Aldridge removes the biofilm off a patient's teeth with the Airflow ® unit.

STATE OF THE ART: Islington Dental oral hygienist Jenna Aldridge removes the biofilm off a patient's teeth with the Airflow ® unit.

Critical in this evolution has been a new emphasis on periodontal health and the emergence of dental hygienists working in league with dentists to provide team care.

“Everything is better if the mouth is clean,” Dr Jeremy Moran, from Islington Dental, said. “Poor oral hygiene and periodontal disease have been linked to overall health, with heart disease and diabetes being particularly affected.” 

A quick toothbrush demo with the dentist used to be the old approach to oral hygiene, with   nothing more said until the next visit 12 months later.  

“The new approach  is for a patient to first see an oral hygienist and then the dentist,” Dr Moran said. “Oral hygienists are   three-year university-trained graduates  skilled  in giving oral health assessments, cleaning teeth, providing oral health care education and administering other treatments like   teeth whitening.”

Dr Moran and co-owner Dr Neil Frizzo decided a high quality hygiene department was vital for a modern dental practice and since 2012 the operation has moved from five dentists and no hygienists to four dentists and four hygienists.

“We invested a lot of time and effort in choosing the best equipment and recruiting the right hygienists,” Dr Moran said. “But the improvements we are seeking in our patients’ oral health have been amazing, and the patients themselves are much happier, so it has been worth it.”

Some oral diseases, like gingivitis, or inflammation of the gum, are reversible if detected early on.

Others, such as periodontitis, which is essentially inflammation around the ligament of the tooth, are not and can lead to loss of teeth and consequent costly cosmetic procedures which in turn come with new risks.

Oral hygienists at Islington Dental have access to a state-of-the art  Airflow ® unit used to clean teeth.

“It’s works like a pressure cleaner, spraying a combination of air, water and powder which thoroughly removes plaque off the teeth,” Dr Moran said. “Advances in dental knowledge have revealed teeth are covered in a biofilm, made up of thousands of layers of bacteria.

“The Airflow ® unit breaks down the biofilm in a way previously unachievable  to get to the nastier bacteria beneath, which are so often the cause of disease. The only way to get this level of cleaning done is professionally.”

A typical visit to Islington Dental these days involves a thorough assessment and  debridement – which is the removal of hard and soft deposits from the teeth using the Airflow ® unit and more traditional tools – by an oral hygienist. They will also give customised recommendations to patients about devices and aids to improve home care tailored to each individual.  

Then the dentist  will do a more traditional assessment, and analyse the periodontal check, all in one visit. For new customers, it usually takes an hour; for existing clients 45 minutes.  

“This new approach means you visit the dentist two or three times a year instead of the traditional one, but the overall result is less disease,”   Dr Moran said.

Dr Jeremy Moran and Dr Neil Frizzo teach dentistry at Sydney University where they graduated in 2000 (Hons) and 2007 respectively. Dr Moran joined Islington Dental in 2004 and Dr Frizzo in 2008. Both have extensive academic and clinical experience and advocate that regular hygiene treatments are the key to good oral health.