Meet our Dental Hygienist: Melissa Kennedy

09 Apr 2020

Meet our Dental Hygienist: Melissa Kennedy

It’s Not Just a Job…it’s LOVE

How did you get into dentistry? What made you want to be a dental hygienist? These questions are asked of me on a daily basis but it doesn’t take much for me to answer honestly.

Let’s start by first, introducing myself. My name is Melissa and I am one of two hygienists in this practice. I am newly married, have a very spoiled pup named Huxley, and enjoy adventure. Within the beginning years of our marriage, my husband and I have traveled to multiple places around the world, added Huxley to our family and plan to grow in years to come. I am in my happy place when I am outside, well when the weather is nice. But hey, we live in Tucson. When is the weather NOT nice? I mean, except the occasional snow that happens once every 5 years? Sitting on my back porch taking in the beautiful dessert, running a few miles or exploring Mt. Lemmon with my husband and dog are just a few of my weekend activities as well as going to multiple kid birthday parties, family dinners and playing indoor soccer. My favorite verse that I follow each and every day as well as implement into my role as a hygienist is, “Let all that you do be done with Love” 1 Corinthians 16:14. This verse has followed me throughout my journey of becoming and being a dental hygienist.

I truly feel dentistry is a calling. I mean, who really wants to work in people’s mouths all day? It’s not exactly a clean job or everyone’s cup of tea. Most reactions consist of, “I don’t know how you do this everyday!”  In order to work in this field, you truly have to love what you do and I can absolutely say that these last three years, I am where I’m supposed to be, especially at Dr. Katie Hick’s practice the last year and a half. Being able to continually help others with their oral health, giving visual evidence and connecting it to their overall health is so rewarding. Connecting with patients on a personal level is also what keeps me going to work each day– whether it’s tackling their anxiety and making their time in my chair an event they can look forward too. Or just giving them a listening ear about the exciting times in their life like the announcement of their first grandchild and or the not so exciting times like losing a beloved pet. Getting to know my patients is so important to me and my team.

“Cleaning teeth” isn’t all that we do as hygienists, it’s simply just a title. In fact, when someone responds, “Oh, so you are just the hygienist, not the doctor”, or “oh, so you just clean teeth” it is a punch in the gut. As a hygienist, I do more than just clean teeth. There is much more  that goes into each hygiene appointment that I think gets missed. Here are a few worth listing:

1. Reviewing/ updating health history and taking BP

Going over a patient’s health history and taking their blood pressure is important so that we know how to best treat the patient. Having underlying health conditions, like high blood pressure, plays a role in what we see clinically in the mouth but also helps us determine what auxiliary aids will best fit your needs at home.

2. Oral cancer screening and measuring gum tissues

Completing these tasks only benefits you, as the patient, because we can catch oral cancer and periodontal disease problems before they are out of reach in means of control. Believe it or not, more people are developing oral cancer even if they are not a smoker or drink alcohol. Research is also showing periodontal disease is linked to systemic health conditions, so if we are proactive and screen at each appointment we will be ahead on maintaining the disease.

3. X-rays

I know, I know, nobody enjoys taking x-rays but let me explain how important these pictures are. Radiographs allow us to see under the gums for any underlying or unexpected problems, such as bone loss. Or an abscess. And the obvious, cavities. By taking routine digital x-rays once a year, we can catch unforeseen problems before they cause pain or need a more expensive treatment route. I don’t like tooth pain, and I’m sure you don’t either plus correct me if I am wrong, everyone loves saving money! Added bonus- we use digital sensors to take the pictures. Did you know you get more radiation from walking outside to your car or eating a banana?

4. Cavitron Use

Using the cavitron (water vibration tool) during cleanings, benefits the patient by removing tartar more effectively and efficiently but also benefits the hygienist to possibly avoid arthritis in the future. It allows her to have an extended career where she can continue providing treatment over your lifetime. Ain’t nobody got time to look for a new hygienist right?!

These few tasks listed above are all to help YOU as a patient. Yes, it also gives me an advantage in individually treating you but I’m just a working piece in the puzzle. YOU are the overall beneficiary. I am constantly learning new techniques and products at home by reading hygiene magazines and going to continuing education courses not because I have too but merely because I enjoy what I do and I enjoy helping you all create an easier routine at home. I am a hands on type of learner, always requesting samples of new products to see which will best fit the needs of my patients at a low cost. Feel free to ask any type of questions on what I am doing or why I am recommending certain products. No question is a dumb question in my book. We can all learn and grow together!

Dentistry is an ongoing learning field of work and I love it.  The tools are out there for all of us, we just simply have to reach out and share. “Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life”..isn’t that what the experts say? Well, that is exactly what I plan to continue to do. Let all that I do be done with love.

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