Dental Assistant, North Richmond Community Health Centre
|Vang using some of the oral health promotion props that help her to teach the importance of good oral health to young and old.|
The noises, the smells, the sights and the sounds of dentistry greet Vang Huynh everyday, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Vang is a Dental Assistant (DA) at the North Richmond Community Health Centre, but with a difference. She has spent the past two years learning new skills and now holds two separate certificate qualifications, making her not only a one-stop-shop for oral hygiene information and advice for patients, but an invaluable asset to the clinical team.
“I hold a Certificate IV in Oral Health Promotion and Radiography and since earning them, the clinicians at my practice (Richmond Community Health Service) have looked at the DA role in dentistry very differently,” said Vang.
The staff of the health service work together to promote a preventive approach to dental health and the DA is a vital part of that service. Before a dentist examines a patient, Vang holds an informal interview with them to help them relax and feel more comfortable. She takes time to really get to know the patient and discover any barriers that might hinder the care process. During the interview Vang gives the patient a questionnaire about oral health and their cleaning habits. Patients deemed as having a high risk of oral disease after this session are referred back to her for another one-on-one session which includes discussions about oral hygiene and brushing and flossing techniques, a gum and teeth check, a plaque and salivary test and advice around diet choices for good oral health.
“We get the patient back for follow-up appointment after three weeks. Once their oral hygiene is getting better and we can see they are maintaining the good habits we’ve discussed, then they can see the dentist for further treatment. The system works well and our fail to attend rate is getting lower and lower,” said Vang.
“It always surprises me the things that I had taken for granted. Even things like how to brush your teeth – some people just don’t know. They ask why they’ve never been told this before and I wonder how many teeth could be saved had we taught more people these simple things 10 years ago.”
Vang says the thanks she gets from patients each day is more than enough reward to keep her motivated.
“They are so grateful for my help. It brings a smile to my face everyday,” she said.
Vang now spreads her time between her clinical DA duties, her oral health promotion sessions and other community commitments like speaking to drug and alcohol groups about oral hygiene, talking about good dental health at smoking cessation sessions and visiting kindergartens and residents of aged care homes where she teaches young and old about their oral health and its importance to their general wellbeing. Vang also acts as an interpreter in the Richmond clinic and allocates time to meet with the Tooth Tales group, a Vietnamese community group who seek her out for oral hygiene advice.
With such a wide scope of practice and range of responsibilities, it’s not hard to see why the other DAs at North Richmond and across the state have been inspired to follow Vang’s example and upskill themselves.
“Other DAs are now completing the various certificate courses to advance their careers. Our clinic’s dentists encourage and support us and give us time to really excel at our studies. Teamwork and the support from above are so integral to success,” Vang said.
Vang has come a long way in her seven years at North Richmond Community Health, but her learning won’t stop here – during 2012 she applied and was accepted to the Dental Hygienist training course at The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne. That training has started and will be completed during 2013.
“DAs often don’t realise the potential they have to advance themselves. DAs have always been so important to the clinical team, but you can make yourself invaluable!”
Find out more about working in public oral health.
Last updated: 2013-08-13