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News Middle East & Africa

Raheleh Mahtabpour has been a dental hygienist for over 14 years and keenly looks forward to engaging with her patients each day. (Photograph: Marc Chalupsky, DTI)
0 Comments Feb 28, 2017 | News Middle East & Africa

I love it! A personal story by Dubai dental hygienist Raheleh Mahtabpour

Post a comment by Raheleh Mahtabpour

I have always been very passionate about dental hygiene education and spreading oral health and hygiene awareness in schools in Dubai. Not only do I love the interaction with my patients, but I also continue to learn from them and with them every day. One topic has been of particular importance to me: individually trained oral prophylaxis. A healthier and happier life can be achieved through proper oral hygiene—if one knows how to do it.

I have been a dental hygienist for over 14 years. Originally from Iran, I started working in a clinic specialising in implantology and periodontics. After a while, I moved to Dubai to work at the Department of Health and Prevention in the UAE. I was with them for almost five years, gained excellent experience and worked with students. But I wanted a change, so I moved to the largest dental clinic in Dubai.

After six years of working in a private clinic, I decided to take a short break, so moved to Canada for a while and experienced motherhood. I came back to Dubai with a new addition to the family.

I finished my degree in Iran 16 years ago. Iranians are hungry for new things related to dental hygiene and dentistry. Programmes there range from two to three years. After that, dental hygienists need to spend at least two years in the hospital before becoming a qualified professional. The schools in Iran ensure that we gain a great deal of exposure to patients. This might sound a bit biased, but when I came to Dubai, I saw myself as being a little bit more prepared than the other hygienists I met. Patient interaction and experience have always been very important.

Dental hygiene treatment in Iran is not different than in the rest of the world. We do the scaling, polishing, whitening and charting. In fact, we care about charting a great deal. We usually work with periodontists and our profession is truly appreciated. Oral hygiene does not only affect one’s teeth, it also influences a person’s overall physical and emotional health. By imparting good oral hygiene habits, we help patients live healthier and happier lives.

Today, I work at Dr Michael’s Dental Clinic in the heart of Dubai. I think that the clinic is one of the most beautiful private practices. We have three clinics, one for orthodontics, one for general dentistry and one for paediatrics. Our clinic is surrounded by gardens; we have a beautiful atmosphere in the clinic. All of our patients feel welcome immediately.

My daily morning fun
Daily work starts at 8 a.m. I take my daughter to kindergarten and then go to the clinic. I start preparing my brushes and my room. When the first patient comes in, I immediately begin discussing oral hygiene.

The session starts with photographs. I then do the overall check-up and cancer screening, checking for anything abnormal and informing the dentists if necessary. After that, I perform 15–20 minutes of ultrasound scaling and follow with hand scaling and polishing. Appointments usually last 1 hour. In fact, I might do the probing and charting in a separate appointment. The hygienist and dentist work closely together, discussing cases and referring patients to each other.

I love it!
I love the daily interaction with my patients. I have learnt so much from my patients and made many new friends. At the same time, I do my best to teach them about oral hygiene and how it can affect their health. I enjoy seeing my patients smile.

This is especially rewarding, as a large number of patients in the UAE do not know how to floss and brush properly. Even worse, many patients are referred from dentists who advised them to buy a medium toothbrush. I then show them the benefits of a soft toothbrush and explain that failure to use the correct brushing technique leaves plaque around the teeth, leading to caries and even gingival infection. One of my favourite pieces of information continues to be: “Yes, you can remove bacteria and biofilm with a soft toothbrush.”

In Iran, many patients only go to the clinic when they already have a dental problem. In the UAE, there are many patients with poor oral health. Furthermore, there are many smokers, and judging from the oral health of many patients, they certainly like to eat sweets and drink sugary beverages. Patients usually come when it is too late. This is even the case with children.

That is why I usually see my patients twice a year, because most insurance covers those visits. Sometimes, I see my patients again after two months or two weeks. I then ask them to bring their toothbrushes, which we will check together.

I am still in love
About ten years ago, I started ordering many toothbrushes and interdental brushes from the Swiss brand CURAPROX and introduced them to my patients. One day, a representative approached me and told me more about individually trained oral prophylaxis (iTOP). I attended the initial training programme—and loved it! After attending four more iTOP seminars in Prague in the Czech Republic, I am still in love. I feel every dentist and hygienist can benefit from this. In the second iTOP programme, I practised brushing, but I continued to use a little bit too much pressure. It was evident to me that we as dental hygienists need to continue to train. Through attending the iTOP courses, I learnt the right technique and now know that soft toothbrushes are the best products for proper cleaning.

ITOP teaches the following: interdental brushes first, then dental flossing. Many of my patients do not like to floss; they see bleeding and stop. Interdental brushing, however, is easier and more convenient. One has to help one’s gingivae become clean. Almost all of my patients have gingival bleeding—and most of them think it is normal!

Today, I am a proudly certified iTOP instructor and will continue to travel to Prague to learn more for the benefit of my colleagues and patients. I simply love being a dental hygienist and dental educator. Please let us spread the word together.

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