A visit to the school dental nurse as a child was a life-changing experience for Jess Barron.
Now an oral health therapist at Harris Dental Christchurch, her childhood fear of the dental chair was transformed under the care and compassion of an industry newcomer, who not only calmed her nerves, but inspired Jess to follow in her footsteps.
“I was terrified of going to the school dental nurse when I was at primary school,” recalls Jess.
“One day I attended my appointment and I had a new graduate who made me feel at ease by explaining everything to me along the way. I left the appointment and said to my Mum that if I were to do her job when I grew up, I’d want to be just like her.”
Fast forward several years and that’s exactly what Jess did. After gaining a Bachelor of Oral Health from Otago University, she returned to her hometown of Christchurch and joined the Harris Dental team as an oral health therapist - a qualification which enables her to practice both dental hygiene and dental therapy.
“A dental hygienist/oral health therapist plays an important role within the dental team. Clinically, we are there to assist our patients in achieving and maintaining optimal oral health. We assess, plan and carry out treatment for prevention, intervention and control of oral diseases such as gum disease.
“Just as important as the treatment we provide, is the education or advice we give our patients on how to make changes to their routine to achieve optimal oral health. This all takes place in collaboration with other members of the dental team, such as dentists and specialists.”
For peak oral health Jess recommends six monthly hygienist visits, although she says patients with active disease may need more frequent appointments.
“We have so many different types of bacteria in our mouth, both good and bad. Regular dental visits give us the best opportunity to detect early signs of oral disease so interventions can be made before irreversible effects and progression occurs. After all we only get one set of permanent teeth!”
With nearly eight years at the practice, Jess has seen her fair share of patients, but the satisfaction she gets from her job never fades.
“I love helping my patients make positive changes to their oral health, which in turn can bring big benefits to their overall health and wellbeing. I find it rewarding when they notice the changes themselves and attend their appointment with a smile ready to tell me all about it.”
And thanks to her own experience at the dental nurse all those years ago, Jess works hard to ensure all her patients feel relaxed and reassured.
“As a result of that encounter I enjoy treating patients who have dental anxiety and I always try to make sure they have a positive experience in the dental setting.”
Jess Barron’s top tips for a healthy mouth:
Seeing a hygienist/oral health therapist regularly does not replace the need to see a dentist for routine dental checkups and recommended treatment. These go hand in hand and are just as important.