Patient Care

Opening pouches in front of the patient? I’m torn.

By Teeth Talk Girl on March, 18 2019
Teeth Talk Girl

Whitney, aka Teeth Talk Girl, strives to advocate for community dental hygiene awareness. Her YouTube videos focus on educating the general public/non-dental professionals on dental health, discussing popular dental trends, and many other topics regarding teeth. She also enjoys creating dental parody videos to entertain both the public and dental professionals.

I was taught in dental hygiene school to keep dental instruments in their sterilization pouches until the patient is in the room. This way, the patient can watch me open the pouch and physically remove the instruments, assuring the patient that the instruments had been sterilized.

However, I often notice that opening the pouches in front of certain types of patients elicits a response of heightened fear. In my experience, it tends to happen with high-anxiety patients.

I'm not in any way a psychology major, but it seemed to me that certain patients become nervous when they see "the sharp tools" being removed from the pouches. The ripping noise of the sterilization packages being pulled open has been described by patients as threatening, scary and intense. This is unsettling to me because I believe starting the appointment off on a positive note is important.

In addition, I've also noticed with some pediatric patients that this noise/sound/experience can be an overwhelming introduction.

So sometimes, in cases like this, I feel that opening the pouches beforehand and laying the patient bib over the tray would be better so the fear is reduced. Of course, on the other hand, the concern for whether the instruments are being sterilized can be an issue.

In all, I'm torn! Pun intended! Tear open the sterilization pouches? Anyone...? 

I just can't help but wonder what the best routine is – or is this situation better decided on a case-by-case basis? I can't be the only one who thinks about this. Right?!

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