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Helping Patients Dance Again

In the April issue of Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, I highlighted the work of respiratory therapists and how they are partners in the care we provide.

In the April issue of Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, I highlighted the work of respiratory therapists and how they are partners in the care we provide. This month, I focus on how occupational therapists (OT) are a vital part of the recovery process for patients who have undergone a mental, physical, or emotional crisis.

Many confuse the work of an OT with that of a physical therapist (PT). Both occupational therapy and physical therapy focus on regaining function in order to live a fulfilling life. The popular adage “Physical therapy teaches people how to walk. Occupational therapy teaches them how to dance,” is a good start to explaining the differences. OTs ask their clients, “What matters to you?”in order to help them regain self-fulfillment and confidence. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association: “OTs help people of all ages participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).”1 Their services typically include:

  • An individualized evaluation, including the client and family, to determine his or her goals.
  • Customized interventions to improve the client’s ability to perform daily activities and reach his or her goals.
  • An outcomes evaluation to ensure goals are being met and/or to modify the intervention plan based on the client’s needs and skills.

The everyday activities or occupations that OTs help individuals regain also include dressing, bathing, and grooming. Equally important, they assist in cognitive retraining and relearning social skills. So it’s easy to see that promoting oral hygiene through the use of adaptive aids is an important area for OTs to address. OTs might also evaluate an individual’s living environment and provide advice on various types of adaptive equipment, or act as educational resources for family members and caregivers.

Myriad environments employ OTs, such as hospitals, rehab centers, private homes, and medical clinics. OTs also work in policy, administration, and academia. Working as an entry level OT requires earning a master’s degree, passing a national board exam, and completing supervised field work for a minimum of 24 weeks.

I experienced the caring attitude of my brother’s OT on a recent visit. As I explained previously, Frank had a severe stroke in January. David, his OT, helped my brother brush his teeth effectively and provided ongoing encouragement and feedback. If you think dental hygienists deal with frustration from patients who are unable to perform oral hygiene procedures, step into the shoes of an OT. These highly trained professionals are not only knowledgeable in their work but also in how to coax patients with a disability to keep trying their best. I’m happy to say that Frank is improving, with small steps of progress each day. And with the help of people like David, someday he may even be dancing again.

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
jrethman@belmontpublications.com


From Dimensions of Dental HygieneJune 2018;16(6):10.

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