Oral health professionals are extremely aware of and conscientious about their own eye protection during procedures, but what about protecting patients’ eyes?
Imagine this scenario: You are a young mother being treated for a root canal in an endodontist’s office. You’re a little nervous about the procedure, but know that once you receive the injection, there will be no pain and it will be over in a short time. At least it should be. Unfortunately for Jenn Morrone, this was the beginning of a nightmare that would last a lifetime. As the dentist injected anesthetic, he dropped the needle into Jenn’s eye—a needle that had already been used at another injection site in her mouth. We all know that the mouth harbors hundreds of bacterial species that can be highly virulent in another part of the body—like an eye. Yet, the dentist was seemingly unfazed and offered Jenn a tissue, then proceeded with the root canal. The next day Jenn realized something was terribly wrong as her eye was infected. She headed to the emergency department because of extreme pain, hoping antibiotic therapy would cure the problem. Yet the infection became worse, Jenn underwent several surgical procedures, and eventually lost her eye.
What could have prevented this tragedy? While the dentist didn’t follow proper protocol and passed the uncapped syringe over Jenn’s face, there is a simple recommendation that would have made all the difference. If Jenn was wearing eye protection approved by the American National Standards Institute, she would still have her vision. While it’s easy to look back and think about such an easy preventive action, it’s important to realize how impactful such a step can be—if only it is done prior to the risk of injury. Oral health professionals are extremely aware of and conscientious about their own eye protection during procedures, but what about protecting patients’ eyes? Think of the splatter generated by prophy pastes, aerosols created by ultrasonic instruments, spills of chemicals like fluoride, and the possibility of dropping a sharp scaler. These situations can lead to traumatic eye injuries. As eye injuries to dental patients often go unreported, it’s difficult to find current, valid statistics. Perhaps such injuries are minor and patients fully recover. But why even risk a minor eye injury when the preventive solution is so simple?
It’s an understatement to say that Jenn’s life changed dramatically after that endodontic visit in 2013. She has undergone several surgeries and has been fitted with a prosthetic scleral shell. While learning to cope with this new reality, Jenn decided to educate the public and raise aware-ness about the importance of eye protection during dental treatment. She started the “Jenn’s Vision” initiative, with an active Facebook page full of information and posts about eye safety and infection control. And this July, Jenn’s Vision celebrated its 4th Annual Day of Awareness social media campaign, with people across the world post-ing their #JennsVision #SunglassSelfie to highlight the importance of eye protection.
Jenn recently shared this post on her Facebook page: “Whatever life has to throw at you, catch it and make it yours.” I encourage you to visit her page to see how you can advocate, educate, and empower. Let’s not allow Jenn’s harrowing experience to be for naught by protecting the eyes of our patients at every appointment.
— Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
BONUS INTERVIEW WITH JENN MORRONE, FOUNDER OF JENN’S VISION
Q: Can you give us an update on Jenn’s Vision?
A: After 4 years of campaigning for patient rights, I decided that Jenn’s Vision as a whole had become so much more. Within the past few months we have applied for and are now waiting on our 501(c)(3) status (this allows for federal tax exemption of nonprofit organizations, specifically those that are considered public charities, private foundations, or private operating foundations). We will be focusing on advocating for patient protection and rights in not only the dental/health wellness community but also in the mental health/wellness community and the physical health/wellness community. We will be educating people on both the professional side and the patient side on infection control, mental health, and physical healing through continuing education platforms and speaking events/tours, as well as social media interviews and specials. We will be empowering people through a few different outlets. For example, we plan on providing the following: eye protection for nonprofit dental associates who treat patients on a charity basis, funding research projects for the blind, and providing prosthetics for people in need.
Q: How many people do you think you’ve impacted through Jenn’s Vision?
A: Hundreds of thousands if not millions! July 8 was our 4th Annual Worldwide Day of Awareness, and we had trackers on all social media accounts. The hashtag #JennsVision was seen by more than 189,000 people worldwide, and that was just one day! We tracked social media involvement in over 45 countries! In July, the United States had the highest involvement and Brazil was second. Now, mid-August, here is an update on the top 14 countries that have become involved, listed in order of popularity: US, Canada, United Kingdon, Brazil, India, Myanmar, Germany, Egypt, Mexico, Finland, Australia, Pakistan, Italy, and Malaysia. And we are just getting started!
Q: If you had one piece of advice for dental hygienists, what would it be?
A: Keep pushing for the safest dental visit for each and every one of your patients! Dental hygienists are an amazing link between patients and dentists—they are often unsung heroes. I have spoken with many dental hygienists in the past few years and they have been nothing short of great in helping this mission to reach not only patients but dentists, as well. Dental hygienists are the prevention experts in oral health, so it’s a natural extension that they would be champions in preventing eye injuries.
Q: How can dental hygienists get more involved with Jenn’s Vision?
A: By providing eye protection for every patient at every procedure. By sharing the Jenn’s Vision message and the importance of eye protection at the dental office. By continuing to educate people on our mission and taking part every year in our Worldwide Day of Awareness. Have fun with it and the people you work with by taking eye protection pics and posting them. We love to share those pictures! And send people who want to help to www.JennsVision.org. By working together, we can and will make a difference.
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. September 2017;15(9):6.