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Featured Colorado hygienists: Becky Comstedt, BSAH, RDH, and Lani McBeth, BSDH

Aug. 1, 2020
Did you hear? To keep our community safe, RDH Under One Roof, originally located in Denver, has gone virtual. To learn more about the changes, visit rdhunderoneroof.com.

Becky Comstedt, BSAH, RDH

Do you remember when you first decided to become a dental hygienist? I vividly recall walking across a street on the campus of Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) in 2003, feeling like I needed a plan B in case plan A, a bachelor’s degree in nursing, did not work out. Dental hygiene burst into my mind. This was not the first time dental hygiene had been on my radar, but it was the first time that I thought, “Dental hygiene might be a good career option for me!”

At this point, I was working in a hospital pharmacy using my pharmacy tech training that I had pursued after high school. My original career choice was working in a pharmacy. The tech position exposed me to the tired and worn out nursing staff who were working all hours of the day and night, holidays, and weekends. Since I was already married, I did not love the idea of having a family and being a hospital RN with weekend and holiday shifts. Dental hygiene seemed like the answer—great hours, great pay, and direct patient care.

Back to that street on the campus of MSSU. By the time I reached the other side, I wanted dental hygiene as my plan A! I applied in the spring and was accepted for the following fall of 2004. I was a bit disappointed because I would graduate with enough hours for a bachelor’s degree, but the school was not yet offering a BSDH, so I graduated with an associate’s in science in dental hygiene (ASDH). Fortunately, my school soon offered a degree completion program online and I completed my bachelor’s in 2009. 

I spent my first six years working part-time in a single-owner, private practice in Colorado, and the doctor valued her team! She bought us scrubs, gave us amazing Christmas gifts and bonuses, paid time off, thoughtful and generous birthday presents, often bought us lunch, and was a great teacher. I did, however, decide to leave this job in 2012 to be a stay-at-home mom to my daughter, who was then five.

Months later I began to temp a few days per month. This led me to my second job that I started at one day per week, and through the years my schedule fluctuated between one and four days per week. The office had two weeks off at Christmas and New Year’s, and one week off for spring break, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving. This new dentist was also generous, buying our scrubs, and implementing a bonus system, paid time off, matching 401(k), paid continuing education, birthday gifts, Christmas bonuses, and providing lunches during team meetings. Again, he was a dentist who valued his team! During this time, I welcomed my second and third daughters. 

I was very content to work part-time, feeling valued and appreciated at work and raising my family. But I did begin to feel like my connection to the world of dental hygiene was lacking. I rejoined the Colorado Dental Hygienists’ Association (CODHA) to partner with local hygienists. The problem was, no one was organizing events in my area at that time. Rather than walk away, I took the reins, joined CODHA as a trustee for my component, and learned that volunteering with CODHA was a great way to use and improve some of my strengths that I did not often use in the office. This position led to me running for president-elect, and I’m currently serving as the president of CODHA! 

Another area of weakness that I perceived for dental hygienists was the lack of online resources that would serve as “one-stop shops” for patient handouts and current research, such as premed guidelines, radiographs, dental codes, oral microbiome, and more. So, again, rather than walk away, RDHCompanion.com was born in 2017. This also proved a valuable opportunity for me to develop my nonclinical strengths. RDHCompanion is a free website with awesome resources and quick information to support clinical hygienists. My entrepreneurial journey is filled with a lot of hurdles and course corrections, but it’s also an amazing opportunity to network with other enthusiastic dental hygienists across the country. I also discovered my passion for writing and I’ve now had a few articles published. 

While I chose dental hygiene to supplement my family’s income and meet my requirements for a position, I’ve discovered a career path that is challenging, fulfilling, dynamic, and full of possibilities. I take care of myself on the job with loupes, a saddle chair, and regular massages. I’m also a proponent of degree completion and joining American Dental Hygienists Association and your state association. These organizations have member hygienists who are fighting to expand the scope of practice in each state. My motto this year for my presidency is, “What is your biggest contribution?” I ask this of all of you dental hygienists reading this: What is your biggest contribution?

Lani McBeth, BSDH 

I like to say, “Disruption is coming in dentistry.” My 33 years of experience, 27 of those in Colorado, have allowed me to think outside the box about what my career can look like, and I’ve learned that change is constant. For the majority of these years I was “head down” as a clinician. My husband likes to say I have “bandwidth” now that our children are out of the house. However, it was the years before we became empty nesters that prepared me for today. 

I’m still in the operatory many days, but recently I started my business called OWL: The Oral Wellness Link, designed to help consumers understand the link between systemic health and oral health. I started this business to fulfill my interest in the oral-systemic link, which started very early in my career. With this interest I found that artificial intelligence (AI) is the next positive disruption in health care, and it will play a significant role in oral wellness. AI will be leading the way as our patients take control of their health records and disease prevention. The impact of oral health and its role in general health is now in the public eye! It’s time for dental hygienists to take a front seat in this discussion.

In 2018 I joined the clinical educator team for Young Innovations Inc. Young has been a wonderful company to work for. It’s committed to innovation and the dental professional. Being a clinical educator has given me the opportunity to educate my fellow clinicians about a variety of topics and allows me to share my passion for the profession. My favorite course to teach for Young Innovations is the hands-on course using American Eagle instruments. I look forward to meeting and teaching fellow professionals across the country in 2020. Come and find me at the Young booth at RDH Under One Roof July 15-18. I would enjoy meeting everyone! 

Holding memberships in a variety of associations was critical in my networking and career growth. I was also very fortunate to be taught by some of the hygiene greats when I attended Northern Arizona University. I’m currently serving as an alternate trustee for CODHA for the Denver metro area, and I’m an active member of ADHA, American Academy of Oral Systemic Health, and the American Academy of Dental Hygiene. In staying true to my passion, I’m also a founding member of the National Network of Healthcare Hygienists, and I serve as a member of the Dental Mental Network advisory team.