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Aspects of mobile dentistry for the dental hygienist: It's a whole new world!

Dec. 1, 2020
Now is the time to stop talking about mobile dentistry and start doing it! Melissa Turner, BASDH, has been a teledental proponent for a long time. She says now is the perfect time for her peers to get on board.

Editor’s Note: In this series, Melissa Turner, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA, discussed how dental hygienists play pivotal roles in providing mobile dentistry and teledentistry. Readers learned the secrets to success and the fundamental principles that lay the foundation for collaborating with a dentist or developing their own mobile dentistry program. In this final installment, Turner reveals why it’s never been a better time for hygienists to go mobile.

There’s never been a better time for dental hygienists who are interested in mobile dental hygiene services to learn how possible it is to achieve their dreams. Modern mobile dentistry is efficient, safe, and effective, and even more so in this pandemic-shifted society. With innovative technologies such as teledentistry, hygienists can go mobile and stay better connected at the same time. Once dental hygienists think beyond the four walls of their operatory, the possibilities are endless.

Throughout this year, RDH magazine and I partnered to bring you four installments of Aspects of Mobile Dentistry for the Dental Hygienist. You can find previous articles at rdhmag.com. The premise behind this collaboration is to take an in-depth look into what new and nontraditional opportunities there are for the modern dental hygienist.

When this series launched earlier this year, our profession had no idea the trials and tribulations that waited just around the corner. We didn’t know that our lives would be turned upside down, that we’d lose our jobs temporarily or permanently, that we’d have to reprioritize our lives, and that we’d be identified as holding the single most dangerous job in the country. Through it all, we’ve remained strong, steadfast in our code of ethics, and persistent in our pursuit of doing what’s right. Now it is time to take that deep breath you’ve been waiting for. Now is the time to strive for a better tomorrow, and now is the time to shed the past and take that first step into your new future.*

So, what does your future look like? If you’re reading this, chances are you have either a slim curiosity or a driving passion for mobile delivery of care. The key to pursuing the path of a mobile hygienist is to throw out everything you think you know about it and wipe the slate clean. Rebuild. Refresh. Begin anew.

This year we’ve learned a lot about mobile and teledentistry. Let’s recap this series.

•  In the first article, we learned that mobile dentistry and direct access dental hygiene services are distinct and separate entities. We learned that it is possible, whether through collaboration with a supervising dentist or through independent services, for every single hygienist to pursue a mobile path. 

In the second article, we learned that when a dental hygienist pursues a path of mobile dentistry, he or she is indeed pursuing the path of a pioneer. Thinking like an entrepreneur, taking risks, embracing fears, and connecting with other like-minded professionals are vital steps to achieve your goals.

• In the third article, we learned the four secrets to pursuing a path in mobile delivery:

  • Taking dental care to the patient reduces risk and thus increases safety.
  • Teledentistry is a small piece of the mobile delivery pie.
  • When providing mobile services, you should prioritize implementation of multiuse products.
  • There is no right way to go mobile.

The great mobile pioneers of the last decades have paved the way and are proven examples of how effective and fulfilling a mobile career can be. Now, with new innovations such as virtual streaming services, the cloud, voice-activated technologies, and artificial intelligence, mobile hygienists are poised to enter new lands and go where we have never gone before.

A few of the great mobile hygienist pioneers of the last decade

Meet Staci Stout, BSDH, RDH, owner of multiple dental businesses. She collaborates with a dentist to provide mobile services in Utah, providing care in assisted living facilities, schools, and corporate workplaces. She is an active leader in the Utah Dental Hygienists’ Association and is a 2018 winner of the Teledentistry Innovation Awards. 

Meet Christy Jo Fogarty, MSOHP, ADT, RDH, an advanced dental therapist (ADT) and registered dental hygienist. Widely known as the first ADT in the United States, she provides mobile care for a nonprofit organization in schools, community centers, and churches around Minnesota. Fogarty works in collaboration with dentists and is a staunch advocate for public health services. 

Meet Lori Killen Aus, MA, RDHEP, an independent dental hygienist and owner of Oral Health for Life, an Oregon-based mobile business that provides hygiene therapy to residents of assisted-living facilities, adult foster homes, and private homes. Services she provides include dental hygiene diagnosis and assessment, periodontal charting, oral cancer screening, medical history review, periodontal therapies, prophylaxis, fluoride varnish, soft denture relines, caries arrest with silver diamine fluoride, and educational seminars to the facility’s care staff. 

Meet Lisa Costello, RDH, a PA 161 dental hygienist who is the dental clinic manager of a medical clinic in Grand Haven, Michigan. She provides direct preventive services to underserved individuals and those not assigned a dentist. Her collaborating dentist does not have to be present onsite, but instead can be available over phone or email. Per state guidelines, each of her patients must be seen by a dentist at least once each year. 

Meet Donna Moreschi, RDH, whose experience includes being the lead dental hygienist and director of clinical quality in a national mobile dental organization that takes care into clinical workplaces. Her team relies on intraoral cameras and teledentistry software to create touchpoints between patients and providers. 

Meet Amy Ericks, BSDH, RDH, a dental hygienist in South Dakota who provides patient care to residents of care facilities. She is past president of the South Dakota Dental Hygienists’ Association, and provides basic care including prophylaxis, fluoride varnish application, and oral health review alongside a collaborating dentist. She typically sets up her portable equipment in the facility’s beauty shop or sees residents in their rooms. 

So, what does your future look like? Stoic philosophers of old believed there are three components of any given situation: things you cannot control, things you have influence over, and things you can control. As dental hygienists, we cannot control the effects the pandemic has had on our lives. As dental hygienists, we have influence over how we react to this unprecedented situation. As dental hygienists, we can control our path forward.

If you’d like to pursue the path of a mobile dental hygienist, let this be a call to action. Become the leader you know you are. Identify your fears. Discover what makes you feel safe, then help others do the same. The time is now. Evolve. Lead. Thrive. Let’s do this! 

Author’s Note: During the last year, our industry has struggled with a lack of answers and few to no resources. In direct response to this, an action-oriented group of dental hygienists, industry experts, and leading brands and companies have come together to reimagine a better way and create a brighter future for our industry. In recent weeks, the Care for a Better Tomorrow campaign launched with the purpose of providing answers and resources in this time of need. The campaign offers a free Smart Safety COVID-19 certification course to allow dental professionals and dental practices to operate safely. To learn more, visit careforabettertomorrow.com

MELISSA TURNER, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA, an award-winning thought leader, influencer, and dental advisor, is cocreator of Care for a Better Tomorrow. She is chief hygiene officer for Cellerant Consulting and is a nationally published author and speaker. Turner is a cofounder of the National Mobile & Teledentistry Conference and the American Mobile & Teledentistry Alliance, creator of the I Heart Mobile Dentistry Facebook group, and is known on Instagram as @thetoothgirl. She can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author

Melissa Turner, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA

Melissa K. Turner, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA, is a fresh force of change and is on a powerful mission to transform the future of dentistry for both patients and practitioners. She is a fractional executive and advises companies and DSOs on brand strategy and product growth. A top millennial influencer and KOL, she is cofounder of The Denobi Awards, the National Mobile & Teledentistry Conference, and the I,Woman podcast. Reach Melissa at melissakturner.com.

Updated May 22, 2023