Reader's Forum

Nov. 1, 2012
I agree with Joann Gurenlian regarding the dental hygienist needing to be health-care providers and not just human scalers (September 2012 issue).

Dear RDH:

I agree with Joann Gurenlian regarding the dental hygienist needing to be health-care providers and not just human scalers (September 2012 issue). But, I think it is also time to recognize the four or more years of academics required to receive an associate’s degree in dental hygiene and to call it what it is — a bachelor’s degree.

There’s really not much difference between the two. When I was completing my associate’s degree, I was comparing notes with a student from the Oregon Health Sciences University bachelor degree dental hygiene program. This program has since been removed from the school’s offerings.

She was amazed at the pace of learning we were under and talked of the much slower paced program she was in. The end result was that we both became registered dental hygienists who were licensed in the states of Oregon and Washington. She had a bachelor’s degree and I had an associate’s degree, but we both attended college for about the same length of time and didn’t think any more or less of one another.

There are many health-care providers with various college degrees who are equally important to the health-care system, and, no matter what the degree, the dental hygienist needs to be one of them.

Carol Levanen, CDA, RDH
Yacolt, Washington

Dear RDH:

I am writing in response to the article, “Can you fit in? Working in a multiple hygienist office,” published in the September 2012 issue of RDH. The author raised some valid points and interesting perspectives regarding market challenges and needs. However, I would like to offer an additional perspective of group practices based on my experience as a director of dental hygiene support for a large dental support organization (DSO).

The article asserts that “offices with multiple doctors and hygienists are being opened by corporations” and are “insurance-driven practices and are open extended hours to increase production.” While doctors working in professional corporations may choose to hire a DSO to support the administrative aspect of the business, DSOs cannot own dental practices — the ownership belongs to doctors. Furthermore, the driving force behind nontraditional hours is to meet the ever-changing needs of the patients. Many hygienists also enjoy the flexibility of hours because it supports their unique schedules and lifestyles.

As the article mentions, having a team approach is extremely important; this is true in both private and group practice settings. Most DSOs have a dental hygienist providing nonclinical support services for the affiliated hygiene providers. It is important to note that no “practice management company or in-house manager” will dictate “what is expected of the hygienist when providing patient care” because it would be unlawful to do so. Every precaution is taken to ensure that only licensed professionals are in charge of the care delivered to the patients.

I also disagree with the assertion that “the focus on production is number one in these large practices.” At our affiliated group practices, providing the utmost standard of preventive, educational, and therapeutic care for each patient is the number one priority.

The group practice setting offers excellent opportunities for dental hygienists, ranging from access to technology and training that helps provide excellent clinical care and growth as professionals to the opportunity to explore various career paths within a growing organization.

As the industry continues to evolve, we are truly fortunate for the increasing availability of alternative practice settings that provide each of us the tremendous opportunity and responsibility to advocate for, and treat, a patient’s oral health.

Sandra Johnson, RDH, BA
Irvine, California

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