During 2022, many dental professionals decided to abandon their sweatpants, cozy blankets, and warm cups of coffee to return to in-person dental conferences. Across social media, many hygienists posted something like, “I have FOMO while my hygiene besties are at this conference!” (For those who may not know, FOMO means fear of missing out.)
Are you gaining valuable content from your couch, or do you need to attend in-person conferences again? While the COVID shutdown offered innovative approaches by offering virtual settings to obtain CE, it certainly stunted our ability to effectively network with speakers, colleagues, and vendors. Many conference attendees now proclaim how difficult it was to be away from their peers for so long.
Interactions with speakers, colleagues, and vendors are critical to the work dental hygienists are expected to produce. At in-person conferences, speakers are available to answer and discuss your questions with you. While online platforms do allow for questions, it seems as if more questions are asked in these online forums, and this can prevent all questions from being answered.
Another benefit of in-person is hearing about products from speakers and then seeing the products in the exhibit hall. At the 2022 Rocky Mountain Dental Convention, Dr. Ben Miraglia presented about sleep disordered breathing (SDB) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and how Vivos appliances are a recommended modality for treatment. Interested attendees could look for the Vivos booth to gain more information, which included upcoming free CE opportunities on SDB/OSA and knowledge about their specific sleep test ring. Could that interaction occur from your couch? Absolutely not!
Many in-person conference attendees now proclaim how difficult it was to be away from their peers for so long.
Furthermore, meeting with colleagues promotes dialogue among professionals, which increases channels of learning outside the lecture halls. You can gain valuable information from your peers. Not all offices operate the same, which means new concepts from one office could become an area of interest for another due to simple conversations among colleagues.
Oftentimes, dental hygiene schools have students attend in-person conferences to expose them to their upcoming profession, as well as to observe what will be expected of them as professionals. Students who were affected by the shutdown may have been cheated of this opportunity. Now that in-person conferences are an option again, it’s important for seasoned hygienists to serve as role models to promote a love of lifelong learning to students. When students and new hygienists are exposed to excitement and passion toward the profession, a domino effect will occur.
The dental industry is an ever changing landscape. Many fresh and innovative concepts and products are released each year and it’s impossible to be exposed to everything via social media, publications, or product reps. It can be daunting and difficult to manage the many options and shows, which is another value of in-person conferences.
Many vendors offer free samples and show specials, which allows hygienists access to a multitude of products. It’s in the exhibit halls when hygienists meet vendors with whom they’re cultivating new relationships or nurturing existing ones. Putting faces to names is valuable because oftentimes, hygienists are providing care when product reps visit their office.
Dental hygienists wear many hats both in and out of their dental setting, so they cannot be expected to think dentistry all day, every day, it’s simply too much to ask. Therefore, face-to-face exposure is crucial to obtaining effective practice principles and methods.
Hygienists often leave conferences feeling inspired by their experience, which creates momentum and motivation to elevate their practice. Because of the evolution of the dental hygiene discipline, it’s crucial that hygienists spend time with their peers to invigorate stagnant passions or develop new interests, while offering optimal care for patients and commitment to their practice. Finding inspiration in a virtual setting can occur, however, it’s a difficult to duplicate the energy of in-person conferences.
If avoiding in-person conferences has been your modus operandi, challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Conferences are about more than CE credits; they truly are a way of life within the discipline. Cheating yourself of the benefits of in-person conferences is withholding crucial pieces to your career. Ask, “Which in-person conference should I consider? Who should I invite?” Without a doubt, there’s something for everyone to take away!