More than 100 years ago, the dental hygiene profession began taking shape. Hygienists donned their uniforms—a crisp white dress, pantyhose, and nurse’s cap. Today, dental hygiene has evolved in many ways. Yet the question we must ask ourselves is, have we truly evolved in the right direction? One hundred years later, have we earned respect as health-care professionals, and are we being used to our fullest potentials?
The reality is we still have a lot of work to do. Many changes must be made to take our profession to the next level. While change can be a challenge, any profession will remain stagnant without it. Organizations and groups must focus on initiatives that will drive the changes needed to ensure continued growth in a profession. To do this successfully, they must listen to the professionals they represent and focus their efforts to create initiatives that will help overcome barriers.
The Alliance is formed
Dental hygienists have an intense desire to ensure they make a difference in their communities, and more importantly, in their patients’ lives. They’re always seeking respect for their education, expertise, and the services they’re fully capable of providing. Because of these things, the Dental Hygiene Health Alliance of Pennsylvania was formed, taking into consideration the wants and needs of dental hygienists.
The Alliance's primary purpose is to provide opportunities for professional growth and to educate communities about the value of dental hygienists. We started this initiative with Pennsylvania dental hygienist in minds; however, the realization that national efforts are needed has become apparent as hygienists from across the country have joined the Alliance. Today, 11 months since the launch of the Alliance, we have representation from 29 states and growing.
While the founders of the Alliance will continue to focus on hygienists in Pennsylvania, we realize there is a need throughout the nation. We’re excited to announce the launch of a national task force that will allow us to impact our profession on a grander scale. We will team up with some movers and shakers in our industry who want to work on the initiatives that are most important to hygienists.
National task for objectives
- We will work on the creation of monthly public service videos that educate the public about the skills of licensed dental hygienists and how they can make a difference in addressing disparities in our country. These videos will focus on the value of dental hygienists and the importance of their complete use in ensuring that all Americans receive adequate care. This initiative will bring awareness and respect to dental hygienists.
- We will focus on the integration of the medical and dental community in helping to bridge the gap that now exists. As stated in many publications focusing on medical and dental integration, we know that interprofessional, team-based care can improve care coordination, guide better patient health outcomes, and lead to cost savings. We will establish this by forming collaborations with national health-care organizations that represent individuals with diverse conditions, and by ensuring that we are involved in conversations related to patients' health.
- Our final focus will be on advocacy and issues that currently affect dental hygienists. We will work to provide support on a state level by helping to expand our scope of practice and ensure hygienists are treated fairly in their workplace environments. Most importantly, we will begin our research and collaboration with organizations that have already accomplished autonomy or are close to doing so. We will work to create opportunities for lobbying in our states and establishing relationships with legislators who have the potential to introduce laws that can push the profession forward.
Are you ready to be a disruptor?
The Dental Hygiene Health Alliance of Pennsylvania is aware of the issues facing our profession. We also realize that change will not happen if we don’t dare to be disruptors. Now is the time to come together to create an unstoppable movement. It is important to note that all membership dues go straight back into the Alliance because there are no paid employees or board members. We are all volunteers because we know we can make an incredible impact in our profession. The national task force is ready to take us to the next level. The question for you is, are you prepared to stand up and be a part of the change? Join today at dhhapa.org.
Lisandra Maisonet, BS, RDH, PHDHP, EFDA, is a licensed dental hygienist who has served as a preventive specialist for more than 19 years. Her experience in dentistry spans more than 33 years and she’s had the opportunity to serve in numerous leadership roles within her association. She is a founder and executive director of the Dental Hygiene Health Alliance of Pennsylvania. As director of operations for 26 dental practices and a lead hygienist, she knows what hygienists need and is passionate about pushing the profession forward.
Christa Crilley McConaghy, BS, RDH, PHDHP, has been an RDH for more than 20 years and received her BS in oral health promotion. She is currently a trainer for Perio Protect and a presenter for the Healthy Teeth Healthy Children program, a medical/dental partnership that works to increase dental access to children. Her goals are to improve oral health care by implementing disease prevention programs into offices and helping hygienists and dentists realize the effect their dental hygiene department has on their practice and their patients’ systemic health.
Courtney Kolbrich, BS, RDH, PHDHP, has been a registered dental hygienist for 13 years. Her specialty is in helping patients to overcome their fears in obtaining dental care. She has served in numerous roles in her state association and is passionate about being a part of initiatives that will drive the profession upward. She is a founder of the Dental Hygiene Health Alliance of Pennsylvania and serves as the treasurer.