“Dental hygienist: a licensed dental professional who cleans and examines teeth”—Merriam-Webster.
What?! Is that all we do? I think it’s time for Merriam-Webster to update its definition. Yes, we do clean teeth (and examine them, whatever they mean by that), but we are also entrepreneurs, educators, influencers, mentors, public health providers, consultants, prevention specialists, speakers, writers, executives, and lifesavers, among many other things. In fact, one of the wonderful things about our profession is the opportunity it provides us to excel in many different areas.
Let’s meet the six newest recipients of the Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction, who demonstrate that dental hygienists are so much more than teeth cleaners!
Emily Boge, EdD, RDH, CDA
As a two-time graduate of Hawkeye Community College in Iowa, in both the dental assisting and dental hygiene programs, Emily Boge remembers what it was like to be a student at a community college. Now, as a dual program director and educator at Hawkeye, she works to achieve the same level of quality and legacy in the lives of students, graduates, and faculty that she experienced. She writes and maintains policies and procedures that support empathy, fairness, and veracity.
As the dental administrative chair, Emily and her team work hard to support success in the student population. “Dental hygiene school is the most difficult education I’ve ever encountered. It’s my job to assure procedures are followed so each individual gets the best possible entry-level training experience. Not everyone starts out in the same place, and balancing equity to assure each student can cross the finish line as a member of a group that succeeds together is often the greatest challenge. This is how I assist in the lives of others—through service and support,” she says.
Emily is a huge supporter of faculty, working hard to balance their responsibilities, assuring expertise in teaching, lending a compassionate listening ear, celebrating wins, and filling in for faculty when they’re unavailable. “On campus, my greatest achievement as an educator was building and uniting a team when I started at the college in 2015. We have the best faculty in the country,” she says.
“I’m very proud of them and the work they do every single day for our students. We’ve set a high bar and continue to raise it every semester. We’re all committed to doing our best and being our best. Yes, we have intense discussions, and yes, we disagree, but our diversity and varied minds are what make us strong. We consistently come back to the table and move forward with our students first in mind. Collaboration is what makes our team shine. Off-campus, I’m very proud of the team we’ve built with Jell-Ed. My three partners and I aimed to create a safe space for instructors to share information and work for the greater good of the profession. Through this path, we’ve built a community of more than 1,000 educators and future educators who are committed to the same mission.”
In 2022, the college moved from an older 18-chair clinic into a new 25-chair facility. Emily assisted in the design, construction, and transition of the dental clinic. The new state-of-the-art clinic was made possible due to a tax referendum from local citizens, grants from a major dental foundation, and donations from many generous local dental practitioners. By aligning the mission and vision of the program with the mission and vision of her national, state, and local partners, Emily and her team achieved a beautiful outcome that will benefit the community for years to come. She plans to host some new and innovative events at the college in the future.
Emily is most proud of the personal brand she’s built. She influences manufacturers in the industry to listen to innovators and change-seekers, and she highlights the products she believes in as she carries her messages internationally. Her goal has always been to use her inquisitive mind and honest attitude to lead faculty and students and promote inner accountability, tenacity, and empowerment in the profession. She’s a fierce advocate for maintaining the standards of dental hygiene education, which is evidenced by her recent appointment as a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) site visitor. Emily has set the standard for academic excellence in dental hygiene—she is the ultimate professional and an exemplary model for dental hygiene educators.
Kathy Forbes, BS, RDH, FADHA
In 1992, Kathy Forbes started Professional Dental Seminars, Inc., with the primary purpose of reaching out to dental hygienists and business staff to break down the glass wall between the clinical and business sides of the practice. It all started following 12 years of being a dental hygiene educator in Washington State and then moving to California, where Kathy spent six months working in three general practices. During that short time, she was expected to know the Current Dental Terminology (CDT) procedure codes for the services she was providing to her patients. She’d never heard of CDT procedure codes!
When she moved back to Washington the next year, Kathy started temping and teaching part-time, and she automatically used the procedure codes in her patient chart notes. Dentists asked her if she could teach their hygienists how to use the codes. They realized it would be easier for the business staff if the hygienists documented the procedure codes for the services they provided. Business staff would be able to input data quickly, insurance claims would be sent out sooner, and reimbursements would be received quicker.
Kathy began with a tiny manual called “CDT-1, 1990-1995.” She started hosting meetings for dental offices and presenting to local dental hygiene component meetings and dental study clubs. In 1999, Professional Dental Seminars (PDS) hosted its first all-day CE presentation, “Update: Periodontal Treatment Planning and the Appropriate Billing Codes” with the subheading “Comprehensive and ethical billing of dental hygiene services OR What do you mean I can’t charge an adult prophy on a perio patient?” This was the biggest event she had ever hosted, and as the sole employee of PDS, it was quite a task! It was a huge success and she received many requests for a repeat of the course.
The following year Kathy presented an updated course, which evolved into a yearly CE course, “Treating the Common Code.” Her first CE courses involved inviting not just hygienists but also billing/insurance staff from local dental offices. During the next 30 years of providing courses at local, state, and national levels, Kathy has helped hygienists work in tandem with business staff to understand the process of not only treatment planning dental hygiene procedures but also using the correct procedure codes. Unfortunately, many dental hygiene programs do not teach CDT procedure codes and their descriptors. Accurate documentation and submission of procedure codes leads to more timely reimbursement of insurance claims and increased production for dental practices. Too often, the procedure code selected may be inaccurate, which can lead to lost revenue or, worse, a fraudulent submission.
As one of the directors of the DentalCodeology Consortium, Kathy strives to carry out their mission, which is to influence the creation, definition, and maintenance of dental diagnostic and procedure codes. Through her visibility at the ADA’s Code Maintenance Committee (CMC) meetings each year, the needs of hygienists are recognized. In 2015, Kathy was part of a California task force that submitted two code action requests to the CMC to amend D4355, full-mouth debridement, and create a new gingivitis code.
This was the first submission by a group of hygienists. D4355 was rejected, but in 2016, the gingivitis code was ultimately amended and passed as D4346, scaling in the presence of generalized moderate or severe gingival inflammation—full mouth, after oral evaluation. In 2017, D4355 was amended and resubmitted by Kathy. There was significant discussion with Dr. Marie Schweinebraten (AAP voting member on the CMC) regarding amendments. The chair asked them to meet at break and negotiate. They did, and it passed unanimously—a first for a hygienist collaborating with a CMC voting member.
During Kathy’s 50 years as a dental hygienist—20 years as a dental hygiene educator and 30 years presenting continuing education and consulting services for dental offices—she has gained a reputation for integrity and honesty. Sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly, she wants every hygienist in her audiences to know that she has been where they are. After every CE course, there’s always a line of attendees waiting with questions. She never rushes them away, understanding that this part of the program is just as important as the presentation itself.
By helping individual hygienists work with the business staff in both treatment planning hygiene procedures and utilizing correct procedure codes, Kathy has succeeded in her mission of breaking down the glass wall between the clinical and business sides of a practice.
Brittany Glauz, BSDH, RDH
(San Diego, California)
Category: New RDH
Brittany Glauz initially dropped out of college due to lack of confidence in her own abilities. However, her path took a significant turn when she discovered dental assisting. She learned to believe in herself and was dedicated to becoming a dental hygienist. But the journey wasn’t easy. She worked while completing all of the prerequisites and the dental hygiene program. As a first generation college student, she had little guidance and mentorship.
But her hard work and perseverance were the driving forces to her success. After receiving her associate’s degree in dental hygiene, Britt continued her education and earned her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, graduating magna cum laude. As a dental hygiene student, she held the position of class president and helped guide her classmates through the trying times of graduating in 2020. She believes her greatest achievement is earning her bachelor’s degree while facing financial and personal challenges.
Britt’s passion for advocating for dental hygienists comes from her own experiences. She wanted to help others who were seeking guidance and needed a mentor. She began by creating posts sharing her journey through prerequisites, dental hygiene school, and advancing to a bachelor’s degree. She started creating content to inspire, motivate, and encourage dental hygiene students, new graduates, and experienced hygienists. As she gained traction, Britt realized that many people were seeking direction, so she started a podcast. The podcast has reached 50 episodes, has over 49,000 listens, and continues to grow. Individually, she has mentored hundreds of students through dental hygiene school.
Britt believes she can have the greatest impact on improving patient care by teaching other hygienists. She has written articles sharing clinical tips and new graduate advice. This year she’s begun hosting webinars and delivering presentations at conferences, with a focus on providing valuable guidance and support to aspiring dental hygienists, particularly during the early stages of their professional journeys. By listening to the BrushwithBritt podcast, hygienists have reignited their passion for dental hygiene and have gained courage to ask for raises, incentives, and equipment. She teaches hygienists the importance of communication and creating collaborative relationships with dentists. Britt has spent countless hours building her social media platforms for the purpose of becoming an advocate and mentor.
As a full-time clinical hygienist, Britt strives to practice the same high quality care that she speaks about, providing patients with comprehensive care including hypertension screenings, airway evaluations, and nutritional counseling. She educates patients about the oral-systemic link and strives to build interprofessional collaboration. She is proud of expanding her career through continuing education and has already surpassed the required 25 units.
Britt encourages involvement in professional organizations. She’s a member of the CDHA, ADHA, and AAOSH, and a current member of the public relations council for the CDHA.
In addition to clinical practice, Britt has worked for some well-known oral health brands. She’s been featured in articles, podcasts, and websites. In addition to her influence on social media, she’s built her in-person presence by attending conferences and hosting dental meet-ups. Her dreams of becoming a hygienist have surpassed her expectations and she looks forward to continuing to grow and elevate the profession of dental hygiene.
Lani McBeth, BSDH, RDH, EFDH, CPC
(Colorado Springs, Colorado)
Category: Full-time clinician
Lani McBeth is proud of the lives she has impacted by consistently performing a comprehensive head and neck exam and oral cancer screening. She has literally saved lives, including that of a 63-year-old patient on whom she discovered a mass when palpating the sternocleidomastoid muscle. The patient was referred to an ENT and ultimately diagnosed with a benign carotid artery tumor wrapped around the bifurcation of the carotid artery. The surgeon who removed the tumor told the patient it wasn’t a matter of if, but when she had a stroke due to this tumor, and asked her who had found it. The patient told the surgeon her dental hygienist had found it, and the surgeon told her, “Don’t leave that dental hygienist because she saved your life.”
Lani helped identify a lesion on the roof of a recent new patient’s mouth. The patient told her that it had been there a long time and other dentists and hygienists had said it didn’t look like anything of concern. Lani recommended the patient have a CBCT scan, but she declined. Lani shared with the patient what we know about persistent lesions—that they deserve further investigation to make certain they are truly nothing. The patient returned about a week later to have the CBCT scan and from there was immediately referred to an oral surgeon and then a head and neck oncology surgeon, where she was diagnosed with advanced adenoid carcinoma.
Another of Lani’s patients is a physician. Upon palpating and visualizing this doctor’s thyroid, Lani told her that it felt enlarged on one side and encouraged her to have it looked at by an ENT. The patient said she had recently had a physical and nothing was mentioned about her thyroid. The patient followed up and was diagnosed with a benign .6 cm lesion, half her thyroid was removed, and a lymph node was removed and found to have lymphoma.
In addition to Lani’s commitment to oral cancer screenings, she is committed to taking blood pressure on all her patients. She recalled a male patient whose blood pressure was quite high. She recommended he see his physician to have it checked. Not long after, the patient’s wife came in for her hygiene appointment and thanked Lani. The wife said she truly believed Lani had saved her husband’s life. She shared that shortly after her husband saw Lani, he went to his physician at Lani’s urging, and not long after ended up having bypass surgery.
Lani’s impact has not only been on individual patients. She’s also had a significant impact on her community. She has volunteered with a local group in Denver called Providing Chance, an integrated medical/dental group committed to serving the homeless community with screenings and treatment. Lani volunteered to provide head and neck exams and oral cancer screenings for the homeless and purchased toothbrushes and other oral health aids with her own funds so they had enough to pass out to everyone who came for a screening.
When a family member was in the hospital fighting pancreatic cancer, the family gathered at the hospital, and one of the children fell asleep and snored quite loudly while breathing through his mouth. Because of her training and knowledge of sleep apnea, Lani knew this wasn’t normal and could have significant short- and long-term side effects for the child. She had a conversation with the parents and encouraged them to see an ENT. This young boy subsequently had his enlarged tonsils removed and is currently going through palatal expansion and other treatments that will be life-changing for him.
In dental hygiene school, Lani was honored with the Top Clinician Award by her instructors. She’s taken that recognition to heart and has continued to strive to be a top clinician in her operatory. Lani maintains excellence clinically through membership with the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH), certification with the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine (IABDM) and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), and by obtaining expanded function status (EFDH) and becoming a certified professional coder (CPC). Lani believes networking and attending conferences are essential to clinical excellence, and she seeks to surround herself with like-minded, high-level dental hygienists to share ideas, solutions, and strategies, and to serve patients optimally.
Mandy McGill, RDHP
(Rossland, British Columbia)
Category: Public health
As a public health dental hygienist in Canada, Mandy McGill is an educator, mentor, consultant, and care provider. However, one of the most important hats she wears is that of advocate. “I believe everyone should have access to oral health care and education. I serve as a voice for those who encounter social, physical, and economic barriers to receiving oral health care,” she says. Mandy strives to ensure that individuals with disabilities, refugee families, foster children, and new immigrants have access to timely treatment, funding, and preventive interventions that they may not otherwise be able to obtain. Through her advocacy, she promotes not only oral health but overall well-being and the right to equitable and affordable care.
By developing partnerships with maternal child health programs, schools, and outside agencies, Mandy has expanded the number of individuals reached, and she promotes education, earlier case identification, and timely referrals. She has joined forces with organizations such as the Family Action Network, Boundary Family Services, BC StrongStart programs, Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, and Trail Association for Community Living.
She shares her knowledge of disease prevention and applies behavior management strategies, including motivational interviewing, to help others improve their oral health. Additionally, she assists low-income families in navigating the complexities of accessing services and funding for children, advocating for their needs and collaborating with dental professionals in care planning. She facilitates preventive oral health clinics at community health centers and participates in parenting cafés, pregnancy outreach groups, podcasts, community health fairs, and school oral health screenings. She also provides oral health services for individuals with developmental disabilities in community living.
Mandy mentors local community professionals and volunteers, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to promote oral health. She has custom created culturally relevant educational materials, oral health school curricula, and user-friendly online educator toolkits to support school, maternal, and early childhood oral health programs. She also facilitates community group education sessions within a supportive social circle, instilling newfound confidence and knowledge among participants to take charge of their own oral health and their children’s health.
In 2018, Mandy collaborated with the World Health Dental Organization to develop outreach programs in a remote region of Kenya where access to oral health education was virtually nonexistent. Her efforts resulted in the implementation of two programs focused on maternal/early childhood and school-based oral health. By training Grace, a local community member, to facilitate project events, Mandy ensured the sustainability of these initiatives
These outreach programs have reached more than 1,000 mothers and have positively impacted oral health practices for more than 4,000 children. Their efforts have grown yearly, with services now available in four community health-care centers and 10 schools in surrounding communities. Entire communities have embraced oral health education and developed positive attitudes toward oral health practices. In 2019, the programs received an American Dental Association International Volunteer Project Grant for improving access to oral health care in underserved communities.
Empowering others was the key to creating sustainable outreach programs in Kenya. By mentoring and elevating individuals such as Grace, Mandy has witnessed the transformation of entire communities. “Grace’s motivation and passion have improved the health and attitude of the community. She’s become a leader, managing oral health projects for her community, and her own life has been positively impacted. I saw the potential in her and was able to support her with what she needed to be successful. We have a trustworthy relationship, and I value her opinion and input. I continue to provide her with encouragement and professional development opportunities and make an effort to express my appreciation. I use my ability and power to support individuals like Grace to grow and achieve greatness,” she says.
In 2021, Mandy wrote an article about her experience developing these programs, which was published in the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association’s Oral Health Canada magazine and won the 2021 Oh Canada! Readers’ Choice Award. In 2022, she won first place in the International Federation of Dental Hygienists Social Responsibility Program for her maternal and early childhood project.
Through the transformative power of advocacy, education, collaborative partnerships, mentorship, and global outreach programs, Mandy ignites positive change and inspires others to follow in her footsteps. “I see the value of investing time and resources in others as a win-win situation. I share my professional expertise with others; they use and spread that knowledge for good in themselves and the world. A magical thing happens when we empower others—in the process, we better ourselves, too!”
Josalyn Sewell, RDH
Josalyn Sewell is a partner at the Dentist Entrepreneur Organization (DEO), a training and education company for dental teams, and a cofounder of DEO MAP, a business operating system built specifically for growing dental companies. Her combination of confidence, humbleness, openness, and coaching skills make her an outstanding leader in her field. Her unique qualities enable her to inspire and motivate teams, build trust, and help others succeed in their endeavors. Through her business operating system, coaching, and leadership training, Josey has positively impacted countless dental companies and their employees.
One of Josey’s greatest strengths is her ability to facilitate conversations. She creates a safe space for everyone to share their thoughts and ideas, ensuring that everyone feels heard and valued. This fosters a collaborative environment where teams can work together toward common goals, and everyone has a stake in the project’s success. She exudes professionalism and inspires trust in those around her.
In addition to her facilitation skills, Josey is an excellent listener. She has a genuine interest in helping others succeed and takes the time to understand their perspectives before offering guidance. Her approach is supportive and empowering, and she has a talent for bringing out the best in people.
Josey knows how to simplify complex ideas and present them in a clear and concise manner. This makes her an excellent communicator who can translate technical concepts into language that is accessible to all.
Josey has positively impacted the dental community through her commitment to building better leaders. She recognizes that being a leader requires vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency about the challenges that come with the role. One thing that sets Josey apart is her willingness to share her journey and emotions with others, even when things get difficult. She advocates for mental health and openly shares her experiences on social media, inspiring others to prioritize self-care and their emotional well-being. Her focus on building healthy and sustainable businesses has helped numerous teams overcome difficult challenges and create positive work cultures that support the well-being of employees.
As the only female partner at the DEO, Josey serves as an inspiration and role model for women aspiring to pursue careers in the dental field or who are currently practicing. By sharing her knowledge and expertise, she is helping to create a new generation of leaders in the dental industry.
Josey’s greatest achievement is the creation of an innovative operating system designed specifically to help dental companies grow and succeed. This system has the potential to revolutionize the dental industry, as it offers a streamlined and efficient solution to common challenges that dental businesses face. Josey’s spirit, creativity, and resilience, combined with hard work, determination, and a willingness to learn and innovate, have enabled Josey to progress from clinician to executive to entrepreneur, and she has achieved all this with only an associate’s degree!
These six exemplary dental hygienists define the profession and bring pride to all hygienists. Pay attention, Merriam-Webster! Congratulations to the newest recipients of the Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction!
Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2023 print edition of RDH magazine. Dental hygienists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.