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Bridging the Educational Gap

Oct. 1, 2004
The Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries and Practice Management extends educational opportunities to dental hygienists.

by Ann-Marie DePalma, RDH, BS, and Jill Rethman, RDH, BA

The Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries and Practice Management extends educational opportunities to dental hygienists.

Dental implants as tooth replacements are fast becoming the standard of care for edentulous areas. In recent years, dental hygienists in general practices have progressed from rarely treating implant patients, to seeing several a week. How can hygienists learn about the intricacies of implants? One very helpful way to advance as an implant clinician is to join the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries and Practice Management (ADIA & PM). The ADIA & PM is a component society of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI). ICOI was founded in 1972 and is the world's largest implant society, with a membership of over 20,000 dentists, technicians, and auxiliaries in 72 countries.

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The ADIA & PM, created in 1990 as a part of ICOI, is the largest dental implant auxiliary organization in the world with membership open to dental hygienists, assistants and business office staff. Its purpose is to develop the educational criteria for certification of dental team members in implantology, and to expand their contributions in the field of oral implantology/implant dentistry. The ADIA & PM is a network of colleagues who share the goal of high quality continuing education at both the national and local levels. As the number of implant practices grows, there's also the need for dental team members to grow. The ADIA & PM is the ideal source.

Curriculum guidelines for pre-doctoral implant dentistry were established in 1991. Although there was widespread acceptance of implant dentistry in dental school programs in the United States and abroad, little attention was given to incorporating implantology and implant maintenance information into dental hygiene programs. However, in June 1995, a forward-thinking group of dentists within ICOI, led by Drs. Kenneth Judy, Carl Misch and Roland Meffert, organized a group of dental hygiene educators to develop guidelines for dental hygiene education. From that conference, a program called the Dental Hygiene Implant Certification Program (DHICP) was born.

The DHICP's mission is to educate participants about the treatment of dental implant patients. The program contains information on the historical, surgical, prosthetic and maintenance aspects of implants. Treatment planning, along with the verbal and interdisciplinary skills essential for working with implant patients, are also taught. Although entitled DHICP, the program is also beneficial for assistants and front office staff.

Despite the teachings of DHICP, there is still a discrepancy in dental hygiene and dental assisting education regarding implantology. The full curricula of dental hygiene schools may explain why graduating hygienists typically receive only two hours of implant education. Dental assistants receive less than one hour of implant education. The ADIA & PM is the perfect organization to enhance dental team members' education in dental implants.

Certified educators are members of ADIA & PM who demonstrate a commitment to high quality, cutting edge education in implant dentistry, and who support the ADIA & PM's mission. Certified educators must meet application requirements and demonstrate a high level of knowledge related to implant dentistry, as well as stay current on implants and the latest technology in the field.

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The ICOI and ADIA & PM value hygienists' contributions to implantology, and members may distinguish themselves through several levels of credentials. Regular, certified and fellowship status show levels of distinction not found elsewhere. In addition, the ADIA & PM offers not only the DHICP, but several other continuing education programs. The Practice Management Implant Certification program began in 1998. This program presents topics on case presentation, FAQ's about implants, how to arrange financial agreements with patients, ways to deal with medical and dental insurance, and marketing the dental implant practice. As with the DHICP, the PMICP is appropriate for the entire dental team. The Dental Assisting Implant Certification Program will be presented this year. DAICP reviews some of the principles found in both the DHICP and PMICP, and expands on the role of the clinical assistant in implant therapy. Hygienists can benefit from this program, because by understanding the total picture, they can effectively communicate the scope of implant therapy with patients. The ADIA & PM is preparing several new offerings for the future.

Membership in the ADIA & PM is invaluable, even for the dental hygienist who sees only a few implant patients. Knowledge to provide optimum care for ALL patients is the goal of a dental hygiene therapist. Furthermore, as the number of implant patients grows, newfound knowledge on professional and personal maintenance will help ensure long-term implant success.

When the authors proposed this article to Lynn Mortilla, RDH, executive director of the ADIA & PM, she was thrilled. "The ADIA & PM is all inclusive, the only implant auxiliary society in the world. We give members the opportunity to advance both educationally and professionally. We are a society built on camaraderie, relationships, and a strong educational foundation."

Linda Meeuwenberg, RDH, MA, commented on the networking among ADIA members. "Having served in many capacities in ADIA, I have great pride that I am in a profession that transforms lives the way implant dentistry does." Julie Ruggiero, RDH, said, "I've been involved in an awesome implant practice for a number of years. The professionals, dental hygienists, assistants, and practice management that make up the ADIA & PM are excited to be on the cutting-edge of innovation and scientific discovery."

Christine Uhen, GDH, BA, said, "Being a member of ADIA & PM has added so much to my personal and professional growth. It is a group of intelligent, energetic and progressive people who want to learn all they can about implant dentistry, and want to share their knowledge with each other."

Members Karen Young, June Caine, RDH, and Marlene Schmitz also emphasized the cutting edge information available to members at any of the local or national programs. How about you? Do you want to be on the cutting-edge of implant dentistry and become involved in an association that values and respects dental hygienists and other team members? The ADIA & PM holds annual meetings that are planned in conjunction with ICOI's conferences. The opportunities for learning are outstanding. Upcoming educational events include: Las Vegas, June 25-27; Miami, Fla., Jan 2005; and Chicago, August 2005.

For more information about the ADIA & PM and its educational opportunities, contact Ann-Marie DePalma, RDH, BS, at [email protected] or visit the ICOI/ADIA Web site at