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'Bloom where you are planted'

Aug. 1, 2004
Periodontal updates for the dental hygienist and patient prevention strategies are passions of Jill Rethman, RDH, BA.

by Ann-Marie DePalma

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Periodontal updates for the dental hygienist and patient prevention strategies are passions of Jill Rethman, RDH, BA. These interests have led Jill to create educational programs on these topics. "I hope that through these programs I can increase awareness for dental hygiene professionals so they can provide the best possible care for their patients," she says.

Jill's prevention program takes participants on a journey through a lifetime — from pre-birth to senior years. She discusses preventive strategies based on the age and life experiences of each person. While prevention is the foundation of the program, Jill stresses how the entire body is affected by what happens orally. The message from this program is, "We don't just treat the mouth, we treat the whole individual."

This program was born out of the frustration Jill felt when she realized that prevention takes a back seat in most oral health-care programs. She noticed that many other aspects of dentistry, such as esthetics and profitability, get a lot of attention, yet prevention has virtually disappeared from the CE radar screen.

"While the other topics are important, prevention is power," she says. To address this oversight, Jill took it upon herself to develop an entirely preventive program.

The periodontal update program is a comprehensive overview of the latest research, therapies, and oral hygiene strategies. Because so much periodontology is research-based, Jill feels that many clinicians are confused about why research is a practical aspect of clinical care.

"Many participants are surprised to learn that evidence-based care is not treating patients solely on research findings," she says. "It includes patients' needs and the clinician's experience as well."

Many hygienists feel a kinship with periodontists and periodontal care. Coincidentally, Jill's husband, Michael, has served in the American Academy of Periodontology's leadership and is currently the AAP President.

"For years I've felt strongly about the importance of fostering a positive relationship between the general practitioner, the periodontist and the dental hygiene treatment team," she states. Throughout her program, Jill tries to get the word out about how the AAP supports dental hygiene, and discusses the AAP reports related to dental hygiene.

"Most participants are astounded to learn that many educational and treatment documents are available to download free of charge at the AAP website,," she says. To strengthen the hygienist/periodontist relationship, the AAP hosted its first all-day symposium for dental hygienists at its 2003 annual meeting in San Francisco. The symposium was such a success that it has become an annual event. Jill acted as co-moderator of the program and will take part again in this year's meeting in Orlando on November 13.

Both the prevention and periodontal update programs provide overviews of current concepts and allow clinicians to remain on the cutting edge. Jill hopes that the program participants will learn two or three "pearls" of information that they can use in their practices.

"I love it when doctors, assistants and other team members attend my programs because it shows that the entire office shares one philosophical mind regarding periodontics and prevention," she said. "These practices want to continue to improve and take pride in being on the same page in patient care."

She also knows that participants can learn best from one another, so she encourages participation in her programs.

Jill acts as a facilitator so attendees can share ideas. This way, attendees can see how their peers handle difficult topics and implement new concepts. Also, hygienists are the educational coordinators of their offices and want to bring back as much information as possible. In response to this, Jill has plenty of handout material.

Because she must stand behind a podium, Jill isn't able to mingle with participants. She prefers mingling because it allows her to "be more engaging and fulfill my hidden desire to be like Oprah!"

Jill is a graduate of Ohio State University's dental hygiene program and was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2004. She began presenting CE through a part-time position with Waterpik Technologies. From there she moved into positions and presented more CE programs. Ironically, during school she was afraid to speak in front of groups.

Jill fits her zodiac sign, Aquarius, perfectly. She can't stand disharmony or intolerance, and is a free spirit. If she were not a hygienist, a career in politics would suit her. Since she learns languages easily, she thought about becoming an interpreter at the United Nations, but found that dental hygiene inspired her more. She has always been an exercise enthusiast, and says, "Yoga is the perfect exercise to reduce stress and keep the mind free from distractions and negativity."

For the most part, oral health professionals treat periodontal patients in a non-specific manner through scaling, root planning and antimicrobials. Risk assessment will enable the clinician to determine the most appropriate care. Jill's program is case-based and will help clinicians acquire the skills to provide an enhanced level of periodontal care.

Jill often reflects upon the motto, "Bloom where you are planted."

She is firmly planted in her love for dental hygiene. "With each program I present, I hope that knowledge and insight grow and blossom," she says. "I certainly don't have all the answers, but hopefully my programs will prompt people to think and question what they are doing. If I can have a positive impact on just one person during each program, I'll be happy. That one person touches so many lives that the outcome can be tremendous!"

For information on Jill's programs contact her at [email protected].

Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, BS is a practicing hygienist in a periodontal-implant practice.She is a graduate of the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists, is active in the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association, and is a Fellow of the Association of Dental Implant Auxilliaries and Practice Management.Ann-Marie has written articles and presents programs on dental implants, TMD, and developmental delays and can be reached at [email protected].