Truth as a Bias

Feb. 1, 2009
Hygienists treat patients with a variety of medical and dental histories. Sometimes professionals get in the habit of using the same products for any patient who presents with a specific condition.

by Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FAADH
[email protected]

Hygienists treat patients with a variety of medical and dental histories. Sometimes professionals get in the habit of using the same products for any patient who presents with a specific condition. This habit sometimes closes the door to innovative ideas and products that could benefit a patient's individual condition. Susan Burzynski, RDH, MSEd, in her program, “CAMBRA, Caries Management by Risk Assessment,” uses the latest research and information to break hygienists out of the same old rut and look at new ways of making recommendations for patients.

Suzy believes the center of 21st century dentistry is risk assessment, and that hygienists are in a prime position to assist patients in maintaining tooth structure and optimum oral health by using evidence-based research and new technologies. Her program teaches hygienists and dental team members about minimally invasive dentistry (MID), the importance of performing risk assessments on every patient, and the use of various products for both professional and patient use.

The program is primarily designed for hygienists, but Suzy recommends that teams participate too. Patients often ask assistants or business staff for product recommendations. Having the ability to responsibly and reliably answer questions can elevate the entire office in the mind of the patient. Participants will:

  • Define risk assessment and MID
  • Discuss the various risk assessment strategies that are used in MID
  • Demonstrate MID products to obtain optimum oral health

The course makes hygienists think “outside the box.” For example, not every patient who presents with xerostomia should be treated with the same products. Suzy discusses treatment options that participants may not be aware of. She is an avid researcher who is constantly finding new and innovative ideas to bring to patients and her audiences.

After attending years of continuing education courses by well-known speakers, Suzy was motivated to educate others. She is a graduate of Erie Community College dental hygiene program, and received her bachelor's degree in liberal arts and master's in education from Canisius College.

PowerPoint and handouts are part of Suzy's presentation. Discussions and dialogue allow participants to share what has worked in their practices. Suzy presents a brief history of dentistry, including a discussion about G.V. Black; how fluoride was presented in the 1950s to present day; the role of strep mutans and caries developed in the 1970s; and present-day theories of caries management. She also discusses the role saliva can play in oral health, and the importance of oral cancer screenings for all patients. She presents information on pregnant patients, the use of non-alcoholic products, BANA testing, and irrigation.

Suzy's passion is education, and it was her son who helped her find that passion. Kenny had CAPD (central auditory processing disorder) throughout his early educational experiences. He often lacked focus and couldn't retain information. Suzy spent many hours researching ways to help him understand information. This research brought out her desire to educate others on various dental hygiene topics.

Suzy is active in several dental hygiene organizations, including ADHA, American Academy of Dental Hygiene,, Oral Cancer Awareness Committee, and HAYS (Hygienists Appreciate Your Service, hygienists who adopt members of the armed forces serving in Iraq), as well as her local Toastmasters Club. If you ever want to win a contest, Suzy is the one you want next to you — she has won prizes at RDH magazine's RDH Under One Roof the past several years, and won a scholarship to Chicago to attend a CE program that Hu-Friedy sponsored.

Risk assessments and caries management are becoming the standards of care within dentistry. Hygienists need to remain on the cutting edge of this new and exciting arena. Programs such as Suzy's enlighten, entertain, and provide new areas for hygienists to break out of old molds.

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