Ain't going back into the bottle

May 1, 2002
A few boorish dental editors and authors remain in the dental profession.

A few boorish dental editors and authors remain in the dental profession. They publish articles with ludicrous headlines such as "Primary obsession for the hygiene leadership is ... anything antidentist," "Militant agenda," or "Hygiene association uses semantics." Blah, blah, blah. The underlying message is that these select few rubbed the magic lantern, created the proverbial Hygiene Jeannie, and were quite comfortable serving as the hygiene master.

But now, since hygienists no longer shake ponytails and blink, it appears the doctors have used up their three wishes. And we are still here. Instead of using dental publications as a means to fan the flames or attempt to serve their profession with a poisonous pen, they really should get over themselves and stop worrying about hygienists. They should refocus that energy and passion onto the continuous evolution and improvement occurring within their own profession. (That's my story; I'm sticking to it!)

As for hygienists, let's focus on our own evolution by truly being powerful and influential. Let's pump up our knowledge powerhouse - the cerebellum. How do we get the edge when striving for professionalism? By nourishing our cortex via postgraduate education, certification programs, and massive amounts of continuing education!

When hygienists merge their traditional education with postgraduate education and more in-depth knowledge of current trends in dentistry and dental hygiene, they can create a way to link together all of the pertinent information for their clients. I strongly believe in this opportunity. A hygienist can provide client-centered care because he or she understands the larger picture of comprehensive, interdisciplinary health. When you facilitate true co-diagnosis with clients, you will enroll more esthetic, restorative, and periodontal cases.

So break the proverbial glass bottle, slay the dragons of ignorance, and shake up some continuing education venues.

How much CE is enough? Well, I am all for being a CE freak! There are tons of programs, books, tapes, sessions, meetings, magazines, online networks, etc. If you only attend enough programs to meet your state's minimum requirements for relicensure, then you are starving your intellectual center and are providing minimal care for your clients.

What types of CE programs should knowledge-thirsty, esthetic hygienists sign up to attend? A hybrid. Do not be afraid to take a program that, initially, you believe you have little interest in or one that is "only for doctors." If we are truly trying to unify dentistry and dental hygiene, then why do some programs continue to advertise "doctors only," "team only," "hygienists only," or "the secret handshake club members only?" Events that isolate dental professionals from each other support the old stereotypes that each group should keep to itself or sparks will fly. I say, let the sparks fly! After all, many nonhygienists already believe we have our hygiene meetings only as fronts for the real "secret organization." That secret organization, if you can recall, is the one that participates in satanic "doctor-bashing rituals" and teaches "50 ways to be a prima donna." We should stop believing that CE courses should be segregated.

Our state and local professional hygiene associations provide excellent resources for working out our brain muscles. Membership in the Student American Dental Hygienists' Association and American Dental Hygienists' Association is an absolute, unequivocal must for students and licensed dental hygienists who desire broad, professional growth. The meeting planners for these associations usually devote much of their personal time to researching for the best speakers, topics, and locations available. They want to ensure that their audience is exposed to the cream of the crop.

One thing we can be thankful for is that, over the years, many dental manufacturers have actively helped associations bring top-notch lecturers to more rural areas and other locations off the beaten path. The companies accomplish this with educational grants and corporate sponsorships (see the related chart for examples of who these companies are). So if you are searching for a CE speaker, consider approaching companies that have made commitments to elevate the knowledge of the dental hygiene profession. If you are buying any products, the same corporations are worthy of our patronage.

Industry involvement can be arranged on many levels. Some corporate sponsors will provide the speaker's honorarium and traveling expenses. Others offer a corporate-funded program. Some will provide a trained consultant to come into your office for mini-workshops specifically tailored to meet the needs of your office (as a bonus, you can get CE credits, all within a workday).

There often is a great deal of flexibility in working with a corporate sponsor. Many programs have been designed by the "brains" within the profession.

Since I am a speaker, I am appreciative of my corporate sponsors who have and continue to provide me with opportunities to do what I do - with groups that might otherwise not have had the funding. But I am also committed to full disclosure. From the get-go, the speaker needs to be clear about who the sponsor is and who has lent support in the past. Integrity within the speaker's world is the only way to carry an unsoiled banner and ensure that associations and groups will ask you to return. Nothing kills the possibility of a second appearance like the words "I did not want to come to a BH Company commercial" on an evaluation form. If, after a CE program, you feel like the victim of blatant, one-sided advertisement, speak up! Your feedback benefits the meeting planners as well as the speaker.

Many private institutes offer curriculums that incorporate comprehensive teaching in lecture, hands-on, and over-the-shoulder programs. As far as specific programs for hygienists, a first-rate example is "Hygiene Mastery," which is part of Fortune Management and developed by Vicki McManus, RDH. Its main location is in the Pacific Aesthetic Continuum (PAC~Live). Some of the topics in these programs include enrollment skills for periodontal restorative/esthetic care, hands-on clinical operator sessions, laser therapy, dental hygiene management strategies, hygiene as business centers, and appropriate verbal skills. Many of these programs can be taken in conjunction with a dentist who is enrolled in the "doctor" program.

Get out and discover what is available; take a program that you may not normally attend. If you meet one new person or glean one new idea, it will make another fold in your cortex.

Another avenue is in-office consultants and/or professional coaches. I have heard and seen firsthand some wonderful success stories. A reputable consultant has the opportunity to get into the "mud" of the office and facilitate some real change. But as team members, we also have to do our part. An all-too-common scenario is that the team wants Ms. Coach in the office, but, after a few meetings, started complaining around the daily doughnut box, about how Ms. Coach is screwing up all the job descriptions, and about other changes in the office.

Why not look at it as an opportunity to re-invent your role within the office? If you have been on the pulse of what has been going on in the practice, you probably have already recommended most of what the coach is talking about. Your suggestions may have fallen on deaf ears then, but who cares who actually gets the credit? Now you can now provide increased excellence within your scope of care with an enhanced financial reward.

Lastly, how about making a four-year bachelor's degree mandatory for all new graduates? Many associate degree programs already expand into three years. I am fully aware of the rhetoric about hygiene shortages and that we should be "pumping out" more hygienists, not recommending a longer program. But dumbing down our educational standards will not serve our psychological independence or provide excellent total health and oral care for our clients. I cannot fall in line with preceptorship-trained hygiene, and I will not even consider it a viable option until the "dental powers" first implement preceptorship-trained dentists!

These are not the only options for giving your cerebellum a workout. You owe it to yourself as a professional to mix it up and take offbeat continuing education programs. Who cares if you are the only hygienist in the auditorium, or the only one who actually watched all seven hours of the taped video program at home, completing and returning the summary? Who is keeping score besides your very own strong mind? The dental hygiene profession will be stronger when hygienists promote a myriad of beliefs and practice in a plethora of atmospheres. The reclamation of the dental hygienist's postgraduate learning is important. Do not just rely on the courses your employer will pay for; instead, match your personal growth curriculum with events that will ensure knowledge enhancement.

While discussing this column with my husband, Mark, I realized that the East Coast does not have many dental hygiene teaching institutions. Mark, who is a fan of the television show M*A*S*H and remembering the character Radar's favorite soft drink was Grape NE-HI, suggested the acronym NE-HI (New England-Hygiene Institute). Build it, and they will come. Can I solicit any financial investors?

Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS, presents seminars nationally about esthetic hygiene. She also has developed Pre-D Systems, a pre-diagnostic computerized clinical checklist for oral health professionals. She can be contacted through

Trainers & Coaches
• Comprehensive Care Consulting, (949) 759-9046,
• Hygiene Mastery, (888) 347-4785,
• June Darling, PhD, (509) 782-9241,
• Professional Dental Management, (336) 472-3515, www.professionalden

Graduate Programs in Dental Hygiene
• Baylor College of Dentistry, (214) 828-8406
• Medical College of Georgia, (706) 721-2938
• Old Dominion University, (757) 683-5232
• University of Maryland, (410) 706-7773
• University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, (919) 966-2800
• University of Michigan, (734) 763-3392
• University of Texas-Health Science Center, (210) 567-8820
• West Virginia University, (304) 293-3417

CE Gatherings
• RDH Under One Roof, (888) 299-8016,, Aug. 2-3, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago
• ADHA Annual Session, (800) 243-2342,, Creating An Esthetic Smile, June 19, Beverly Hills, Calif.
• American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, (800) 543-9220,, May 7-12, Honolulu (hygienists' luncheon, May 10)
• GenR8TNext, (877) 626-4369,, Sheraton El Conquistador Resort, Sept. 25-28, Tucson

Corporate CE Programs and Sponsors
• 3M ESPE, (800) 634-2249,,
• Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals, (800) 221-4607,
• Dentsply Professional, (800) 989-8826,
• Discus Dental, (800) 422-9448,
• Omnii Products, (800) 445-3386,
• Oral CDX, (800) 560-4467,
• Oral-B Laboratories, (800) 765-2959,
• Premier Dental Products Co., (888) 773-6872,
• Prodentec, (870) 698-2300,
• Sonicare/Phillips Oral Healthcare Inc., (800) 957-9310,
• Ultradent, (800) 580-6983,
• Waterpik Technologies, Inc., (800) 525-2774,
• Young Dental, (800) 325-1881,