The MI Specialist

Jan. 1, 2000
As dental hygienists, we should be concerned about being caries co-therapists, as well as periodontal co-therapists, with our patients.

As dental hygienists, we should be concerned about being caries co-therapists, as well as periodontal co-therapists, with our patients. Being a co-therapist involves educating patients in the newest technologies and modalities to treat disease. It involves not only being aware of the patient's bone loss and attachment levels, but also being aware of enamel loss. The GC America MI specialists do just that; inform hygienists of the ways they can become total co-therapists with their patients. Wendy Fitzgerel, BSDH, Amy Nieves, RDH, Millie Fu, RDH, and Robin DiPace are members of the GC team that educates the entire dental team on these new paradigm shifts within dentistry. Each MI specialist covers a specific region of the United States to provide educational enrichment to hygienists and dental team members in their area.

The first program provided by the educational team is titled "Remineralization Revisited." This program is three to four hours long and discusses the paradigm shift in dentistry from the "drill, fill and bill" mentality to the "identify, prevent and restore" mentality. The program provides an in-depth discussion on enamel remineralization and the caries balance theory, while highlighting the trend for diagnostic saliva testing and individualized patient care. It also provides participants with information about glass ionomers, topical fluorides, CPP-ACP, CPP-ACPF and calcium sodium phosphosilicate, and how these innovative products can influence a patient's oral health.

The second program offered is two to three hours long and is titled "Ultimate Protection for Partially and Newly Erupted Molars." It discusses the use of glass ionomers as sealants. It is a hands-on program providing an educational foundation on glass ionomers with practical applications. It is a program geared to those providing school-based sealant programs, but all dental professionals are encouraged to participate.

Upon completion of either program, participants will:

  • discuss MI philosophy (identify, prevent, restore) and the rationale of implementation in practice
  • clarify protocol/regimen of various remineralization products
  • explain the science behind Recaldent™ technology
  • explain the science behind glass ionomers and uses in preventive dentistry
  • discuss caries balance theory, remineralization and enamel maturation
  • explain the role of saliva and rationale for saliva assessment

As hygienists and dental team members, we are constantly flooded by the amount of remineralization information and products currently available. The courses provided by the MI specialists help clarify the variety of remineralization products, their mechanisms of action and therapeutic values so that hygienists can make well-informed, educational choices for their patients. Many dental teams have focused their mission statements to revolve around the MI philosophy — treating each patient as an individual with individual risks, such as lifestyles, habits, medical and dental histories, salivary compositions and various oral environmental pathogens. Each patient is a unique individual and thus needs to be treated from a co-therapist standpoint on an individual basis, not from a "cookbook" approach. Therefore, entire dental teams benefit from these programs.

Each of the MI specialists has arrived at this point in their career from a variety of avenues. One is a non-hygienist who has spent more than 17 years in dental hygiene sales; others have been hygienists or assistants for 10-plus years before becoming involved with GC America.

Each feels that GC is a company that promotes and is committed to the profession of dental hygiene. Each may have heard about glass ionomers and other materials in previous educational settings, but may have forgotten uses or benefits. Once exposed again to glass ionomer cements, all were interested in its uses within dentistry and dental hygiene. Education led to love of the materials. However, science and skepticism led to researching the materials. The educators needed to be convinced — the materials sounded too good to be true. They had never heard of reversing white spot lesions. However, the science and research that GC America provided, as well as the feedback dental professionals were providing concerning the success of lesion reversal with real patients, made believers out of all the educators. Thus, they are enthusiastically spreading the message of MI dentistry to all who are interested. Preventive dentistry's paradigm in treatment has shifted, and being an integral part of the transition and education is what they and GC America are about. This knowledge and shift will only serve to better the health and well-being of patients.

Each educator adds her own flavor and experiences to the programs, which are provided in PowerPoint with embedded videos and numerous handouts. Millie, Amy and Wendy are all members of ADHA and are concerned about the many hygienists who see their position as only a "job" rather than being a true professional. Robin is the only non-hygienist, but she has been involved with the hygiene profession for years and feels she has a "hygiene heart." Each loves the "a-ha" moments when participants in their programs gain new understanding of the concepts and ideas being presented and can apply the new paradigm to a particular patient in her/his practice. They also encourage the use of MI dentistry as a total practice builder, not just in the use of a few products. Robin, Wendy, Millie and Amy all share life's passions of families, friends, providing the best opportunities for patients, and lifelong learning. Education is important to all.

Educating patients and dental team members of the benefits of MI dentistry is the mission of each of the MI specialists. Everything they learn concerning its benefits, they are willing to share with dental teams to make a difference in patients' lives. Each specialist is also a dental patient and thus has empathy for removing "drill, fill and bill" from dentistry. Having the ability to educate patients and dental professionals is a responsibility each feels honored to pursue.

For more information about the MI specialists, contact:

  • Fitzgerel handles many states in the upper Midwest. Her email address is [email protected].
  • Nieves handles many states in the Southeast up through Maryland. Her email address is [email protected].
  • DiPace handles most of the states in the Northeast. Her email address is [email protected]
  • Fu handles most of the western states, and her email address is [email protected]

About the Author

Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene, and a member of ADHA and other professional associations. Ann-Marie presents continuing-education programs for hygienists and dental team members and has written numerous articles on a variety of topics. She can be reached at [email protected].