Why I fell in love with dental conventions

Amber Metro-Sanchez, RDH, went to her first dental show and discovered how much untapped passion she had for her profession.

Jan 2nd, 2019
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For a long time, I thought that dental conventions weren’t for people like me. I was just an ordinary dental hygienist who went to work and left my job behind when I came home. I was a busy mother dealing with a world of responsibilities. During that period of my life, dental hygiene was just a job. But then, 10 years into my career, I attended my first dental convention, and something inside of me changed. I learned about how much untapped passion I had for my profession, and since then I have never looked back.

How I got my start with dental conventions

The first dental convention I ever attended was the Chicago Midwinter Meeting in February 2016, and I wasn’t very excited about it. I only went because my boss offered to pay for the trip and my coworkers urged me to come along with them. The dentist I worked for (and still work for), Dr. Chris Bible, had been a long-time fan of dental conventions, and I didn’t understand where all his enthusiasm came from. He regularly attended Chicago Midwinter and the Greater New York Dental Meeting. He became like a child filled with excitement as the events approached each year.

Selfie from my hotel room in New York City for the Greater New York Dental Meeting

When I got to the Chicago Midwinter Meeting at McCormick Place convention center, I was utterly amazed at the enormity of the event. There were close to 30,000 people in attendance. Dr. Bible had always tried to explain how large the event was, but I didn’t come close to understanding until I saw it in real life. It was like a dental professional’s paradise—row after row of dental exhibitors—and I got the opportunity to be a part of it all. This was the place where any question I had on almost any product could be answered by a real-life expert. I could feel my adrenaline beginning to surge!

Beyond the exhibit floor, I had several other great experiences during that Chicago trip. My boss took me to all his favorite spots, as he was an avid fan of piano bars. We got to have a few drinks at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building while taking in the gorgeous night view of Chicago. We also got to experience the unforgettable overlook from the sky deck at Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) that is utterly breathtaking, as it is the tallest building in the western hemisphere. The trip definitely left me with an abundance of lifelong memories.

After that first convention, I was hooked. On the train ride home, my mind was swirling with all that had happened in the past few days. My enthusiasm for everything dental was at full capacity with the new knowledge I had gained, and I knew I had to get back to another one.

Having fun at 2017 RDH Under One Roof

The perks of going to a dental convention

The first time I went to a dental convention I thought, “Why should I spend my free time immersing myself in dentistry?” That is what I did during all my workdays. I thought that getting an escape from dentistry on the weekends was a needed break. Little did I know how inspiring a dental convention could be. Like all dental professionals, I have felt potential burnout creep up on me from time to time. Going to a dental convention is the number one trick to get myself back on track. I find that when I get back to work, I can’t wait to try out the new products I received or try out the new tricks I learned. I feel invigorated!

Another perk of dental conventions is that you get the prime opportunity to attend continuing education courses and learn from some of the best dental speakers in the country. If you have ever been curious about a topic, this is the place to grow your knowledge base with a wide variety of topics to choose from. With so many courses available, you have the potential to take care of most of your continuing education requirements all in the same place.

A highly touted benefit of dental conventions is the potential gains to be earned from networking. Personally, I have never been a great fan of the word “networking” as it contains the word “work.” It can sound more like a duty rather than the amazing opportunity that it is. So instead, I like to say that dental conventions give me the perfect environment where I can “make connections.”

When I go to a convention, connecting with others is one of my main goals. I want to meet people who have a passion for the dental field and who can inspire me. I want to make connections with hygienists from all over the country and learn from their varying viewpoints. When I go out onto the convention floor, I feel exhilarated, as I never know who I am going to meet next. Over the past few years, I have made many dental friends from across the country, and I get so excited any time we get a chance to reconnect at a convention.

RDH Under One Roof has always been my favorite convention as far as meeting people. This is a smaller convention with a lot of influential dental professionals and a very relaxed atmosphere. It is at this convention that I got the chance to meet Chris Salierno, DDS, the editor ofDental Economics magazine. I also got to meet Anne Guignon, RDH, one of my favorite dental writers, along with her adorable and vivacious mother. The awesome part was that both run-ins were totally unplanned and made my 2016 trip to National Harbor, Maryland, completely worth it.

With Dr. Chris Bible at 2017 Chicago Midwinter

Taking time out for yourself is another rewarding benefit of attending a dental convention. One of the best things about traveling to a convention is that it doesn’t have to be all about your profession. These events are held at some amazing locations, giving you an opportunity to do some sightseeing and enjoy the local cuisine. Honestly, some of the best meals I have ever eaten were part of a trip to a dental convention. Plus, I got to share them with some of my favorite dental colleagues. As a result of this away time, I have come home feeling refreshed and ready for all of life’s challenges.

One final great perk of attending dental conventions is that you get lots of free stuff. I don’t know about you, but I love samples! Anytime I can try out a new dental product for free, I jump at the chance. There are also lots of great dealer pricing specials at conventions, so it is a perfect time to stock up on whatever you may need for the office. Dental conventions also have quite a few giveaways, and one time I was even lucky enough to win a $100 Visa gift card.

You never know who you’ll meet at dental conventions, such as the president of the ADHA.

Overcoming the challenges

One of the main reasons I had put off going to a dental convention for so long was that I thought it was inconvenient. My schedule is always quite hectic, and it is difficult to put aside time for myself. I find this to be extremely common for mothers nowadays, as our lives can be so overscheduled. I had to remind myself how important it is for my mental sanity to make time for myself occasionally.

The best way to create time for a dental convention is to plan ahead, just as all dental hygienists are so accustomed to doing. Think about how much time you would like to spend there and how you can get it accomplished. Reach out to friends and family members to help with caring for your children and pets. In return, you can offer them your assistance when they need some time for themselves too.

Another obvious concern with planning a trip to a dental convention is the expense involved. The amount of money you spend is really determined by how long you choose to be there and how far you will be traveling. As a single mother, I try to stick with dental conventions that are within three hours of where I live. As far as locations, some dental conventions are always held in the same city, whereas others, such as RDH Under One Roof and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association conventions, rotate through different cities. At some point in time, hopefully there will be one that is close to you.

With Water Pik friends at 2018 Chicago Midwinter

There are a few other tricks I have learned that make conventions more affordable. Sometimes I will go for only one day, saving me expense on both a hotel and food. Other times I have chosen to purchase an exhibit-only registration, which does not allow me to attend any classes, but I can still peruse the exhibit floor. An easy way to earn money during a convention is to sign up for a research group. They are held commonly at these events, as they are prime opportunities to get opinions from dental hygienists across the country.

This past summer I basically got to go to the ADHA Convention in Columbus, Ohio, for free. I signed up for the $75 one-day exhibit pass. I then participated in a research group for one hour and received a $75 Visa gift card as payment. My lunch was free with my admission, and I even received a free instrument (worth $45) for making a one-minute video about why I became a dental hygienist. I also came home with a huge bag of samples. What I found to be the most valuable part of that day by far was encountering so many inspiring hygienists. Your never know where a future connection may lead you.

Dental conventions are about the sightseeing too!

So, to all you dental hygienists out there, I hope you attend one of the major dental conventions at some point in your career, and I hope that you find it as rewarding as I have. Definitely do not view it as any type of obligation. Go for the fun of it, go to explore, and go to show the rest of the country how proud you are to be a dental hygienist!

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