Building from the bottom up

Dec. 1, 2004
Think for a moment about your professional situation. Are you a new hygienist hoping to follow the road of excellence? Are you a veteran hygienist looking for new challenges?

by Ann-Marie C. DePalma

Think for a moment about your professional situation. Are you a new hygienist hoping to follow the road of excellence? Are you a veteran hygienist looking for new challenges? Or are you in a practice slump because the "same-old, same-old" has replaced your enthusiasm? If you fit any of these descriptions, you are what the Chesapeake Institute is all about. At the Chesapeake Institute, motivation and strategy come together with new ideas and new technology to bring fresh air into the practice of dental hygiene.

The Chesapeake Institute for Dental Studies is an exciting continuing education enterprise that offers an alternative program of studies for dental professionals. Affiliated with the continuing education department of the University of Maryland Dental School, it strives to provide an environment that focuses on the most important aspects of a dental practice: clinical excellence, consummate teamwork, and exceptional customer service.

The vision of the Chesapeake Institute and its founders - Dr. Peter Passaro, Dr. Brian Feeney, Karla Addess, RDH, and Cynthia McKane-Wagester, RDH - is to create a premier institute of integrated dental studies on the East Coast. The curriculum teaches participants to build a dental practice from a unique foundation, which is the potential of the hygiene department. Most continuing education institutes for the dental profession work from the top down, with the emphasis on the dentist and the idea that the rest of the team will eventually get the message. Chesapeake Institute's programs work from the other direction. Their program puts the hygienist and other team members first, and works from the premise that this template can improve any practice.

Since its inaugural session in September 2004, Chesapeake Institute has challenged dental practices to become "Master Dental Practices." A Master Dental Practice integrates preventive and restorative dentistry, helps patients achieve health through excellent clinical and people skills, creates a hygiene department that is a model response to the Surgeon General's 2000 Report on the Oral Health Status of Americans, and allows team members to understand the economics of dentistry and become knowledgeable partners in all aspects of the practice.

In September 2004, the Chesapeake Institute offered The New Millennium Hygiene Practice at its facility in McLean, Va. The 1-day program combined theory and practice with emphasis on a hands-on practicum. This was the first level of the Master Hygiene Program, with level two scheduled for April 2005. Participants of the level one program:

• Developed a knowledge of the integrated role of the hygienist in the dental office
• Reviewed the current terminology and classifications of periodontal diseases
• Discussed the role genetics plays in the host response to periodontal disease
• Reviewed the biology of wound healing and the expectations of non-surgical periodontal therapy
• Discussed the current treatments and instrumentations available to treat periodontal disease.

Students participated in coaching sessions on all aspects of initial therapy and diagnosis with an emphasis on instrumentation. This was accomplished by providing treatment to real patients with moderate to severe periodontal disease. During level two, participants will expand on the principles and goals taught in level one by learning:

o Foundational principles for the reconstruction of complicated cases
o Treatments for collapsed posterior dentitions
o Management of the compromised dentition.

Both programs teach participants how to create a working business plan/model for the hygiene department, build strong team relationships, design and maintain a healthy recare department, discover new products, instruments and equipment, and aspire to excellence in themselves and others.

Participants of level one were unanimous in their enthusiastic response to the material and instructors. One hygienist said, "It was two days packed full of information, inspiration and education. The instructors were exceptionally knowledgeable in the periodontal arena and were personable and approachable. The hands-on portions vividly bring the didactic information to life. The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone felt accepted at his or her own level of knowledge and skill. I'm glad I attended, and I look forward to attending further programs at the Institute."

Another student said, "Great program. All of the material was useful and I will take it back to my general practice. Drs. Passaro and Feeney were excellent and the information was very thorough. The course manuals were very helpful and provide nice references to refer back to in the office. I look forward to the second level."

Response to the Chesapeake Institute's New Millenium Hygiene Practice, Level 1 Program was not limited to words. A better indication of the unqualified success of the program is that every participant registered for the New Millennium Hygiene Practice, Level 2 Program.

The faculty of Chesapeake Institute is highly qualified and diverse with experience in all aspects of clinical dentistry and a commitment to overall practice management. The curriculum is designed to encourage maximum participation and supportive mentoring.

Today's business environment presents numerous challenges. The Chesapeake Institute and its curriculum turn these challenges into opportunities. Are you and your office ready to face these challenges and become Master Dental Hygienists and Master Dental Practices?

Future program offerings at the Chesapeake Institute for Dental Studies include:

The Insurance Free Practice
Total Customer Service
The Master Dental Assistant and Master Business Office
HIPPA, Risk Management and Documentation
Creating a Master Restorative Practice

For more information regarding the Chesapeake Institute, log on to

Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, BS, has been a clinical hygienist for more than 25 years and 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].