Time to go green

Nov. 1, 2009
The expression “:going green” is heard more often these days. Many advertisements stress that a product is green.

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

The expression “:going green” is heard more often these days. Many advertisements stress that a product is green. What does dentistry have to offer for the green conscious consumer? Diane Peterson, RDH, MEd, in her program “:Green and Growing: Meeting the Oral Health Needs of the Health Conscious Consumer,” provides dental professionals with a program designed to inform participants on how to relate and partner with their health and environmentally conscious patients.

The trend of consumers demanding to know the ingredients in the products they use and their relationship to the environment requires that dental professionals understand evidence-based green product claims and health information. Diane wants her participants to understand the value systems of health conscious consumers, while allowing health professionals to meet their patients' oral health needs.

Diane believes the program would benefit the entire dental team, but since hygienists spend the most time with patients and often recommend products or treatments, the program is presented from the hygiene perspective. She began presenting the program after working with dental hygiene students in Vermont, who were seeing lots of patients who didn't report their use of herbal supplements or green products. At the time, Diane was an associate professor in the dental hygiene department. She found very few programs on the subject and began presenting her research as continuing education.

In addition to “:Green and Growing,” Diane has a program on “:Herbal Supplements: What the Dental Professional Needs to Know But May Be Afraid to Ask.” Through her programs, Diane learned about Tom's of Maine. She then moved from her position as student educator to educator of professionals and students about Tom's of Maine. She became the East Coast professional advocate for Tom's, and researched the topic with her colleagues. At Tom's, Diane had the opportunity to talk with dental professionals, and she now realizes that many think they have only one or two health and environmentally conscious patients in their practices.

In reality, there are many more patients who value health and environmental awareness than previously thought. Although Diane's presentation grew from her work with Tom's, she tries not to include specific products or brands in the program. She discusses who is the health conscious consumer, what concerns the health conscious consumer, relating to the health/environmentally conscious consumer even if you're not environmentally conscious, using evidence-based information in recommendations and decision making, and going green in dentistry for the enhancement of the practice.

Diane is a dental hygiene graduate of the University of Vermont and has a bachelor of science degree in human development and a master's of education in education leadership. She has been an active member of ADHA for 28 years, and has served in a number of state positions with a focus on access to care and oral health literacy. She is also a consultant examiner in dental hygiene for the Northeast Regional Board of Dental Examiners and is currently the ADHA District 1 trustee.

Her biggest concern about dental hygiene is that the public still doesn't understand what hygienists do or the education they have. She enjoys the people she meets through her programs, and feels she gains as much from them as they do from her. Diane's passions are her family, friends, and the dental hygiene profession.

Whether you and your patients are light green (believe that one has to protect the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility), dark green (believe that environmental problems are an inherent part of industrialized civilization), bright green (believe that radical changes are needed in the economic and political operation of society in order to make it sustainable with better designs, new technologies, and social innovations), or just new to the whole green world, Diane's programs will offer you a chance to discover a whole new world.

For more information about Diane's programs, contact her at [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].