Readers' Forum

May 1, 2009
Dear RDH: Is it just me, or are you feeling the mounting pressures on the future of dental hygiene?

Dear RDH:

Is it just me, or are you feeling the mounting pressures on the future of dental hygiene? There is the 2015 deadline of the chartless health care facilities. We watched the Diane Sawyer 20/20 special about the children of Appalachia. Oral disease remains the No. 1 chronic childhood disease in the United States. There are daily postings on Amy's list about dental hygienists getting the boot from the bank for business loans. The over-saturation of hygienists is occurring in many areas of this country. There's very limited opportunity in the private sector for full-time employment and benefits. Legislative battles in various states keep the expanding duties of the dental assistant at bay. Perhaps all of the above just might be the right ingredients for change to occur!

In a recent issue of RDH magazine, an article prompted chills to run up and down my spine. “Chartless Future” was written by one of my friends and colleagues, Patti DiGangi.

She talks about the contributing factors of the soaring costs of heath care in this country and the solutions President Obama has earmarked. By the year 2015, billions of federal dollars will be invested on the technology hosting a nationwide health information infrastructure allowing patient information to be shared between health-care providers.

Patti explains that the health information infrastructure will be accessible to providers using a technology similar to the transfer of data from one cell phone to another. Thank you, Patti, for articulating simplicity in an otherwise very complicated subject matter.

As I opened the March 2009 RDH, it dawned on me it has been one year since my article titled, “A CDT Code for Hygienists Dentolytical Analysis,” was published. I have been working very diligently for months on the revision of the Dentolytical Analysis (DA) to clarify the importance and necessity of its application to the future of the dental hygienist.

Meanwhile, I couldn't bite my lip any longer.

The profession of dental hygiene is in jeopardy. Clearly, unless we have our own national provider identifier (NPI) we will not be able to access information from the National Health Information Infrastructure (NHII) in 2015. If we do not have a declaration of a clinical oral evaluation specific for the dental hygienist for the data base of the NHII, the independent practice of the dental hygienist will not be able to exist.

The profession of dental hygiene was initiated in 1914 by Dr. Fones, who determined that decay was the main problem among schoolchildren. Here it is almost 100 years later. Today, we are told our economy cannot afford to continue in the same model. Neither can our profession!

Yes, dental hygienists, we need to be redirecting our futures during this time of economic revival and cease the opportunity to change it all! Our profession could eradicate oral disease in this country and that's where we need to focus, as we put down our stakes!

Patti, great job on the article!
Helen Fortner
Charleston, South Carolina