COURSES FOCUS ON LASERS

Clinical dental hygiene is constantly evolving and growing, and one area that has seen tremendous growth in the last few years is laser dentistry. Dental hygienists in many states are now allowed to use lasers. Heidi Christopher, RDH, and Peggy Blackburn, RDH, have joined forces to provide dental hygienists with the education they need to properly use this technology.

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MED

Clinical dental hygiene is constantly evolving and growing, and one area that has seen tremendous growth in the last few years is laser dentistry. Dental hygienists in many states are now allowed to use lasers. Heidi Christopher, RDH, and Peggy Blackburn, RDH, have joined forces to provide dental hygienists with the education they need to properly use this technology.

Heidi and Peggy provide a variety of CE programs entitled "Soft Tissue Laser and Integration for the RDH," "Lasers in Hygiene: Myths and Truth," and "Advanced Instrumentation and Micro-Ultrasonics." The duo also provides one- to two-day custom consultations for dental teams on laser use and its implementation in the hygiene department.

The "Soft Tissue Laser" program is an all-day presentation that delivers the necessary information and clinical skills for hygienists to implement lasers in their practices. "Lasers in Hygiene" is an introduction to lasers that educates professionals on the myths and truths surrounding dental hygiene lasers, including who can use a laser, when and how a laser is used, and how the laser interacts with biological tissues. The program sometimes includes a hands-on component where participants simulate laser use on pig jaws.

The "Advanced Instrumentation" course is also an all-day program that provides participants with advanced skills regarding instrument selection and clinical hands-on training with both hand and power instruments.

Heidi and Peggy provide the entire dental team with knowledge and understanding of laser dental hygiene for their individual offices. The entire team is involved in the lecture portion of the consultation. For the clinical portion, nonclinical team members serve as patients. As part of the program, the clinical team receives laser safety training while the business team learns appropriate fees, codes, and verbal skills for patient compliance. The program is geared to the individual needs of each practice.

Here's an outline of the all-day laser implementation course:

• History, types, and physics of lasers
• Clinical benefits of soft-tissue lasers
• Laser/tissue interaction
• Soft-tissue procedures and hygiene applications
• Laser safety
• Marketing
• Insurance considerations and verbal skills and the value of the service
• Sterilization and infection control
• Clinical simulations of laser bacterial reduction, laser degranulation, laser desensitization, aphthous ulcer laser treatment, and herpetic lesion laser treatment.

Because they're inquisitive, Heidi and Peggy attended laser courses after learning the benefits of lasers in periodontal therapy. They searched professional journals and books on the subject, and became members of related professional organizations. They developed professional, mentor, and working relationships with laser pioneers such as Dr. Glenn VanAs of the International Center for Laser Education, and Dr. James Jesse, associate professor and researcher at Loma Linda Dental School. Armed with evidence-based results, Heidi and Peggy decided to share their knowledge with other hygienists. Additionally, Heidi owns an employment service called TDH Referrals, and learned that many employers were seeking hygienists trained in lasers. Thus, their programs were born.

Each participant receives a training manual, a laminated laser guide, and a DVD that includes articles, insurance codes, fee ranges, laser terminology, consent forms, and handouts for patients. The training manual covers their PowerPoint presentation.

Heidi and Peggy both graduated from Sacramento City College's dental hygiene program. Both have many years of clinical hygiene and consulting experience and have their own educational/consulting firm called Dental Team Advancement. Additionally, they are lecturers with the International Center for Laser Education (ICLE), providing Master of Laser Dentistry programs across the country.

Both women appreciate the complexities of laser dental hygiene. Many program participants have commented that there is so much information it is difficult to comprehend it all in a one- or two-day session. Heidi and Peggy agree, and have implemented a "retake" of the course at a reduced fee for those who want a refresher on the clinical aspects of laser applications.

Heidi and Peggy would like to initiate changes in the national statistics regarding the prevalence of periodontal disease. New science and research have revealed information about periodontal pathogens, biofilms, and the host immune response. This science and research has brought new technologies to the forefront. Laser dental hygiene expands on this knowledge and provides a powerful tool to fight the inflammatory disease process. They would like all hygienists to experience the excitement and rewards that lasers have afforded them.

For more information regarding lasers in dental hygiene or Heidi and Peggy's programs, contact heidichristopher.tdh@gmail.com or peggyblackburn@mac.com.

Thought for the Month: All things must change into something new. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


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ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. Ann-Marie presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. She is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at amrdh@aol.com.

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