Th 209680

A German accent

May 1, 2006
Communication and motivation are important aspects of dental hygiene practice.
Tracey Lenneman, RDH, BA
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Communication and motivation are important aspects of dental hygiene practice. But have you ever wondered why some people are highly motivated and others are not? Have you ever considered why some patients “get it” and others don’t? Because of these lack of compliance issues, has your profession turned into just a job?

Tracey Lenneman, RDH, BA, delves into these issues of communication and motivation in her program, “How Fit Are You in Patient Motivation?” Tracey’s program is a fun, challenging interactive session where she focuses on not just work, but personal balance as well. She loves to get people thinking in the program, because if participants are not thinking and questioning, then they are not open to new possibilities. Tracey has incorporated motivational and communication tips from some of the well-known trainers and communicators, such as Dale Carnegie, Zig Zigler, Allen and Barbara Pease, and Spencer Johnson. She has adapted the information to dentistry and with a woman’s perspective.

The topics covered in “How Fit Are You in Patient Motivation?” include:

• What motivates people
• The patient/care provider relationship
• Better communication with the patient
• Body language
• Sales of dental services
• Conflict and stress management within the dental team
• Future oriented oral hygiene
• Try it and live it profit.

The course takes an in-depth look at how communication skills can be improved and how the dental team can influence the patient to change his or her attitudes and beliefs about his or her dental health.

Tracey’s motto is “success through change.” Dental practices function as teams and are more successful at work, with patients, with colleagues and in life when they learn to work together rather than alone. Her programs motivate participants to re-examine their lives, where they are today and where they want to be in the future. She poses the difficult questions that make people think, dream and get excited again about their chosen profession. Tracey often demonstrates new products and techniques that can help dental teams be more effective in their day-to-day practices within the confines of evidence-based dentistry.

Tracey lectures with PowerPoint and handouts full of information. She believes that everyone sees something different in a program and will write down what “speaks” to them most from the program. She considers herself an “edu-tainer,” using comedy and funny slides to educate while entertaining. She feels that people learn better when they can identify with the material, so she will often teach practical applications that can be used the next day in practice.

Tracey is a 1986 graduate of the dental hygiene program at Pierce College in Washington state and received her bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington State University. In 1988, she moved to Munich, Germany, and began practicing for a dentist who had waited years to work with an American-trained hygienist. This dentist had recently renovated a large operatory and wanted her to start a preventive care program for him. However, at the time in Germany, floss wasn’t even used. So during every trip back to the States, Tracey stocked up on Johnson & Johnson floss and returned to “sell” it to the patients. Yes, she sold floss to the patients because she and the dentist felt that it would put a different value on a product if the patient had to buy it rather than the dental practice “giving it away.”

After several years in the practice, she decided that it was time to move on and traveled the world for three years. Upon returning to Germany in 1993, she found the world had changed; the Berlin Wall had fallen and Germany was looking to the West (especially the United States) for future economic guidance and support.

As a result of these changes, she found herself able to become self-employed and began to contract herself to various offices as a dental hygienist. She began individual two-day hands-on workshops on preventive care that helped teach dental practices how to develop their own care programs. Most of her customers during the early 1990s were professionals from the former East Germany (DDR). She began by teaching dental assistants the basic skill of ultrasonic instrumentation, prophylaxis, and home care.

The profession of dental hygiene as we know it does not exist in Germany and Austria. The dental auxiliary profession is a continuing education system where one progresses from chairside assistant to prophylaxis assistant. Currently, there are several “dental hygiene” schools, but they are only three to six months long - a very different view of hygiene than in the United States, Canada, and other countries.

As her programs and interest grew, Tracey was approached by Optiva (now Philips Oral Healthcare) regarding her programs. They were interested in providing professional educators to universities and colleges to lecture on biofilm and power toothbrushes. During these programs, Tracey became quite popular in Germany for her unique presentations and information, and was asked to write new courses and workshops for dentists and dental teams throughout Europe. This has led to presentations in the United States.

Since she has been in Europe since 1988 - where dental hygiene is not seen from the same perspective as in the United States - Tracey had not been a ADHA member. However, she feels her presentation skills are growing, and she is seen as a role model for Europeans regarding the American standard of dental hygiene. She feels that membership is an important part of being an international ambassador for dental hygiene. Membership in ADHA will keep her updated on cutting-edge technologies and help her audiences understand their role as co-therapists in dental treatment. Her concern for dental hygiene is a universal one; that whatever country she is in, there are some hygienists who see themselves as “prima donnas.” She has found that dentists often have a hard time working with these hygienists, and the whole profession of dental hygiene suffers. She feels that in order for dental teams to be productive and effective, each member must understand another’s perspective.

Change can be difficult for any person or practice. Tracey tries to instill a sense of benefit and accomplishment from the programs she offers. She enjoys seeing the “light bulb” moments in her participants. She appreciates the challenges of the different cultures, humor and attitudes of her various audiences. She engages participants to help them find the best that life, not just dentistry, can offer.

For more information about Tracey and her programs (which also include dental implant programs), contact her at [email protected] or