Dental continuing education: Killing the parrot: Stop squawking at patients

Oct. 1, 2012
It’s becoming apparent that it’s more important than we thought to put into actual practice the information we learned in dental hygiene school.


It’s becoming apparent that it’s more important than we thought to put into actual practice the information we learned in dental hygiene school. In practice we see patient after patient and do and say the same things — chart notes, clinical treatment, brush and floss, brush and floss. Old routines no longer serve patients to the best of our abilities and in their best interests, and a practice’s bottom line can suffer.

Patti DiGangi, RDH, and Shirley Gutkowski, RDH, present a program that challenges the same old routines while discussing caries management, periodontal disease manifestations, coding efficiency, new diagnostics, and treatment options.

It’s entitled “Killing the Parrot: Living What You Know,” which comes from a comedy skit that Shirley developed early in her speaking career. It involves a parrot mimicking a dental hygienist giving oral hygiene instructions. She says brush and floss, brush and floss … squawk! The program is all encompassing and relevant to hygienists who understand that dental health is a moving target, and that our understanding of most oral diseases is on shaky ground. Doing and saying the same old things doesn’t cut it anymore!

Upon completing this course, Shirley and Patti challenge participants to:

  • Identify red flags from a patient health history and select appropriate risk assessment and diagnostic modalities.
  • Explain the different types of periodontal and caries infections.
  • Select new language to accurately communicate dental risk, diagnosis, and treatment.
  • Define new approaches to helping oncology patients.
  • Distinguish the stages of dependence for multiple populations.
  • Redefine the 60-, 45-, or 30-minute patient appointment time.

The program can be presented as either a one- or two-day program, depending on the needs of the group. The two-day format takes a deep dive into day-to-day clinical situations and options for now and in the future, including a future certification program.

The course is designed to increase practice revenues and the hygienist’s compensation by working smarter, not harder. In today’s economic climate of changing practice patterns and an abundance of dental hygiene clinicians, key to employment is a hygienist’s ability to showcase evidence of career growth, and the ability to prove that he or she is worthy of special notice with a resume that stresses unique and professional strengths and abilities.

Patti and Shirley have each been challenging the dental hygiene profession for a number of years, so joining forces was a natural step. Their styles create a synergy that offers participants an exciting and entertaining program. “Killing the Parrot” offers a variety of media for individual and group learning. Most CE programs ask participants to turn off their cell phones, but Shirley and Patti actually want participants to use their cell phones as part of the audience response system.

Both women are life-long learners. Patti possesses a bachelor’s degree in health-care leadership and is a master at work in adult education, and Shirley is a clinical hygienist and champion of minimally invasive dentistry. Both are founding members of the Academy of Oral Systemic Health and are certified in health information technology.

The audience can’t help but laugh each time Shirley and Patti do their squawking parrots, yet they’re still learning and being challenged. Both women are dedicated to allowing participants to shift the health-care paradigms they have always known from a disease care model to a true prevention care model. A number of corporate sponsors help defray the costs of the program.

Both Shirley and Patti are ADHA members and have served in numerous leadership roles in the professional organization. As Einstein stated, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result. Shirley and Patti offer a radical shift in thinking. They don’t wait for anyone to grant the shift in practice — they encourage participants to shift their thoughts, expectations, and desires to achieve the best for themselves and their patients.

For more information about Patti and Shirley’s programs, contact [email protected] or [email protected]. RDH

Thought for the Month: Until you are fully exhausted in trying, you will never be the best your potential has to offer. Anonymous

This month’s course is CAMBRA: Best Practices in Dental Caries Management. All RDH magazine readers will receive a 50% discount when ANOCT12 code is used.

Description: The current approach to dental caries focuses on modifying and correcting factors to favor oral health. Caries management by risk assessment (CAMBRA) is an evidence-based approach to preventing or treating dental caries at the earliest stages. Caries protective factors are biologic or therapeutic measures that can be used to prevent or arrest the pathologic challenges posed by the caries risk factors. Best practices dictate that once the clinician has identified the patient’s caries risk (low, moderate, high, or extreme), a therapeutic and/or preventive plan should be implemented. Motivating patients to adhere to recommendations from their dental professionals is also an important aspect in achieving successful outcomes in caries management. Along with fluoride, new products are available to assist clinicians with noninvasive management strategies.

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. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].

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