A 'legal' view of perio therapy

Sept. 1, 2004
Rebecca Wilder, RDH, MS, began presenting continuing education programs in the early 1980s while teaching at the University of North Carolina.

by Ann-Marie DePalma

Rebecca Wilder, RDH, MS, began presenting continuing education programs in the early 1980s while teaching at the University of North Carolina. At the time, North Carolina had several Area Health Educational Centers located throughout the state. Faculty from the UNC medical and dental schools participated in these programs, and this is where Rebecca gained valuable speaking experience. By presenting programs to professional groups, she found she enjoyed presenting beneficial and fun courses.

From these beginnings, Rebecca's presentations have expanded over the past seven years. She has found a passion teaching CE because the audiences are truly interested in learning and usually have a lot to share. Rebecca enjoys meeting people from around the world and visiting exciting and interesting new places.

Rebecca has about 10 continuing education programs that can be divided into four basic categories — risk management, current concepts in periodontics, updates in dental products, and practice management. One of her most popular programs is "Periodontal Treatments for Your Patients: What's the Future, What's the Risk?" This is a full-day program that combines the most current information on periodontal therapies with how to avoid legal issues while treating patients.

The first portion of the program provides information on how to access and treat challenging patients and includes discussions on the use of new instruments, equipment, and products on the market. The second portion provides information on the risks involved in treating periodontal patients and ways to avoid malpractice. Topics include vital documentation tactics, informed consent, negligence, termination of the professional-patient relationship, and how and when to refer patients to a periodontist. Essential verbal skills for use with periodontal patients are also included.

Goals and objectives of the course include:

• Identifying patients and sites that are at greatest risk for advancing periodontal disease

• Identifying patients who might be ideal candidates for site-specific therapies, and how to treat challenging cases with power and hand instrumentation combinations

• Customizing and incorporating effective periodontal therapies in practice

• Evaluating new products and treatment options using evidenced based approaches

• Identifying areas of legal risk for the hygienist including appropriate documentation.

Although the program is geared toward hygienists, it is applicable to the entire dental team. Everyone needs to understand the techniques that will avoid legal issues in a practice. In addition, each member needs to be able to talk to the patient about periodontal disease.

Rebecca wants to teach her audiences the most up to date, evidence-based information available. Since she is involved in the academic environment, her own research, and that of her graduate students, Rebecca has access to information, products, and techniques that might not be readily available in private practice. While she tries not to focus extensively on the research in her presentations, she makes it an important part of her programs because she believes that hygienists need to stay abreast of the most current information.

All of Rebecca's programs include multiple handouts. Although the programs are typically lecture/seminar format, Rebecca tries not to lecture too long. Since converting to PowerPoint three years ago, she does not like to stand behind a podium, but gets out into the audience to connect with the group. Rebecca is a graduate of the dental assisting and dental hygiene programs at Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro, N.C. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

She is currently an associate professor and director of the Master of Science Degree Program in Dental Hygiene Education at UNC. In addition to teaching and mentoring graduate students, her primary teaching responsibilities are in periodontics and practice management, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate dental hygiene students. She has also taught dental practice management courses to dental students for 12 years.

She is a member of Sigma Phi Alpha, the American Dental Hygienists' Association, and has held offices in numerous professional organizations. In addition, she is a noted author and researcher on various dental hygiene topics and a consultant in the dental industry.

Although she is passionate about her programs, Rebecca's greatest passion is her family. Her husband, Al, is also a dental educator and their four children range in age from 26 to 7. From school, to church, to sports, to work, the family is always busy, but they are her anchors who make her life worthwhile. She realizes she's fortunate to have a supportive family that is excited about her teaching, speaking and writing.

As a member of ADHA, Rebecca has been involved on the national level as the Chair of the Research and Grant Review Committee, and most recently as a member of the Council on Research. "All hygienists are scientists," she says. "I want each hygienist to realize the impact they can make on a daily basis."

As any presenter knows, it takes a lot of energy to present quality continuing education programs. What keeps Rebecca motivated is the fun she has during presentations, keeping audiences involved and sharing information that can be used immediately in their practices. She feels the only downsides of speaking are being away from her family and the hassles of traveling.

If she were not a hygienist, Rebecca would be a either a motivational speaker or a member of the legal or business world. Rebecca feels she has the best of both worlds in dental hygiene — the ability to impact students on a daily basis and speak to dental hygiene groups throughout the country!

Rebecca's upcoming programs include:

• Florida Dental Hygienists' Association, Orlando, Oct. 2
• South Carolina Dental Hygienists' Association, Oct. 16
• Western Society of Periodontology, Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 23-24
• ADHA Center for Lifelong Learning, UNC, Nov. 5-7
• Missouri Dental Hygienists' Association, Nov. 13
• Rocky Mountain Dental Meeting, Jan. 22, 2005
• Chicago Midwinter Meeting, Feb. 24, 2005
For more information on programs or to contact Rebecca: [email protected]

Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, BS, has been a clinical hygienist for more than 25 years and is a graduate of the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists, is active in the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association, and is a Fellow of the Association of Dental Implant Auxilliaries and Practice Management.Ann-Marie has written articles and presents programs on dental implants, TMD, and developmental delays and can be reached at [email protected].