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UOR Opportunities

May 1, 2009
The RDH Under One Roof exhibit hall offers plenty of opportunities to ‘wow' your employer.
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The RDH Under One Roof exhibit hall offers plenty of opportunities to ‘wow' your employer.

by Keverly Sugden, RDH, BASDH, and Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS

The daily news is filled with reports about the shrinking job market and rising unemployment. Many practices are seeing a downturn, and colleagues talk of tough times in the workplace. This fever of negativity can be contagious, leading to thoughts such as, “Will I be able to keep my job?” The best way to ensure your current position is to “wow” your employer by showing interest in making the dental practice successful and profitable. You can ensure your job if you are willing to make a few changes.

What are you worth?

The best way to ascertain your true worth is to do a thorough self-assessment. The business-minded hygienist can evaluate daily production and strive to produce at least three times the daily or hourly pre-tax income. A business-minded person pays attention to the specifics. Employees need to be profitable, showing a positive bottom line. It is not about production only; it is also about costs, collection, and ethically presenting care.

A profitable dental hygienist understands how to use time efficiently and incorporate the three major components of a thorough examination with defined protocols for oral cancer screening, periodontal examinations, and caries risk assessments. These are minimally essential for boosting production in the dental hygiene department.

Careers generally start with a strong altruistic desire to do the very best for patients. Yet, it soon becomes evident there exists a strong pressure to try to fit in all the necessary components of a thorough examination into extremely busy schedules. Every patient is entitled to an extra- and intra-oral exam to note hard and soft tissue issues.

The ideal way to boost production is to do right by your patient. The creative dental hygienist can experiment with ways to streamline examinations for the work environment. Once you have perfected the patient assessment process, you can work on communicating findings effectively to patients. Your patients will comment to your employer on how efficient and caring you are and will return for care.

• Oral cancer screenings — If you feel the need to brush up on your techniques for oral exams or risk assessments, there are many ways to achieve that. Enhance oral cancer evaluations by incorporating adjunctive screening technologies. This will not only assist in the prevention and early detection of oral cancer, these tests can increase production and greatly increase patient confidence.

Informed patients will appreciate the need for regular hygiene visits when they realize screening for oral cancer is routine. There are several courses at the RDH Under One Roof (UOR) 2009 meeting this year to learn about many options for increasing production ethically.

• Caries risk assessment — Risk assessment will enable you to assess patient need for remineralization products accurately. CAMBRA (Caries Management by Risk Assessment) is now part of the curriculum of many dental schools. This means caries risk assessment should be your guide in early detection of the disease and recommending remineralization products. Risk assessment using saliva testing and laser fluorescence are other options.

• Remineralization — Learning and examining the options for remineralization products is another step. One option is the exciting active remineralization ingredient, NovaMin® (, that has been added to several products and increases the effects of fluoride. You may already be using NovaMin in many of your products such as Dentsply's NuPro NuSolutions prophy paste, Omni's SootheRx, Oravive toothpaste, and Sultan's ReNew.

NovaMin reacts with saliva and forms new hydroxyapatite crystals on the teeth. The new HCA occludes dentinal tubules, which reduces sensitivity due to exposed root surfaces, and will remineralize enamel in an environment lacking the right resources. NovaMin and other remineralizing products are available for your patients and will be highlighted during courses at UOR (find a UOR schedule at

Your patients will appreciate your recommendations when they realize how caries prevention beyond another flossing lecture can help them have healthy teeth and save money. The concerned hygienist's commitment to their patient's health will keep patients coming back. Return patients make for a satisfied employer.

• Perio charting — Many hygienists have learned important lessons from technologies like the Florida Probe ( The greatest value is the computer telling patients about their disease through hearing the numbers as they are recorded. There is an option in Florida Probe to also tell the patient if the number is good news or not, identifying warning and danger levels. The warning level is tagged to Treatment #1 and the anger Level is tagged to Treatment #1 + #2, so patients identify the numbers with treatment and not just a number.

The purpose of perio charting is about getting treatment acceptance in the earliest stages when it is least obvious to the patient that they need treatment. Even if you currently do not have this type of technology in your treatment room, verbalizing pocket depth and recession numbers during your periodontal examinations is something you can start doing immediately by yourself or with the help of a team member. Hygiene patients will understand the need for periodontal therapy if they hear the numbers as they relate to their disease. You can also consider purchasing your own system and lease it back to the practice. Employers will greatly value the hygienist that commits to the practice in this way.

• Antibiotics — Patients will appreciate the extra care you take in monitoring and treating their periodontal disease appropriately. Periodontal therapy using locally applied antibiotics such as Atridox ( or Arestin ( are the cornerstone of a profitable hygiene department.

• Technology — Hygienists often resist learning new “dental” technologies. If the dentist has a camera, learn how to use it. You'll find new excitement in treating white spot lesions, and your patients will spread the word that you were able to do cosmetic dentistry as a hygienist.

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Laser? Learn it! CAESY? Conquer it! Myofunctional therapy? Find out how to incorporate it! DIAGNOdent? Don't ignore it! Make it your primary business to know what the dentist knows, and use it to support him or her. The best way to do that is to attend a conference that caters to hygienists learning the best practice, and that conference is taking place in Las Vegas this summer.

The smart hygienist accurately documents recommended and accepted dentistry. One of the best ways to keep your job is to keep your dentist busy doing his or her job. Always keep your eyes open for possible treatment and prime the dentist for what the patient wants and needs. The hygienist is viewed by the patient as a confidant and educator. The hygienist that educates the patient on elective and required dental treatment will be greatly respected and appreciated by his or her employer.

A profitable dental hygienist is a lifelong learner. The more you invest in learning about new products, business practices, and technology, the more valuable you will be to your employer. A motivated learner makes a profitable employee, and your employer will appreciate your interest in the business side of our profession.

Many dental product companies offer free online courses. Sales representatives are always willing to offer ideas on how their products will help boost your office production. Dental publications also offer online courses and have information on dental meetings and conferences. These publications also offer online forums for networking with colleagues. Your local dental hygiene components often hold continuing education courses on a monthly basis. There are so many opportunities to learn, and knowledge is the key to renewing interest in your profession.

National meetings like RDH Under One Roof are some of the best places to find up-to-date education and information, as well as to meet with like-minded colleagues.

This year at UOR, there is a special opportunity during a course called “Rio Review: New and Innovative Products 2009” presented by Patti DiGangi, RDH. This Las Vegas-style “revue” presents the latest and greatest products and devices promoted to the dental hygienist.

New dental products come to market with so many claims that clinicians can get confused and stick with what they always used. Providing optimal dental hygiene care means keeping up with the changes and evidence-based decision making. What makes this a special opportunity is that selected course participants will become focus group product testers (see sidebar).

Other opportunities at RDH Under One Roof include:

  • Become a member of the Sunstar Hygienist Advisory Panel
  • Receive a Florida Probe Go Probe System to use
  • GC America is offering self-directed CE opportunity
  • Be part of an elite first-to-know group learning about upcoming preventive product introductions from 3M ESPE
  • Join a Philips Sonicare practice-based study
  • Become part of a market research group on a Colgate fluoride product
  • Evaluate American Eagle XP Instruments and XP Piezo tips and report on it
  • Be a member of NovaMin's new products clinical evaluator team

To be selected for these focus groups, attendance at this general session course (included in cost of admission to UOR) is required.

Your best way to beat stress and stop worrying is to take action. A careful evaluation of your daily work routine can lead to effective action towards a more profitable and satisfying career in dental hygiene. Your new outlook will “wow” your employer and help secure your job.