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Posters for patient comfort

March 1, 2012
Illinois hygienist uses art as adjunct to hygiene operatory

Illinois hygienist uses art as adjunct to hygiene operatory

Cathy Hester Seckman, RDH

Janet Shangle of Burr Ridge, Ill., was looking for ideas to freshen up her operatory a while back. She and a coworker, assistant Jennifer Haras, went to the Chicago Midwinter Show for several years in a row, but didnt have any luck. Their idea had been to replace the worn-out posters on the ceilings above their dental chairs.

Well, you know how it is. When a hygienist has a good idea and can’t find it anywhere, she (or he) invents it. The two women came up with the concept of SmileScapesUSA in 2007.

“SmileScapesUSA aims to relieve patient anxiety one poster at a time by giving patients a fun and engaging distraction,” Janet says.

There are now three collections — CityScapes, TravelScapes, and LandScapes — but they aren’t just pretty pictures. The most intriguing thing is what’s not apparent at first glance. Within the views of New York City, the Taj Mahal, and the Grand Canyon, dental items are hidden.

Janet hired her sister-in-law, graphic artist Gwendolyn Shangle of Fleming Island, Fla., to design the posters.

“The three of us got on the phone. She directed us to the iStock photo website and taught us what kind of photos to purchase.”

They chose linear photos that offered places for the graphic artist to add hidden dental instruments and home aids. Janet purchased the rights to reproduce photographs of Chicago (her hometown), New York, San Francisco, and Miami, and she sent a package of dental items to Gwen. Gwen took photographs of each item, and they were retouched to fit and hide within each city photograph. The next step was to get them printed, and soon SmileScapesUSA had a nice selection of “seek-and-find” posters in which perio probes, toothbrushes, and other items were cleverly hidden. Patents are pending for each of the altered photographs.

The company was officially launched at the 2008 Chicago Midwinter show, and has since sold posters at large and small dental conferences, including Jewel of the Great Lakes in Milwaukee, the Ohio Dental Association, Toledo Dental Society, ADHA, and RDH Under One Roof. At the 2009 Madow Brothers’ The Best Seminar Ever (TBSE) in Las Vegas, Janet took pictures of hygienists who visited the booth, and placed them on her website for a Ms. SmileScapesUSA contest. The winner, Dana Ridenhour of Wapakoneta, Ohio, was flown to the 2010 TBSE, where she was crowned and sashed onstage.

Besides being a presence at dental trade shows, Janet has advertised in dental magazines. She writes blogs on her website,, and participates in LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. As she talks to potential customers, Janet has refined the posters.

“I ask what people would like to see, and I grab ideas from that. The LandScape posters have been the most popular, and I’ve learned to put fewer ‘pokey’ things in the posters, and concentrate more on home aids.”

She believes in SmileScapesUSA enough that she has put hygiene on hold to concentrate on the business. She worked 33 years in dental offices after graduating from Morton Junior College for Dental Assisting, then Southern Illinois University’s dental hygiene program.

“I always meant to do those last 10 hours for a bachelor’s degree, but I’ve also believed that what I’m learning in the field is worth a thousand books.”

Janet and her husband, David, have four children between them, Jonathon, 26, Jameson, 22, Margaret, 26, and David Jr., 22. Her husband, an entymologist who lectures and teaches, also owns Shangle Technical Services, which treats residential and commercial properties for pest problems.

“He’s going to make us rich,” Janet says fondly, “with bedbugs.”

Janet left clinical hygiene several years ago to become a full-time caregiver for her mother, and later worked at Coldwater Creek and the ChaLor Flower Shop.

“I was at the top of my game in hygiene before I left, and when it was time to go back to work I decided to let a new graduate have a job. I’d been blessed for 33 years in dental hygiene. Now I need to go forward with my business.”

Every hygienist, she says, has their patients’ comfort foremost in their mind.

“In my practice, I have seen my own patients unclench their hands and relax while searching a SmileScapesUSA poster for the hidden items. My patients of every age enjoyed the posters and couldn’t wait to come back to see a new one.”

Because hygienists are so invested in patient comfort, she believes SmileScapesUSA is a perfect adjunct to the hygiene operatory.

Cathy Hester Seckman, RDH, has written on dental topics for 26 years. She works in the pediatric office of Jay Reznik, DMD, MS.

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