Th 290321

High Tech Hygiene

July 1, 2008
Technology is everywhere around us. Cell phones, plasma televisions, and GPS all add to our everyday lives.

Technology is everywhere around us. Cell phones, plasma televisions, and GPS all add to our everyday lives. Technology has become a part of dentistry as well, from practice management software to digital radiography, to many other new and exciting possibilities. Cathy Draper, RDH, MS, takes us into the world of technology in her program "High Tech Hygiene." Cathy's program discusses new technologies and how these technologies can affect the dental hygiene practice of today and tomorrow. Topics include: digital radiography, caries detection, perio charting, ultrasonic scaling, computer-aided anesthesia delivery systems, patient education software, oral cancer screening, along with electronic record keeping and the paperless dental practice.

Cathy also presents programs on dental implants, dentin hypersensitivity and international dental hygiene. The international dental hygiene program centers on her experiences as a dental hygiene graduate practicing in Croatia (Yugoslavia) and Munich, Germany, and later as the leader of a delegation of hygienists to China.

Cathy Draper, RDH
Click here to enlarge image

"High Tech Hygiene" can range from one to three hours and is geared toward clinicians and dental hygiene students. Cathy initially familiarizes the audience with all levels of technology and the way technology can be incorporated into a practice. She discusses the pros and cons of technology, adding the successes and challenges she has experienced in using various devices in her practice. She provides the program in PowerPoint with a number of photographs from her actual office. Course objectives include:

  • Explanation of cone-beam volumetric tomography and its applications in dentistry
  • Description of the advantages of using a computer-assisted anesthetic delivery device
  • Discussion of the various computer-aided and voice-activated restorative and periodontal charting systems
  • Identification of the various types of oral cancer screening devices and their roles in dental hygiene care
  • Examination of the benefits of laser fluorescence caries-detection devices
  • Discussion of the benefits of magnification and illumination in dental hygiene

Throughout the program, Cathy discusses ways that technology can be incorporated into hygiene practice even in the smallest of ways. She also includes questions that should be addressed when purchasing new technology products.

As council chair of the California Dental Hygienists' Association, Cathy has maintained the association's Web site for the past five years. She works alongside the webmaster and maintains the CDHA site by providing him with site content. Cathy began presenting "High Tech" about four years ago when she was asked to give a CE program for a local component. At the time, her office had just moved to a new, state-of-the-art office with both digital radiography and electronic patient records. As a result, Cathy wanted to inform others about the pitfalls and successes that technology had presented for them.

In addition to "High Tech," Cathy presents programs on dental implants. She feels that implant therapy is an important option for patients who need replacement of missing teeth. As hygienists, understanding the complexities of dental implant therapies can go a long way in enhancing a practice's ability to grow and retain patient populations. The entire dental team can benefit from attending a continuing education program on implants. Cathy discusses basic implant design and components, hard and soft tissue interfaces, the differences between teeth and implants, factors that contribute to implant failure, and maintenance procedures both from a professional and patient standpoint.

Whether presenting the "High Tech," implant, international hygiene or dentin hypersensitivity programs, Cathy describes her style as a combination of staying behind the podium and moving around the front of the audience. She likes to combine her own experiences with the audience's engagement from their clinical practice. She is first a hygiene educator, so her courses have science and research as a foundation.

Cathy is a 1975 graduate of Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, and received her master's in dental hygiene degree from the University of Michigan. She has been presenting continuing education programs since the mid-1980s, when she gave her first program in Munich, Germany, as part of a dental seminar presented in German with esteemed periodontist and researcher Sigrud Ramfjord. Cathy has been active in ADHA, CDHA and her local component since she returned to the United States in the 1980s. She is a past president of CDHA and in 2005 was one of the recipients of the Sunstar Butler Awards of Distinction. In addition to clinical practice, she has written for a number of dental hygiene publications and is an adjunct faculty member at Foothill College.

Outside of hygiene, Cathy is passionate about her family (she has four sons), traveling, reading, cooking, and skiing.

She is also extremely passionate about patient education. She has been a library reference associate at the Stanford Hospital Health Library for more than 13 years. In this capacity, she assists patients and their families in accessing health information. As a mother of a son diagnosed with renal disease and as his living related kidney donor, Cathy understands the first-hand experiences of facing a life-threatening disease and needing scientifically based information in order to make educated decisions about one's health care. Drawing on her experiences as a reference associate, she includes using electronic references and resources in her programs. She finds working in the health library rewarding, and feels that if she were not a hygienist, she would have gone into nursing or become a medical reference librarian.

Dental hygiene has been and continues to be a fulfilling career for Cathy. She strives to stay as informed and involved as if she were a new graduate. The interest and excitement expressed by a new graduate can be rekindled in even the most seasoned professional. Using technology to enhance dental hygiene practice can be a way to accomplish that.

For more information about Cathy's programs, contact: [email protected].

About the Author

Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene, member of ADHA and other professional associations. Ann-Marie presents continuing-education programs for hygienists and dental team members and has written numerous articles on a variety of topics. She can be reached at [email protected].