Summer plans

March 1, 2006
I have an idea for you. It’s March, and maybe it’s time to expend a few brain cells to think about what you’re going to do this summer.

I have an idea for you. It’s March, and maybe it’s time to expend a few brain cells to think about what you’re going to do this summer. The four bastions of “independent” dental hygiene practice remain California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Washington state. All four states, of course, are very hospitable to tourists under normal circumstances.

Read Lynne Slim’s article on page 18 in this issue, and envision yourself behind the steering wheel. She visited an “independent” dental hygienist while attending a dental meeting in Colorado. Sounds like a plan, and you can tell she enjoyed it. But I would go a step further and encourage you to accompany your family out to one of those Western states. On about the fourth or fifth day, stand up, stretch and yawn, and declare, “While you guys are hiking today, I’m going to drive over and visit somebody I know down the road apiece.”

Enjoy the scenic drive, and then, wham, you’re face to face with someone who’s doing exactly what you have thought about doing from time to time: owning your business and doing what you do best. Not some secondary hobby that you’re trying to eke out a little extra profit on. Dental hygiene. You’re in this elite group of people on the planet who can do this very well. I’m not here to preach a revolution or anything, but, you know, wouldn’t that be a nice vacation? Visiting a dental hygienist who’s out on his or her own?

This column is not long enough to list every independent dental hygiene practitioner there is in the above states. Thinking about Disneyland? Write the California DHA and ask if you can contact someone down in Southern California. The Rocky Mountains? The New Mexico and Colorado associations would surely be friendly to touring hygienists from other states. You can’t get a full grasp of how beautiful Seattle is unless you actually visit the city. Pictures in a brochure don’t do the city justice. Contact the Washington DHA while looking at Mount Rainier out the hotel window.

Before I get into trouble with residents of those states, I should point out that I’m not suggesting that you permanently unpack your suitcase upon arrival. You are a visitor. What you should be doing is reinforcing your inspiration to do something similar in your hometown.

The ADHA ( has a comprehensive set of links to state dental hygiene associations on its Web site, if you need a quick way to contact the officials working in Colorado, California, New Mexico, Washington, or any other state that has relaxed practice act restrictions.

Speaking of the ADHA, I personally like Chicago. Get inside the “Loop,” and you can spend a very pleasant week shopping, gazing at the exhibits in museums, etc. On about the fourth or fifth day, stretch and declare, “While you go get some ice cream, I think I’m going to run down to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association for a couple of hours.”

Why not? If you have been paying attention to the news, the national association has made some headway during the past year on its initiative to prepare for the future of the profession. But this thing can still fizzle. The association needs the support of dental hygienists who are “aware” of the association’s goals. You can, of course, disagree with any of those objectives. The point is to offer your input as a honest-to-goodness member of the profession. Why not do it during a vacation?

Of course, I will be in Las Vegas for a “working vacation” during RDH’s Under One Roof conference on July 26-28. When we developed the agenda for the conference, we knew we wanted one of California’s “independent” practitioners to come over and speak. So we invited Judy Boothby, one of the state’s pioneering RDHAPs. Her seminar from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday, July 28, is an excellent opportunity to listen to a firsthand account of someone who went out on her own. One of her stated goals with the course is to dispel the “myth” that dental hygienists cannot make a living in an alternative practice setting.

It should be an interesting course, and you can find out more about Under One Roof at

Happy planning for a delightful vacation season!