The magic of interaction: Dental conferences introduce professionals to inspiration

Nov. 19, 2015
Dental conferences introduce professionals to inspiration

By Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA

Attention was immediately sparked when the keynote speaker addressed the need for each of us to challenge our perspectives. Questioning old assumptions is key to creative thinking, and Mike Rayburn nailed the topic in an entertaining way. His thought-provoking delivery drove home the need for "different thinking" in businesses today. This presentation was particularly affirming for me, as I have been writing on disrupting old patterns of thinking to enhance creative thinking for more than two years. I came away from this plenary session with a renewed vigor towards my motto-creating tomorrow today!

Another expanding encounter occurred during an early morning swim, where I noticed a woman diligently doing her fitness laps. Already we held common aquatic interests, and because we were the only two water rats, it wasn't hard to strike up a conversation. I discovered that she, too, was a hygienist and would be attending a seminar that was of much interest to me. But, due to a conflict, I would be unable to attend the course.


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Our conversation was rich and meaningful. Later, when we ran into each other in the exhibit hall, although she didn't initially recognize me (make-up and hair styling do wonders), we exchanged business cards. We have since connected and shared information, ideas, and viewpoints about a subject of great personal interest to me-abuse. Statistics claim that one in four women are in abusive relationships.1 Earlier in my life, I was one of the statistics. This unconventional networking opportunity has proven to be priceless.

As an innovation architect (or perhaps junkie), I love learning about new research. Through networking, I learned of many developments, with one improvement being low temperature atmospheric pressure plasma (LTAPP). This advancement has the ability to change dental intervention, preparations, and sterilization. It sounds"too good to be true," but the science supports its claim and, in the future, it will likely be in all dental offices.

Benefits of networking at conferences

1. Continuing education: Learn about best practices
2. Learn about new innovations: Learn about new technology and services
3. Challenge old assumptions: Question the status quo
4. Hear both expert and non-expert advice: Learn from everyone
5. Learn about new research: See what is coming down the pipe
6. Create relationships: Connect in real time to others in your field
7. Develop critical thinking: Develop your ability to discern fact from fallacy
8. Have fun!

During the conference, other researchers enlightened me on the use of charcoal (yes, charcoal) to potentially whiten teeth and promote healing. Of particular interest was the critical thinking stimulated around the HPV vaccine. The conversation with the researchers was fact filled and thought provoking. As a disease prevention specialist, should a dental hygienist recommend this vaccine?

Networking can happen anywhere, and the opportunity to learn from others is sometimes in the most unexpected places. One evening, while taking shelter from a torrential rainstorm, an engaging conversation was sparked. Three of the four people seeking cover were attending the conference and naturally the conversation turned to dentistry. I was amazed to learn of a product used to arrest and restore incipient decay, such as gumline decalcification. This product, ICON (DMG America), also addresses the esthetics of teeth caused by mild to moderate fluorosis, mottled enamel, and the all too common unsightly white spots (demineralized) once ortho is completed. The best part is that it requires no drilling or anesthetic.

Conferences offer the ability to discover tried-and-true practical techniques from colleagues as well. One hygienist shared that she paints fluoride on teeth versus use of the tray 100% of the time. She feels that she can control the flow of the fluoride into nooks and crannies while helping to prevent patients from getting sick. Another strategy shared was texting the doctor in an ortho practice. Whenever patients are ready for a check, the hygienist simply texts the doctor and he makes the rounds according to the cue. Great thinking! The doctor is not being interrupted and yet knows where to go. From a humorous point of view, I can see one improvement of this device might be to add a "give shock" feature. There are days when tired doctors need an extra jolt!

An expanding conversation about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurred at a students' booth. Because I have a relative who suffers with PTSD, I know of his mental anguish and the stress felt by his entire family. The young women running the booth were bright, pleasant, and caring, and the dialogue was rich and informative. With PTSD on the rise, health professionals need to recognize the signs and symptoms of the disorder. This will enable dental personnel to deliver nonthreatening care to those who suffer with this disabling condition.

It is always nice to put faces to names, and a meeting with the advisory committee for the 2016 RDH Under One Roof conference gave me that opportunity. The meeting was productive and pleasant, full of creative ideas. I witnessed collaboration by the team and appreciated a skilled leader running an effective meeting.

Additionally, I also finally met the president and executive director of the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA). As a resident of Canada, the CDHA is my governing body, even though I received my education in the United States. Meeting with hygiene leaders from both the U.S. and Canada has given me much hope and confidence about the future of hygiene. These leaders are committed and capable with a mandate to advance dental hygiene. The fact that they are addressing social needs as it relates to dentistry, such as PTSD and abuse, give witness to the progressiveness of these organizations. I see only positive results given the collaboration between hygiene leaders of these two great countries.

And, of course, there was the networking at Tootsie's, a renowned Nashville bar. The live music any time of day was perfect. My husband had all the entertainment he needed to keep him happy as I attended the conference. After my day, I would happily join him for a different kind of memorable networking!

Conferences offer the occasion for people to convene in real time. Although there are benefits to connecting via social media, there is nothing like meeting someone in person. The ability to touch another human being, either through a handshake or a hug, to catch the sparkle of their eye and get a sense of their energy while sharing information is the most magical part about conferences. Liaisons, alliances, and even friendships are born at these events. For these reasons, conferences will not go out of style. I, for one, am happy about that! RDH



Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA, is an innovation architect, facilitating strategy sessions and forums to orchestrate change in both the dental and corporate worlds. As an international speaker and writer, Dorothy trains others to broaden their skill-set to include creativity, collaborative innovation and forward thinking. She recognizes that engagement is the outcome when the mechanisms are put in place to drive new innovations. Connect with her at [email protected].