A flight plan for dental hygiene

May 1, 2013
When you board an airplane to travel to your next vacation or continuing education course, you place your trust in that the pilot and the rest of the crew have flown the aircraft before.


When you board an airplane to travel to your next vacation or continuing education course, you place your trust in that the pilot and the rest of the crew have flown the aircraft before. The crew knows exactly what to do. In order to maintain the high level of safety for themselves and those they are transporting, the crew will always run through pre-flight checklists. Checklists are needed as airplanes become more complex, and checking off against the lists ensures that everything is in proper working order.

As dental hygiene students, we memorized and incorporated skills and habits that became our checklists to bring into our everyday clinical practice. But over the years, we may have gotten stuck in long-standing beliefs about clinical care that may make us unprepared for new evidence that is identified for use in practice.

By establishing checklists for your office, reminders of key things that often get missed or forgotten, you can develop the most effective flight plan for your patients. But how do you accomplish the task of pre-flight checklists?

Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS, and Judy Bendit, RDH, BS, have done that for you in programs titled, "Flight Plan" and "Flight Plan: Checklists." The "Flight Plan" program is a full three-day concept that combines the best of the lecture, workshop, and product presentation programs to provide a unique educational experience. It consists of participants taking connecting flights as they pilot and navigate a specific topic geared to their needs. Patti and Judy serve as air traffic controllers as participants pilot through topics to be able to:

  • Navigate through the myriad of assessment tools to determine the best tools for your practice
  • Learn to differentiate cancer, salivary, and DNA screening tools, familiarizing patients with the products
  • Investigate caries and periodontal assessment products and become comfortable with their use
  • Use real patient data and formulate treatment plans, using screening tools and risk assessments
  • Evaluate instrument armentarium, including power scalers and handpieces while reviewing ergonomic issues
  • Assess emerging enamel therapies selecting the appropriate modalities based on patient risk assessment
  • Empower seminar participants to use the knowledge in daily practice.

For the three-hour, case-based program, participants are provided with checklists to:

  • Review clinical concepts by using evidence-based dentistry to guide care
  • Investigate risk assessment and diagnostic tools and decide the best instrument armentarium and ergonomic choices
  • Summarize medical necessity narratives to facilitate insurance benefits
  • Tie information together by working with vendors to answer checklist questions
  • Empower participants to use the knowledge in daily practice

The focus of the programs is dental hygiene, but many hygienists have invited their dentist employers in between programs (layovers) to discuss concepts with them. If dentists don't understand the technology, they may not buy into it, and thus miss opportunities to provide their patients with the latest in evidence based care.

Instead of traditional handouts, participants are provided with checklists for all of the concepts that Patti and Judy want participants to walk away with. With vendors' assistance, participants take connecting flights using boarding passes. At the completion of each connecting flight, the captain makes announcements directing them to their next flight. Participants get a "flight bag" to take with them along their journey with the vendors. The program provides unique one-on-one experiences with hands-on activities with each vendor that allows for an exceptional continuing education experience.

The concept first began taking shape when Judy was approached by the Florida Dental Association to provide a full three-day event for hygienists for their state meeting. Judy had worked with Patti previously and contacted her about her interest in being involved. As they began to brainstorm the program, the concept came to them and the ideas flowed freely. They became air traffic controllers and enlisted the services of 52 companies that made the program a huge success. PennWell Publishing thought it was such an "out of the box" idea that they were asked to present the program at the 2012 RDH Under One Roof conference in Las Vegas. From there, as they say, the rest is history, having presented the programs at a number of continuing education venues, including national dental meetings. Participants and vendors have been pleased with the fast, energetic pace of the program, while providing tips and strategies that can be used the next day in clinical practice. The programs allow for a blend of science and technology that allow clinicians to move from thinking of disease treatment to wellness promotion.

Patti and Judy have been continuing education presenters individually for years. They love connecting with hygienists, and the program allows them to achieve those connections at a higher level. They are able to get to know participants and brainstorm individual clinical problems while collaborating with other professionals to implement new ideas into practice. They use real case studies to allow participants to experience the challenges of day-to-day clinical existence. Additionally, Patti has developed another program titled, "Brain Fitness," which delves into the ability of the brain to learn what an organism needs to survive in a changing environment and is also involved in promoting the role of electronic health records (EHR) in dentistry.

They decided to develop a collaborative dental hygiene presentation because one plus one can equal way more than two. Collaborative brainstorming provides a synergy not experienced by solo presentations. The "Flight Plan" is outcomes driven, future focused, but ultimately a fun presentation. Are you ready for your next flight? RDH

For more information about "Flight Plans" contact Patti DiGangi [email protected] or Judy at [email protected].

This month's INeedCE.com

This month's INeedCE.com course is "A Review of Intraoral Radiology." Please use code: ANMAY13 for 50% off the course. The regular tuition is $49 for two CEUs, $24.50 after the discount. The offer is good from May 1st through May 31, 2013.

Course description: Dental professionals today receive information from more sources than ever. It is increasingly difficult to determine how to prioritize information when it comes time to make important practice decisions such as purchasing imaging systems for the modern dental office. This series of articles is intended to provide the dental professional with some basic information regarding modern imaging systems. Specifically, part one of this series is geared towards a review of intraoral digital radiography. In addition to digital radiography, a basic overview is offered regarding the principles of X-ray production; radiation dose and selection criteria; attenuation; and image quality. How these aspects of radiology are meaningful to the dental professional are also discussed. After completing this course, dental professionals should have a better understanding of how intraoral dental radiography systems function and be better equipped to make a decision regarding which intraoral system to purchase.

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].

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