Our history in CE

March 1, 2013
As we celebrate 100 years of dental hygiene through various articles and columns this year in RDH magazine, I have the privilege to spotlight the role of continuing education in the history of our profession.


As we celebrate 100 years of dental hygiene through various articles and columns this year in RDH magazine, I have the privilege to spotlight the role of continuing education in the history of our profession.

In doing research for this column, I reviewed information from the American Dental Hygienists' Association 75th Anniversary Scrapbook by Wilma E. Motley. Most of the activities of the national and state associations in the early to mid-1900s centered on establishing accredited dental hygiene programs, and how long these dental hygiene education programs should be.

Dr. Alfred C. Fones, the "Father of Dental Hygiene," began his educational program with 33 students in November of 1913, and 27 graduated in June 1914. These pioneering women founded the Connecticut Dental Hygienists' Association, whose purpose was to "educate the public in and to advance the cause of mouth hygiene for the mutual improvement of its members and to assist as far as lies within its power in the prevention of disease."

Other states that had dental hygiene education programs, including Massachusetts, New York, and California, discussed the need for a national organization, and the first American Dental Hygienists' Association meeting was held in September 1923. Although these first meetings were geared toward organizational issues, concerns over standardization of educational requirements and other performance measures were discussed. Programs varied from nine months to one year, and educators felt more time was needed to cover all topics appropriately. Early association meetings centered on these and other basic organizational and educational issues. In 1931, a table clinic presentation was included on the program as an educational component.

In 1927, two schools offered summer postgraduate dental hygiene courses, the University of Buffalo and the Forsyth Dental Infirmary. From these humble continuing education beginnings, it took another 40 years for the ADHA House of Delegates to adopt a policy promoting the development of quality continuing education programs in 1967. With the institution of this ADHA continuing education policy, many felt it should be required of dental hygienists to participate in continuing education to help ensure practitioners' competency as the practice of dental hygiene evolved.

With that, according to the ADHA, Minnesota implemented continuing education in 1969. In 1972, two continuing education programs were offered at the ADHA annual session. Over the next several years, guidelines were reviewed, and in 1974, Minnesota and Kansas required a stated number of hours of continuing education for relicensure, and other states soon followed. States were beginning to require approved continuing education courses for relicensure, with movements in many areas toward more expanded functions for dental hygienists.

For example, one course included a self-assessment test to determine an individual's strengths and weaknesses, while providing ways to improve. Print and tape recorded courses with posttests to be returned to a sponsor for credit were also offered. In the mid-1970s, the ADHA instituted a continuing education registry that served as a repository for members to track their CE credits, and it also approved and provided continuing education courses. After a few years, however, due to budgetary restraints, the program was dissolved.

I am licensed in Massachusetts only, and I can remember taking continuing education courses throughout my career. I felt attending CE was a responsibility of being a dental hygienist, but it wasn't until 1982 that it was required by the state for relicensure. Many other states have implemented mandatory CE from the mid-1970s through 2006. All states require some form of mandatory continuing education for dentists and dental hygienists. State-specific special course requirements such as infection control, CPR, ethics, elder/child abuse, or advanced courses for public health hygiene practice can also be mandated.

Self-study courses are encouraged, but with the advent of webbased technology, many states limit the number of credits that can be obtained via self-study or online and require "live" continuing education courses for a portion of the required credits. Many states call for the approved courses to be directly related to the practice of dental hygiene, and will allow only a small percentage of nonhygiene but dentally related topics for relicensure.

Continuing education programs have evolved from strictly lecture-based formats to more hands-on and adult-learning centered formats. There are still many lecture-based programs, but there is a move toward more activity-based and hands-on learning. As the practice of dentistry and dental hygiene has evolved, hands-on courses delve into the real world of the profession while allowing practitioners to develop a feel or understanding of procedures or products before using them in practice.

Many organizations provide CE for dental professionals, from the for-profit companies to professional associations. The Academy of General Dentistry, the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Dental Hygiene provide continuing education approval programs. AGD's PACE program (Program Approval for Continuing Education), ADA's CERP (Continuing Education Recognition Program), and AADH's Standards for Continuing Education ensure that continuing education programs meet the highest standards set by each professional association's criteria.

Courses that have earned PACE, CERP, or AADH approval are recognized as exceptional programs in their respective arenas. For dental hygiene, the AADH's standards result in courses that are evaluated relative to content, depth, accuracy, and outcome. This process has been modeled after the AGD's model and has been in existence since the late 1980s. (This author is an AADH-approved course provider.)

The educational needs of dental hygiene have been transformed in the past 100 years. From initial determinations of what the entry level hygienist should know, to more advanced skills and lifelong learning for the professional dental hygienist, continuing education has played a crucial role in our collective development. As defined by Webster, continuing education is a program of classes for the adult learner to update skills and knowledge in a professional field. As dental hygiene moves into its second century, CE will continue to be an important and ever-changing component of the profession's unlimited future. RDH

Editor's Note:The staff at RDH magazine, DentistryIQ.com, and RDHmag.com would like to wish your profession a happy celebration of its 100th anniversary too. In upcoming issues of RDH, one of the magazine's columnists will wish the profession
a happy birthday.

This month, Ann-Marie DePalma continues the celebration. At RDHmag.com, DentistryIQ.com, or on RDH magazine's Facebook page, you will find links to register for prizes given to magazine readers and website visitors. Look for the RDH logo below for a quick link to a game based on this column. Play the game each month to enter a drawing for one of the 100 prizes given away that month. Play the game often to increase your chances of winning the grand prize -- registration, airfare, and three nights of hotel (or cash equivalent) to the RDH Under One Roof conference on Aug. 14-16, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

This month, RDH magazine is sponsoring the prize of 100 bling keychains. So be sure to visit the aforementioned websites, and "like" us on Facebook too for updates about the prizes in upcoming months. Various sponsors in dentistry will be participating with RDH in handing out several hundred prizes through the course of the 100th anniversary.

For a chance to win one of the Bling Key Chains go to http://bit.ly/RDHMarchContest to play the contest.


The March IneedCE.com course, "Preparing for Medical Emergencies in the Dental Office," will receive a 50% discount for a course fee of only $10 (regular price $20) when readers use discount code ANMAR13


A medical emergency is an unexpected, potentially dangerous medical incident. Whether or not an office staff has prepared for this emergency before it happens generally determines how it will turn out. It is extremely important that every member of the dental team understands and is able to perform their roles when the time comes. The team must be thoroughly trained and adequately equipped to treat all medical emergencies as they arise. This course describes the commonly encountered medical emergencies, the procedures associated with the occurrence of medical emergencies, and the timing of the occurrences.
It will stress the right tools (products and equipment), and the right training and practice to deal with everyday medical emergencies. Statistics tell us that medical emergencies are 5.8 times more likely to occur in dental offices than in medical offices. This should not come as a surprise, given the number of patients dentists treat who have significant medical conditions that are not under control, with invasive procedures complicated by a stressful environment where drugs are administered.

Consider reading: Selling to dentists
Consider reading:Managing The EHR
Consider reading:Learning through the written word

1. American Dental Hygienists' Association 75th Anniversary Scrapbook by Wilma E. Motley – accessed online December 2012 at www.adha.org
2. American Academy of Dental Hygiene – Continuing Education – accessed online December 2012 at www.aadh.org
3. American Academy of General Dentistry – PACE Providers – accessed online December 2012 at www.agd.org
4. American Dental Association – CERP – accessed online December 2012 at www.ada.org
5. Webster's Dictionary – accessed online December 2012 at www.merriam-webster.com

"All of life is a constant education." -- Eleanor Roosevelt, The Wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt

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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