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Tucked away for the night after a long day in the exhibit hall at the American Dental Hygienists’ Association 94th Annual Conference, the purple prophy queen (a giant Vera prophy angle from Young Dental), gets her beauty sleep. (Photo: Young Dental)
0 Comments Aug 9, 2017 | News USA

A hygienist’s observations from the ADHA meeting in the ‘City of Bridges’

Post a comment by Patricia Walsh, RDH, Editor in Chief, Hygiene Tribune

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., USA: Once upon a time, in the land of bridges and crowns, a purple-cloaked prophy queen reigned over her happy subjects. So beloved was she that her ladies in waiting tucked her into bed each night at the Hyatt Regency. Now it had to be the Regency, didn’t it? A plain old ordinary Hyatt would not befit the queen of hygiene, especially during the American Dental Hygienists’ Association 94th Annual Conference.

In addition to attracting the prophy queen (a giant Vera prophy angle, adorned with a tiara and holding court in the Young Dental booth), to this “City of Bridges,” the conference brought together dental hygienists from throughout the country to the Prime Osborn Convention Center, June 14–17, to “learn, engage and advance.”

Change is in the air

Many of the lectures I attended were peppered with comments that reflected the hope that someday every state would allow a form of advanced dental hygiene to be practiced. The discussions about hygienists as midlevel providers strengthened my backbone. With the advancement of real-time teledentistry, the “supervised-exam” argument falls by the wayside. And now that our existing midlevel providers have been practicing for a decade, proponents can point to treatment statistics to document the exact number of patients served with no “hospitalizations and/or deaths.” It’s no longer a fairytale. The value of midlevel providers can be quantified with facts and figures.

Jennifer Berge, ADT, RDH, described to attendees exactly what it is like to serve patients within this increased scope of practice. At Healthfinders Collaborative in Northfield and Faribault, Minn. (healthfindersmn.org), she is empowered to perform certain restorative procedures. Her experience confirms that oral health-care services will expand and modernize not just through advancements in technology, but also through increased access to high-quality care from by capable providers.

Following are a few more observations from Jacksonville about our evolving profession and its dedicated practitioners:

  • As science advances, so will dental-hygiene career opportunities. Personalized, preventive care is becoming more precise. At the forefront are scientists such as David Wong, DMD, DMSc, associate dean for research at the UCLA School of Dentistry, who believes saliva is the body’s mirror. His team at UCLA is at the forefront of using saliva as a diagnostic medium enabling early identification of wide variety of health issues. (Scientificamerican.com/products/the-future-of-oral-health/#)
  • Health-care providers know that creative approaches are often needed to achieve patient compliance. Scientific facts might resonate with an engineer, but an artistic personality might gravitate more toward natural products. Hygienists need adaptability and constant education to know which trends are delivering legitimate results and which are quackery. Two notable alternative products that fall on the legitimate side are the PerioPatch from Izun Pharmaceuticals, designed to relieve symptoms of inflammation, and a mouthwash from The Natural Dentist, formulated with no alcohol and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
  • How many times have you said the following to a patient? “It’s a dental office, we have to make our own fun.” Hygienists may not have a fine arts degree, but many of us possess a great deal of creativity. Who hasn’t used a posterior curette on an anterior tooth with 4 mm of lingual root exposure?
  • I love the fact that there is always a line at the booth giving away penguin prophy angles. Or is it a puffin? I’ve never really been sure.
  • A stone’s throw from the penguin/puffin, someone was having a discussion about the arginine in Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Desensitizing Paste — and where the amino acid also is found in our diet (pistachios, peanuts, turkey, to name a few foods). Our knowledge base and ability to cross-reference not only help us live better lives they also make dental appointments a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
  • On the exhibit-hall floor, a few hygienists were joyously contemplating how to blast subgingival biofilm with HuFriedy glycine. “Have you ever felt glycine? It’s super soft,” one hygienist said to another. The two oohed and ahhed as they rubbed it between their fingertips.
  • While my Planmeca-sponsored course focused on taking a digital impression of a crown prep, the hygienist next to me nodded in immediate approval from an alternative perspective, pronouncing, “Night guards. We do a lot of night guards. Yep, this is the way to go.”
  • The CAD/CAM manufacturers are starting to take notice of who will be taking digital impressions in the future. The wands are being offered in sizes to better fit the range of hand sizes among hygienists and assistants.
  • If you’re a lousy photographer with decent photo-editing abilities, you might soon find yourself becoming the top crown designer in your office. In states where the dental-auxiliary job market is highly competitive, learning CAD/CAM software could give you an edge.
  • It doesn’t take too long to see which corporations recognize and value hygienists as key opinion leaders. It’s not so much in the trinkets they give away; it’s in the attitude of their sales reps and the content of their lectures.
  • Laurie Hernandez, one of the meeting’s keynote speakers, greeted attendees with, “Hello smile makers and confidence boosters!” She is a volcano of positivity. Anyone who didn’t leave her talk inspired must not have a pulse. At 15, she overcame broken bones to go on to become a U.S. Olympic gymnastics gold and silver medalist. The audience also was treated to great stories about her becoming a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. Hernandez readily acknowledged that she talks to herself prior to a routine. During the Olympics, the media caught her saying her affirmation — “I got this” — and it’s become her catch phrase. Have you ever noticed when a gymnast lands at the end of a routine, it’s with that frozen, ballet-like backward hand pose? I was so fired up after hearing her stories, I imagined myself finishing a patient and then taking that flipped wrist pose in the hallway.

I’ve been known to clench my teeth and mutter under my facemask from time to time — usually at 4 p.m., when I’m tired. But I can’t remember ever saying, in an affirmative way: “I got this!”

I plan to change that.


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