When and how did you decide to pursue dental hygiene as a career?
In high school, I worked at a dental office as a receptionist. I enjoyed the position except for collecting money. After high school, I needed a full-time job and decided to go into dental assisting.
In those days, dental assistants were trained on the job. My experiences were outstanding. The dental assisting position was so exciting and made me the professional I am today. I was blessed to have worked with many advanced professionals. The dentist I worked with provided every possible dental service. He always expanded his education, attending the Pankey Institute for many advanced dental courses. He provided blade implants in the 70s.
As I gained experience, I wanted more, I needed to get into the mouth. Staying outside the mouth with temporary crowns, impressions were not enough for me. I have been a dental hygienist now for a wonderful 32-1/2 years.
Why did you decide to branch out beyond clinical chairside practice?
I always felt there was more to dental hygiene. My schedule was seeing 8-9 patients a day: medical history, blood pressure, scale, polish, scale, polish. That gets old even on the best patient. I felt I could do more for patients and help other hygienists.
Speaking started because of my concern about the increase of oral cancer. We dental professionals were not finding oral cancer early enough to save lives. It really bothered me. Oral cancer screenings are so easy, a basic skill that we all learned in school. So, my first speaking engagement was titled, "Discoveries Beyond the Naked Eye." The program included interaction with hands-on oral cancer screenings with attendees. Many of us have different learning talents. All my programs include hands-on components. I believe in learning by touching, seeing, hearing.
What sparked your interest in infection control in particular?
As a newbie dental hygienist, I wanted all the experience I could receive. My experience as a substitute hygienist was an eye-opener. I was in shock! The offices I was asked to work at were very scary. I saw a need in the dental community to assist in organizing for better time management, cleaning, bagging, and sterilizing instruments that had been ignored. Turning ideas into reality is how "U"nique Dental Organizational Services was created 20 years ago.
Please describe the services you provide through "U"nique Dental Organizational Services?
My business takes me across the country keeping dental teams up-to-date on OSHA standards and CDC infection control policies. This reduces the dentist/employer liability. Many doctors are unaware of the annual in-office training required by the federal government. Some doctors have found out the hard way; it is less expensive to have the training in their office than the bad reputation and fines.
I offer OSHA Training Boot Camp, a creative, fun way to learn health and safety. We have a great time while updating safety protocol. Boot Camp leads offices that have never had training to confidence in the correct protocol. OSHA Training Boot Camp is unique because I am not a talking head?everyone gets involved.
Dentistry has changed and is still changing; the dental team must keep up with technology and infection prevention. Not only is dentistry changing, but the environment and the pathogens in the community have expanded to include bugs we never thought could attach to us. We must keep up and take seriously recommendations from the CDC and a variety of other regulatory agencies.
What types of questions to most frequently get from course participants?
Frequently, I receive questions from hygienists and assistants on product selection, or protocol on sterilization and many other infection prevention techniques. Waterlines are a hot topic right now. A woman in Italy died from dental unit waterlines after visiting her dentist twice for treatment. Waterline maintenance is on the minds of many dental professionals.
I also get questions on how to seal a sterilization pouch correctly. I have seen many pouches that have been sealed incorrectly, i.e. overlapping the perforated line over the pouch itself or leaving openings on the ends allowing bacteria to enter the pouch after sterilization. Please close the pouch via the perforated line firmly, straight with a tight seal on the ends. Why waste time and money with incorrect sealing of pouches?
Professionally, what are you most passionate about?
Although I feel lifelong education is valuable and important, attending continuing education courses can be time consuming and costly. There are a variety of ways for dental professionals to receive their CE?s for licensure. Across the country, dental hygiene components offer local programs to make it easier for hygienists to attend. If hygienists don't support these programs, in time they will go away. Local components need to be supported by their professionals. Hygienists are the ones who lose because the information any speaker is sharing is for the best interest of the professional and their patients. In my eyes it?s all about the patient. Without them, we wouldn't be needed. Professionally, I am most passionate about helping professionals helping patients.
What advice to you have for colleagues and those considering a career in dental hygiene?
Dentistry is not a job, it is a career, a fantastic career for those who like to help others. Advice that I would give practicing hygienists: education, the more the better. And for those interested in getting involved in teaching/lecturing, speak from your heart and your passion.
For those that are interested in pursuing a dental hygiene career, seek out all employment information. Currently, there is an overabundance of dental hygienists and a shortage of dentists. Go one step farther and go into dentistry as a dentist.
If hygiene is your goal have a back-up, expand your education in another direction so you always can fall back on another career. Many states allow hygienist?s to work on their own and/or own their own practice. If you wish to be a hygiene entrepreneur, do it. Don't let anyone step in your way. Find a mentor as they will help you through thick or thin. The world is changing and business knowledge is always important to have in any career.
As my clinical career has slowed down, I find myself discovering new products with new adventures: lasers, 3D radiographs, products to prevent cavitations and remineralize enamel. Dentistry has never had so many products for the best interest of the patient. Practices need to jump on board with technology and minimially invasive dentistry or they will be left in the dust. Patients seek out cutting-edge dentists and hygienists. I have enjoyed my career and hope to continue enjoying what I do best.
I'll be conducting a 1-hour FREE webinar on ?Dissecting Your Disinfectant? on Thursday, April 4, 2013. Register on my website.