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Q&A: Jill G. Hutchinson, RDH

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Jill G. Hutchinson is the MI Specialist for GC America. Jill graduated from Old Dominion University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Dental Hygiene. Throughout her career, she has practiced in periodontal, pediatric, and general dentistry practices. Jill was adjunct faculty at Virginia Western Community College in their dental hygiene program where she taught community dentistry, radiology, and clinical hygiene. Jill has been on the Editorial Board of THE DENTAL ADVISOR and was Director for 12 years.

She developed product evaluation protocols, research proposals and has authored numerous articles in several of their publications. As a technical sales representative and Lead Clinical Specialist, Jill has worked with dental practices and laboratories with the education and integration of CAD/CAM technology and shade determination and communication.

Q: How and why did you decide to expand your professional activities beyond the operatory and clinical practice?

A: Education has been at the heart of my professional career as a dental hygienist. In addition to educating patients in clinical practice, I furthered my career and my love for educating to teaching dental hygiene students. Now, my greatest joy and fulfillment comes with speaking to my fellow colleagues and peers in my current role as an MI Specialist clinical educator for GC America.

Q: In your role as lecturer/educator, what is your favorite topic to tackle and why? What?s the most important thing YOU have learned while educating other dental hygienist?

A: I absolutely love to speak on what I call the missing link, or the "susceptible host" in the caries disease process. We know that the cause of dental caries is multifactorial. We can't always blame plaque or sugar as the culprits, especially when the patient is compliant. We have to look a little further when it is not so obvious as to why a patient may be getting new incipient lesions. Oftentimes, this can be frustrating for both the patient and clinician when oral hygiene is impeccable, and the patient does not eat a diet high in fermentable carbohydrates. The key factor, which may be overlooked, is what MI (minimally invasive) dentistry is sometimes referred to as, the modern "medical" connection to the management of decay. The mouth is a mirror of the patient's overall health, and we need to educate our patients that the head is connected to the rest of the body!

The most important thing I have learned is that at different periods in our life, we may be more susceptible to caries and that the medical history is key. Medications and underlying disease processes that cause dry mouth present a challenge to both adults and children nowadays. A patient with xerostomia is an extreme high risk patient, regardless of their age.

Q: Since becoming involved in the discipline of dental hygiene, could you name the three top advancements/innovations that have impacted your professional life or the practice in general?

A: 1. Salivary Diagnostics - We now have quick (10-15 minutes) and very easy ways (only a few simple steps) to test patients chairside for strep mutans as well as the pH and buffering capacity of their saliva when we are doing our caries risk assessment. The resting pH can often be an eye-opener, and within 10 seconds it may unlock the mystery as to why the patient may be getting new carious lesions because of an internal medical condition that is causing their saliva to be more acidic and their teeth to demineralize.

  2. Caries Detection Devices - In addition to visual and radiographic assessment of incipient lesions, caries detection devices now help us to discern quantitatively the loss of tooth structure without tactile exploration. In addition, they also can demonstrate when the crystalline structure has remineralized and the lesion has begun to heal.

3. Remineralization Therapeutics - We have all-natural calcium and phosphate supplements that we can now recommend to patients for homecare use to diminish demineralization. These products work with fluoride (MI Varnish) and enhance its uptake. CPP-ACP technology (MI Paste) in particular has substantivity, and will remain bioactive in the mouth for 3+ hours, buffering and neutralizing plaque acidity, and providing long-lasting relief for sensitivity and dry mouth. It can also be used esthetically to treat fluorosis or developmental lesions.

Q: What is your message to fellow hygienists about their role in early caries detection, remineralization, and other minimally invasive and preventive strategies for caries management? What activities/initiatives have you been involved with to spread this message?

A: I think Esther Wilkins said it best when she recommended that you be sharp with your eyes and not your instruments! Utilize caries detection devices  to help you identify and evaluate incipient lesions in their earliest stages. Early intervention and the healing and remineralization of lesions is powerful! When we see suspicious lesions, instead of watching and waiting, and letting our patients leave with the feeling that a cavity is inevitable, we have to empower them with the ability to heal and reverse these watch areas. It is important to remember that when we see our patients at their recare appointments, it is a snapshot in time. We want to do everything we can for them chairside, but the best dentistry is what is done everyday at home. As "Prevention Specialists," we have to continually educate our patients, reinforce preventive practices and also recommend the latest technologies and therapeutic agents that are specific to their individual needs. In so doing, we can now confidently say to our patients that we have the technology, and that we will watch this area and wait for healing to take place!

It is an exciting time to be a dental hygienist! We are seeing a shift back towards prevention with our economy and government. And, when we talk about MI dentistry and the medical connection, the focus is now on oral health and wellness. I have attended conferences and have spoken to Sjogren's Syndrome support groups as well as to the entire oral rehabilitation team at hospitals and medical centers educating them on the care of the oral cavity for their radiation and oncology patients. We simply cannot do enough to help these patients. I am proud that in my role as a dental hygienist, I can help them to eat well, feel well, and live well by enhancing their quality of life.

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