Navigating New Opportunities Dental Convention

Author: Cheri Lindstrom, RDH

If you are interested in the profession of dental hygiene, I want you to know you have many options in North Carolina. As a dental hygienist, you may end up working in a traditional dental office, or you may end up working in Public Health. You may work for Crest or Colgate in the research and development industry, or as a Professional Educator teaching at one of the 13 accredited schools in North Carolina. You can attain an Associate, Bachelor, or a Master’s degree, or even a PhD in research or in Professional Practice if you wished, but with every licensure you maintain, education never stops.

As hygienists, we are required to continue our education each year with at a minimum, 6 hours of class. I am thankful to work for a provider like Dr. Dickerhoff who understands that lifelong learning is imperative in the ever-changing world of dentistry. Most often going way beyond the 6-hour minimum. Being a part of the North Carolina Dental Hygienist Association is one way we can access education. The NCDHA also works to change laws in our state to provide better access to care and programs to help the community.

Over the weekend of September 28-30, 2018, North Carolina Dental Hygienists Association held their first annual meeting “Navigating New Opportunities” conference at the Durham Convention Center in Durham, NC. I was fortunate to be able to participate as one of the delegates for the Greater Fayetteville Dental Hygienists’ component along with 13 other components from around the state. It was three days of learning more about the complex field of dental hygiene, exploring cutting edge products to enrich our patients dental care, and opportunities to network with other hygienists from all over the state.

One of the benefits of meetings like these are the opportunities to hear lectures from leaders in our community. Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH was just one of the speakers, and her lecture was “Exploring the Oral Micro-biome Disease”. Biofilm, the thin, slimy film of bacteria that adheres to surfaces found in the mouth, is a complex layer of active bacteria that is linked to cardiovascular disease, pancreatic and colorectal cancer, macular degeneration, low term birth-weight, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, along with other diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and respiratory tract infections. As a hygienist, part of our job is to disrupt this biofilm to reduce oral disease. She discussed using subgingival biofilm disruption with an Air Powder Polisher (which we already use in our office), use of high fluoride toothpastes (we provide these as prescription strength fluoride toothpastes) and a natural toothpaste with arginine that can be purchased over the counter. Arginine is a natural amino acid that cause bacteria to excrete ammonia as it raises the mouth pH causing a bacterial shift that inhibits adhesion of the bacterial layers of biofilm, meaning it kills the bad bacteria! Eating a chocolate with arginine called Basic Bites after meals works the same way and it tastes good! She mentioned another product, silver diamide fluoride (SDF). It is a natural antibacterial solution used for hypersensitivity relief and is anticariogenic and we are already using it in our office!

Tom Viola, a board-certified Pharmacist, led the lecture on prescription medications, vitamins and supplements and how these can impact our patients care in our office. Patients who take supplements may not realize these can create complications in the dental office and may not disclose them, thinking its “just a supplement and doesn’t matter”, but it does! Chamomile, Dong Quai, Garlic, Black Cohosh, Horse Chesnut all influence bleeding which can cause an interaction with dental treatment, such as with a tooth extraction. One of the more common supplements, St. John’s Wart, which helps with depression, has more drug interactions that most drugs, including photosensitivity, and can affect the way the body reacts to local and general anesthesia. Disclosing your medication list to your dental professional is a necessary part for every dental visit and will help us treat you in the safest manner.

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C. based journalist spoke about her book, “Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America”. Mary was directly impacted by the story of a child, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, who was living in Maryland, had dental care coverage by Medicaid but lacked opportunity and access to dental care. He died from a dental infection that spread to his brain. This child’s death caused Mary to research and ask questions– how could this happen? How could this child who was able to have dental care not receive the necessary dental treatment? She found a lack of available offices, dental professionals, and transportation, led to an untreated dental infection spreading to Deamonte’s brain causing death. This was the catalyst for what was a major shift, not just in Maryland. After her story broke, there was an investigation, which created congressional hearings that changed Maryland’s Medicaid dental system and caused attention to be focused on children nationwide and the overall lack of dental care providers.

As hygienists, we don’t just “clean teeth”. We are your dental professionals and are here to help you maintain your over-all health. Your mouth is the gate-way to the rest of your body! Treat it well!