National Dental Hygiene Month: Education is our calling

Every October, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) celebrates our profession with National Dental Hygiene Month (NDHM), sponsored by Colgate for the fourth consecutive year. Week two focuses on education, which inspires us to be better, brighter, and more everyday extraordinary for the patients we serve, and for ourselves.

Education is part of dental hygienists’ calling across all career roles from clinicians, researchers, educators, entrepreneurs, and administrators to those hygienists in public health and corporate roles. Each day, passionate, hardworking dental hygienists educate patients, students, communities, legislative representatives, and stakeholders about the benefits of good, daily oral hygiene while also advocating to work to the fullest scope of their practice and to ensure access to care for all patients.

Dental hygiene clinicians educate patients every day on oral hygiene, oral cancer risks, and offer nutritional counseling. As researchers and educators, we seek out evidence and we prepare our students to be ready to enter the workforce and to be strong advocates for their patients and the profession. Public health preventive specialists practice in a variety of settings to enable and improve access to care and to ensure equitable oral and overall health care. In the career roles of corporate, administrator, and entrepreneur, dental hygienists are business leaders, innovating the future and improving management systems. But to be successful in any of these roles and to achieve our goals, we also need to keep educating ourselves.

Part 1 in this series: A time for career innovation

Dental hygienists are lifelong learners. We must actively seek out continuing education beyond fulfilling our licensure renewal, and here’s why:

  1. Career growth. By broadening our knowledge base and skills, we expand our roles and our ability to seek out, pursue, and transition into new career opportunities.
  2. Deliver best care. The science of our profession continues to advance and the more informed we are of new evidence, research, techniques, and technology, the better we can support and educate our patients, students, and stakeholders.
  3. Medical-dental connections. As evidence unequivocally ties oral health to overall health, a keen understanding of that connection allows for better care collaboration, decision-making, and patient outcomes.
  4. Professional confidence. A thorough understanding of current issues and developments in your field allows you to approach your role with a confidence that not only fulfills you personally to enjoy what you do, but also communicates your professionalism and marketability to your patients, peers, and colleagues.

The free events during National Dental Hygiene Month are fantastic education opportunities you should not miss!

My ADHA leadership journey began in dental hygiene school at West Liberty University as an ADHA student chapter president, 39 years ago. It was my educators who gave me a foundation, mentored me, and inspired my passion as a lifelong learner and advocate to get involved. Today, I am proud to be a full-time educator with the privilege of inspiring the next generation of everyday extraordinary professionals and industry leaders.

I encourage my students and mentees to take the next step beyond their ASDH degree to earn their BSDH, MSDH, and even doctoral degrees. In fact, the application period for scholarships offered through the Institute for Oral Health Foundation to help with education costs is open now! While I know that advanced degrees aren’t the path for everyone, continuing education is an important part of everyone’s path. Stay informed, keep learning, stay curious, and step outside of your comfort zone to go further as one of our finest everyday extraordinary dental hygienists.

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