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Dental Hygiene on a Global Scale

What happens when more than 1,000 dental hygiene professionals from over 30 countries gather in Brisbane, Australia?

What happens when more than 1,000 dental hygiene professionals from over 30 countries gather in Brisbane, Australia? The International Symposium on Dental Hygiene (ISDH)! Education, networking, fun, and lasting memories also happen. The meeting took place August 15 to 17, and I was fortunate to attend and present. Sponsored by the International Federation of Dental Hygienists (IFDH) and the Dental Hygienists’ Association of Australia, this was the 21st ISDH and it offered an excellent mix of learning and celebrating. With the overall theme of LEAD (Leadership, Empowerment, Advances, Diversity), continuing education courses covered the gamut of dental hygiene practice. Each course was identified by one of the four descriptors, and I was honored to present a program related to the diversity of patients treated in dental hygiene practice: “Preventive Strategies for a Lifetime of Healthy Smiles.”

Jill Rethman
Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Editor in Chief Jill Rethman, RDH, BA, presented “Preventive Strategies for a Lifetime of Healthy Smiles” at the International Symposium on Dental Hygiene in Brisbane, Australia.

The IFDH’s mission is to bring together dental hygiene associations from around the world to encourage leadership and collaboration. According to its website, “IFDH is the principal advocate for the dental hygiene profession globally, and promotes excellence in oral health, education, research, and practice.”1 Founded in Oslo, Norway, in 1986, initial member countries included Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Currently, 34 countries comprise the IFDH, with the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) being a full association member. This means that any ADHA member can also pay a fee to join the IFDH as an individual member. I’ve been an IFDH member for more than 20 years and it’s been wonderful to watch the evolution of the organization into one of influence and power. Its vision statement indicates the strong focus of the organization: “IFDH is dedicated to enhancing the recognition of the dental hygienist as being the key provider of preventive oral health care worldwide, and ensuring that oral health is integrated as a key aspect of overall health.”1

Along with the fantastic learning opportunities, the meeting offered great fun as well! The opening ceremony is always festive, with entertainment typical of the host country. This year, aboriginal musicians and dancers from Australia kicked off the 3-day meeting with colorful entertainment. And the “Parade of Flags” with each member country marching into the venue proudly holding its flag is a tradition reminiscent of an Olympic ceremony. The must-attend social event of the symposium is the SUNSTAR World Dental Hygienist Award presentation and gala dinner. A generous grant from the SUNSTAR Foundation provides cash prizes to support the awards. Conference attendees dress up in style to honor the recipients, whose research and projects enhance not only the profession but the lives of those around them.

Ready to attend the next ISDH? It takes place in Dublin, Ireland, August 10 to 13, 2022. Be sure to visit for updates and more information about the organization. I hope to see you in Dublin, where we can toast “Slainte!” to the profession of dental hygiene around the world.

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief


  1. International Symposium on Dental Hygiene. About the IFDH. Available Accessed September 24, 2019.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. October 2019;17(9):6.

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