Reconnecting Practicing Hygienists with the Nation's Leading Educators and Researchers.

Enact the ‘Dear Abby’ Effect

I was recently flipping through my newspaper when a “Dear Abby” headline caught my attention: “Dental Care in Nursing Homes Can Be Difficult to Arrange.”

I was recently flipping through my newspaper when a “Dear Abby” headline caught my attention: “Dental Care in Nursing Homes Can Be Difficult to Arrange.” Over the years, the advice columnist has focused mostly on relationship issues, advising her readers how to handle breakups, nasty in-laws, and disrespectful children. This topic was decidedly different. I read her advice, fully expecting it to be mostly inaccurate. But this time I was the one who was off base. The column was excellent. It was especially refreshing to see her champion the work of dental hygienists and how we can improve access to care.

So how did “Abby” (whose real name is Jeanne Phillips) become so knowledgeable about oral health? It wasn’t by accident. Phillips reached out to her friend and dental hygienist Laurel Bleak, RDH, BSDH, when a question was submitted about dental care in nursing homes. Bleak shared her knowledge and provided information and resources for the “Dear Abby” column. What an unexpected and far-reaching way to share the news about dental hygiene professionals and how we are making a difference.

In her reply, Phillips explained how different workforce models are being developed in several states, and how each state determines the scope of practice for dental hygienists. She opened the door for her readers to see that dental hygienists are licensed professionals who can provide services in settings outside of the traditional dental office. And when allowed direct access to underserved populations, dental hygienists can offer expanded services to benefit individuals who may not otherwise receive oral care.

Imagine if each of you reading this column identified one patient who is influential in some way. The individual could be a writer, legislator, another health care provider, community leader, or newscaster. Share the exciting news about how dental hygienists are poised to make a difference in the lives of so many—not just in private dental offices. Serve as a resource on oral health care issues so that when this influential patient has an opportunity to promote change, he or she comes to you for advice and information. The “Dear Abby” effect can be tremendous. And we all have the power to enact it.

To read the “Dear Abby” column in its entirety, visit:

 Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
     Editor in Chief



From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. July 2015;13(7):12.


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