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The Gift of Gratitude

Dental hygienists have much to be thankful for as the profession moves toward an integrated future.

Expressing gratitude for life’s gifts is especially important to me during this time of year. There is much for which I am grateful. I am thankful to Dimensions of Dental Hygiene for inviting representatives of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) to contribute to the journal’s recent supplement Perspectives on Dental Hygiene. I am grateful for my dental hygiene peers who work every day to provide preventive and therapeutic services to the public in a multitude of practice settings. I am fortunate to be serving this profession during a time of profound change in the United States health care arena.

The metamorphosis of the nation’s health care system will have a significant effect on the dental hygiene profession, expanding the opportunities available to dental hygienists. A transformation is also taking place within our profession—on the federal and state levels, in the education arena, and within the marketplace—as dental
hygiene continues integrating into the broader health care environment. As president of the ADHA, I meet dental hygienists who are redefining the profession every day—clinicians who run their own businesses with tenacity, creativity, and passion; teledentistry pioneers who meet oral health care needs in remote locations; and
dental hygienists who spend their free time providing care to those who would otherwise go without. Dental hygienists are also forging new paths in alternative practice settings, such as pediatric clinics and primary care settings—establishing connections with our allied health colleagues.

Today, dental hygienists are engaged in a fundamental restructuring of the way oral health care is provided. In Dimensions’ Perspectives supplement, ADHA Executive Director Ann Battrell, MSDH, shared the ADHA’s new strategic plan. She explained how drivers for change will move the profession forward, and how the organization’s strategic plan is focused on helping dental hygienists prepare for the future. Today, the US economy is still recovering from the most difficult financial period since the Great Depression. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is one program bringing new patients to the dental setting—many of whom have never had dental coverage. Changes in the health care landscape will have significant implications for the careers of dental hygienists and treatment outcomes for the patients they serve.

SUCCESSFULLY ADAPTING TO THE DRIVERS OF CHANGE IN THE HEALTH CARE ARENA

Dental hygienists must remain aware of the diverse change drivers and their potential impact on the profession. One of my favorite sayings is “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Advances made for the profession serve to benefit every dental hygienist in every practice setting. As we adapt to the changes in delivery systems, our value as
oral health care providers will grow, our profession will become more highly esteemed, and our employment options will increase.

The ADHA is working to help dental hygienists find new avenues to practice as the health care delivery system continues to transform. Our vision statement is directed at a future in which “dental hygienists are integrated into the health care delivery system as essential primary care providers to expand access to oral health care.”

Such integration is required to ensure patients are able to access professional, high-quality dental care. This means partnering with other health care providers to
extend the reach of dental care. We can collaborate with pediatricians to improve the oral health of children and interact with legislators and government agencies to improve access to care. Dental hygiene education should be adjusted, so clinicians are prepared to work effectively in other parts of the health care system.

THE FUTURE OF DENTAL HYGIENE PRACTICE

Tomorrow’s dental hygienists will have more employment and business opportunities in a variety of settings than ever before. While many will continue to serve the public in a private practice model, others will seek out new practice settings, such as: hospitals; long-term care and skilled nursing facilities; schools; primary care medical clinics; and retail locations. To be able to take advantage of these opportunities, we must work together—sharing our passion for the profession and for our patients’ health.

The transformation of dental hygiene is happening. However, one thing will remain constant: no matter your credential or employer, you are supported by the ADHA.
As ADHA members, we stand stronger united than alone. I invite you to join us, if you haven’t already.

Gratefulness is a mindset, and a gift in and of itself. My hope is that you experience deep gratitude this holiday season, and appreciate the gifts our profession provides to the public we serve. The new year is sure to present many new opportunities – please join me in making the most of them and the profession of dental hygiene.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. December 2014;11(12):16–17.

 

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