As I write this memo from the beautiful town of Westport, Ireland, I’m reflecting on many things. First, how beautiful Ireland is and how warm and welcoming its people are. I attended the International Federation of Dental Hygienists’ (IFDH) symposium that took place in Dublin August 11 to 13. The symposium impacted me deeply. It was an amazing educational, networking, and social event with approximately 900 attendees from 40 countries. The presentations were exceptional, and I know my fellow American attendees will agree that it was so rewarding to interact with colleagues from across the globe. While we may sometimes differ in how we can deliver care, we share much in common. All of us know the power of prevention and want to help our patients achieve oral and overall health. Discussing ways our various and diverse countries approach the preventive aspects of oral health is eye-opening. We learn so much from each other.
I’m also reflecting on the profession of dental hygiene itself. You probably know that dental hygiene is more than 100 years old and that it began in the United States. In fact, next year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of our national organization, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, at its annual conference in June. On the other hand, in some countries dental hygiene is a much younger profession and it is nonexistent in others. There are no dental hygienists in France. In Great Britain, dental hygiene became registered as a profession in 1961. One of the latest countries to recognize the profession is Belgium, where dental hygienists were given official status on February 24, 2018. While there are differences, from my experiences meeting international colleagues, there is no difference in our enthusiasm and dedication. Whether newly formed or firmly established, we all want to do our best for our patients.
My most profound reflection is on my own career. One can’t help but turn inwards after experiencing such a life-changing event in incredible and even mystical surroundings. As I’ve written in the past, I was fired from my first job as a clinical dental hygienist. Fresh out of school, this was devastating for me, and I almost left the profession. I am so thankful for the guidance (from my then boyfriend and now husband, Mike) that encouraged me to persist. This profession has been more than I could ever have imagined.
Along with the wonderful role of being editor in chief of Dimensions, I have reached one of my goals—becoming president elect of the IFDH. I could not be more humbled by this honor. Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” If you have a dream, go for it. It may seem impossible, but it just might come true.
Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. September 2022; 20(9)9.