UBC’s Faculty of Dentistry Dental Hygiene Degree Program: Fourth year students, advocacy projects

OHCAs part of Dental Hygienists Week April 6-12, 2014, BCDHA has been featuring blogs that focus on dental hygienists at varying stages of their career.  Having looked back at the profession over the last few days, it seems fitting to use this post to look forward to the future of dental hygiene.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

March 20th, 2014 was a great day for the dental hygiene profession.  On this day, UBC’s Faculty of Dentistry Dental Hygiene Degree Program fourth year students presented their advocacy projects. This year, four student teams presented on a series topics that ranged from the creation of an ‘Ask A Hygienist’ website, a video series focused around the work dental hygienists do, an app called ‘Brushing up on Toothpaste’ that would allow people to learn more about active ingredients in toothpaste and which products were right for them, and last but certainly not least, a project focused on ensuring that UBC varsity athletes in high-impact sports could be provided with custom mouth-guards in collaboration with the UBC Dental Hygiene Degree Program.

Each presentation followed a format during in which students present the idea, articulate a rationale and a goal for their topic, identify key stakeholders, offer a situational analysis in SWOT  format (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), develop key messages and present sample materials to support their projects.  Student teams also field a series of focused questions from their classmates and visiting guests.  Most importantly, each and every team was able to articulate their presentation clearly and with a strong degree of confidence and knowledge.

Diana Lin, a Clinical Assistant Professor with the UBC School of Dentistry and class Instructor, noted, “I thought these presentations were really innovative.  Many of the teams used new and innovative mediums through which to present their ideas. Each team demonstrated a clear understanding of what it means to advocate for the profession through these projects.”

Because the presentations were so innovative, it seems only appropriate to offer highlights of them below.

1. “Ask a Hygienist” (Kim Nguyen, Jillian Tan, Nora Tong, Jessica Wong)

Everyone gets information on the internet. Google searches for simple questions like “Is fluoride bad?” can yield hundreds, if not thousands, of responses.  The information that is found when one uses Google to search for such terms is not always reliable, and it is not always evidence-based.  In reality, it is impossible to ascertain the qualifications and/or expertise of the person answering in most cases. It was with this scenario that this team presented their idea for the “Ask a Hygienist” website.

Their idea was to ensure that a place online existed whereby the public could access reliable, credible, and evidence-based information about dental hygiene.

Not only do people benefit by having accurate information shared with them, the profession would benefit as well because more and more people would come to see dental hygienists as important members of the primary health care team.

2. Informational videos (Airra Custodio, Suji Kang, Michele Moreira, Mandy Nip)

Too little is known about the role dental hygienists play in overall health promotion and maintenance. This is true not only for the public, but for other health care providers as well. The idea that this team shared was to produce a series of informational videos that could be uploaded to and shared via YouTube. This video series would focus on the role of the dental hygienist in a variety of settings, and the role of the dental hygienist as part of the primary health care team.

These videos could prove to be invaluable in helping the public and other health care providers in understanding the critical role that dental hygienists play in health.

3. “Brushing up on Toothpaste” (Therese Balleza, Brinder Mann, Marley Canfield, Michelle Foster)

When each of us goes to the store to purchase toothpaste we’re presented with endless options and choices.  For the general public, who are not aware of the active ingredients in toothpaste, it can be difficult to navigate the various types. Additionally, there can be difficulty in understanding what you may need in order to treat your unique conditions.

This proposed free app would allow people to not only answer a series of questions that would help them identify which toothpaste would be best for their particular needs, it would also provide ‘fingertip’ information to the research and information about their chosen brand of toothpaste.

Not only would members of the public benefit from having this type of information at their fingertips, it also promotes the dental hygienist as a reliable source of clinical information

4. Custom mouth-guards for UBC athletes (Alex Morrison, Arryn Burant, Kelsey Singer, Kira Burvill, Mikayla Boyd)

An alarming number of athletes involved in contact sports do not wear mouth-guards.  Of those that do, they often purchase standard out of the box guards that are not well fitted, or the slightly more expensive ‘boil-and-bite’ mouth guards.  This group had the idea to promote and develop a custom mouth-guard program for members of the UBC athletics teams, provided by the UBC Dental Hygiene Degree Program.

The promotion and development of the mouth-guards serves several purposes. First, it allows for the dental hygiene students to practice the fitting and development of these guards. Second, athletes at early and formative stages in their lives can begin to understand the importance of using a mouth-guard. Third, the earlier and more often people can be exposed to the role of the dental hygienist, in this case through the promotion of mouth-guards, the more people will come to understand the full scope of practice that a dental hygienist brings to health care.

As each of the teams presented, dialogue began to focus on the clear linkages between the presentations.  The ‘Ask a Hygienist’ website for example could feature the videos and the links to the app. The app, could feature the videos and offer a link to the ‘Ask a Hygienist’ website.  The mouth-guards could be promoted using the websites, videos and app. In turn, those involved in the mouth-guard project could promote their profession and colleagues by highlighting people to the website, videos and app.

What is always clear in listening to these excellent students share their research and ideas is that the profession continues to produce innovative and engaged members.  These students are truly the hygienists of tomorrow. The profession is very lucky indeed.