Seeing the world through new eyes

National Dental Hygienists Week 2014

Wishing all a happy Dental Hygienists Week (April 5-11, 2015)!  What better way to inspire dental hygienists than to showcase the future.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” (unconfirmed poet)

The quote above is often attributed to William Butler Yeats.  Other sources will tell you it’s a translation and paraphrase from Plutarch. At the end of the day, it probably doesn’t matter because the real meat of this quote is the sentiment behind it.

As with anything, there can be multiple interpretations but at its core the author is likely pointing to two critical elements that are the true power of the student voice. First, students gather their knowledge throughout their education much like a person gathering kindling for a fire.  What they learn does not merely dribble in but rather is gathered with one piece building on the next and the next and so on.  Secondly, that knowledge, as it is gathered like kindling for a fire, comes to form a body of scholarship that can be used to inspire and generate that ‘fire’.  The fire in this case of course being ideas and innovation, both of which form the building blocks of professional leadership.

OHCFor three years now, we’ve reported on the UBC Faculty of Dentistry Dental Hygiene Degree Program, fourth-year students’ advocacy projects.  Every year, one fact remains: the sameness is in the difference.  In these three years we’ve seen vastly different projects, and different ways of approaching advocacy. Students bring their innovation, their knowledge, and their leadership to each of the projects presented. They come to really understand what it means for them, as soon to be practicing dental hygienists, to advocate on behalf of the profession and their clients.

Diana Lin, a Clinical Assistant Professor with the UBC Faculty of Dentistry, is their Instructor. Year after year she mentors and guides the students in a way that clearly broadens their understanding of how they can use their voice.  “I also get the chance to learn a lot from my students!  What a wonderful thing it is to see these fourth years gaining that understanding of what a professional voice means, and to see them put that learning into action.  I’m always so impressed by their work and level of dedication.  I’m fortunate to have a real opportunity to not only be their Instructor, but to be a recipient of their knowledge too.”

Well done Class of 2015!  You will enter your profession well-armed not only with the necessary clinical skills to be good primary health-care providers, but also the attributes required to be strong professional advocates!

Below is a quick snapshot of the 2015 UBC student team Cause Advocacy projects:

1. Integration of a dental hygienist into interdisciplinary health team at a local HIV/AIDS centre (Jeremy Huynh, Nevin Haynes and Dennis Chen)

  • Issue/Rationale:
    • People with HIV are more prone to chronic infections, especially in the mouth.
    • Proper access to oral care is also often jeopardized by both stigma, and the costs associated with receiving oral care.
    • In some local agencies devoted to providing services to people with HIV/AIDS, there are current interdisciplinary teams of health care providers (RN, NP, social workers and dietitians) who provide care.
    • There is an opportunity to insert an oral health perspective into these already existing health care teams given that oral health in HIV/AIDS patients is often overlooked.
  • Proposal:  Develop a six-month pilot integration of a dental hygienist into an interdisciplinary health care team in a full-service HIV/AIDS facility to provide oral health services.

2.  Formation of a “Smiles for Miles” oral health club at UBC (Angel Hu, Jean Zhai, Tina HSI, and Leslie Erroa Alvarado)

  • Issue/Rationale:
    • The Canadian Health Measures Survey (2007-2008) found young adults in the 20-39 year old age group report the highest levels of fair to poor oral health and  visits oral health providers the least often.
    • A recent survey conducted by this team found 48% of those surveyed ranked themselves with a 3 out of 5 level of knowledge of oral health issues.
    • The majority of students may not immediately join an oral health club, survey participants expressed interest in learning more about oral health.
    • It is feasible to form a first ever on-campus oral health club in a major Canadian university.
  • Proposal:  Form a ‘Smiles for Miles’ campus club to raise awareness about the link between oral and overall health, and provide information and knowledge to others.

3.  Integration of oral health knowledge within the Early Childhood Education Program at a local University (Nina Sang, Yan Zhou, and So Young Park)

  • Issue/Rationale:
    • Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) play a critical role in early childhood caries prevention and children’s oral health promotion.
    • ECEs foster a relationship with families so they can transmit knowledge to parents.
    • There are ECE degree programs in B.C. but they do not offer oral health knowledge in their curriculum.
    • ECE programs provide nutritional knowledge to the students, which make it easier to link to oral health.
  • Proposal:  Integrate oral health knowledge into the ECE program curriculum to increase awareness of children’s oral health.

4.  Education of E-cigarettes to dental hygienists ( Hyun Cha, Sharan Flora, Dong Hun Kim, and Elizabeth Koh)

  • Issue/Rationale:
    • E-cigarettes are currently marketed to the public as a ‘safe’ alternative to smoking cigarettes.
    • Evidence of safety and efficacy as a tobacco cessation tool is not well-founded.
    • There is little to no quality control on e-cigarette production.
    • There is limited long-term evidence of the effects of e-cigarettes.
    • Forty-four per cent of dental hygienists indicated their discomfort in speaking with their clients about tobacco cessation. 
  • Proposal:  Implementation of a web-based seminar and animated presentation on e-cigarettes to enhance individualized client care and increase awareness for further research.

5.  Collaborative partnership with pharmacists to raise awareness about diabetes and oral health (Brittany Fandrick, Miriam Smith, Lorena Austin, and Alexandria Bartel)

  • Issue/Rationale:
    • There is a large body of evidence showing the link between diabetes and oral health problems. Due to increased sugars in the body, those living with diabetes are often prone to periodontal disease, increased plaque, caries, and other problems.
    • Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to problems in the mouth. Similarly, a well-cared for mouth, can lead to an improvement in diabetes.
  • Proposal:  Establish an interdisciplinary partnership with UBC pharmacists to share information on good oral health care with those living with diabetes, and provide information packages that can easily be shared when pharmacists dispense diabetes medication.

6.  Loan forgiveness for dental hygienists as incentive for rural B.C. healthcare recruitment (Katherine Chandler and Christine Green)

  • Issue/Rationale:
    • Rural communities often have difficulty recruiting and retaining health care providers. This leads to an underserved population with lowered health status.
    • There is often reduced oral health care in rural and remote communities which impacts health.
    • Rural and remote populations who do seek out oral health services are often forced to travel great distances.
    • Incentives are offered to health care providers (e.g. physicians, nurse practitioners) but not oral health professionals for practicing in rural communities.
  • Proposal:  Include oral health providers to the list of healthcare professionals eligible to receive incentive/ loan forgiveness to enhance recruitment in rural and remote communities. Dental hygienists partnering with dental colleagues will raise the profile of oral health prevention and address unmet oral needs.