Post-COVID dental events are officially back and better than ever! As an event owner, I understand the significant value in-person and virtual events provide for our industry. Dental events help announce new products, educate on new technology, provide valuable hands-on experience, and – my favourite – they help us build our valuable professional networks!
It was my privilege to sit down with Chrissy Ford, RDH, BScDH, a fellow hygienist, founder and educator, to learn more about her career journey and why she decided to launch RDH Evolve, a brand-new dental hygiene conference taking place on May 3-4, 2024, at the JW Marriott in Edmonton, Canada. This event is significant as it is Alberta’s only hygiene conference!
Dentistry can be an obscure and interesting profession! Most dental professionals I know started dentistry because they had a family member in the industry. How did you get your start in dental hygiene?
Chrissy Ford: My love of dentistry didn’t start as young as it has for many others. My entire childhood, I dreamt of becoming a veterinarian. In fact, I had never even considered a career in anything else before grade eleven. But sometimes, the universe has something else in mind for you! After getting to shadow a day in the life at our local animal hospital, I concluded that career wasn’t for me.
It was my mom who first suggested looking into dental hygiene. I still remember the discussion in the car that day as I tried to figure out a new life plan. The next week, I was able to set up another shadow day in a dental office…and the rest is history. I enjoyed the healthcare aspect and working with people and realized this was what I was meant to do!
Your story is quite similar to mine in that advice from another person can go a long way in shaping who you are and your decisions. What is your favourite aspect of being a dental hygienist?
CF: My favourite aspects are getting to help people lead better lives and interacting with patients, but I think I can say that my list of favourite things has changed slightly over the years. As a new graduate, the instant gratification of removing large pieces of calculus and stains was probably at the top of my list. Over the years, my passion for improving health, educating patients, and the preventative focus of our profession is what I find most gratifying now.
Our industry was facing significant changes pre-pandemic. The pandemic hit, and now we’re seeing even more changes. Now that you’re a seasoned hygienist, what changes have occurred?
CF: Dentistry has undergone some exciting changes and advancements over the years, driven by science, technological innovations, and changes in patient expectations. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen as much progression on the hygiene side, though – not that there haven’t been advancements, but the implementation of change has been slow into practice. Until now, there has been a lack of hands-on education for hygienists for technology, instruments, and adjunctive therapies. Education and support in these advancements are key to patient health and implementation into practice. The inception of my continuing education company, and now the RDH Evolve conference, have both been founded with this in mind. Education and training for dental hygienists needed to evolve to incorporate the latest techniques and technologies to ensure we can provide our patients with the highest standard of care.
My favourite event moments are when I can touch, feel, and try out new products! What prompted you to go out on your own and take the initiative to launch businesses that fill the gaps in the industry?
CF: Honestly, my initial motivation stemmed from frustration – a lack of calibration from one office to another! Why were patients not being probed at some offices? Why were we not looking at and treating periodontal disease as science told us we should? I understood the why, but it also led me to ask more questions. Those questions led me to answers that simply reiterated the need for more access to education – education for our new grads who are struggling without mentorship, and hands-on education for our experienced hygienists to update their knowledge and skills. We also can’t forget education for our doctors and managers who need help understanding what our hygiene departments need to do to be strong and profitable. (And no…the answer is not to squeeze more patients into hygienists’ day!)
I think I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit, as many of my family members had founded and run their own businesses. As Steve Jobs said, “People with passion can change the world. The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” My continuous passion for elevating our profession initially sparked my interest in starting my own continuing education company. My passion for dentistry has kept me going through the not-so-glamorous parts of running my own business…and has led my growth and rebrand to the Ford Dental Institute.
What an inspirational story! Oftentimes, launching new initiatives looks easy from the outside, and we don’t often see the good, bad, and ugly that happens in the day-to-day grind of operating a business. But if there is one thing I know about dental hygienists everywhere, we want to do good, make a change, and move the industry forward. Speaking of, what do you think the future of dentistry looks like from where you’re standing?
CF: I think technology has started transforming every industry, and dentistry is no exception. Advancements have made the practice of dentistry more efficient and predictable, as well as improved communication between providers and their patients. Technology isn’t the only factor influencing change, however; consumer trends and educational efforts are also shifting the future of dentistry.
As research progresses, I think there will also be a shift in understanding dental professionals’ significant role in overall health. Events like RDH Evolve are pivotal in bringing industry experts and professionals together to exchange knowledge, enhance skills, and explore the latest advancements in patient care.
Prevention is the driver of the future, and technology is certainly helping make that feasible. What advice would you give to a hygienist who wants to grow in their career?
CF: I think the biggest words of wisdom I can offer is this: cultivate belief in yourself and find your passion! I think many hygienists are feeling stagnant in their careers and tired of running on the “hygiene hamster wheel.” To be honest, I totally understand! This is why one of my missions is to help empower and re-invigorate hygienists to find passion in their profession again. The solution may be as simple as learning how to level up their hygiene department with new technology and adjunctive therapies or starting a side gig to give variety to their work.
Surprisingly, our dental hygiene education can prepare us with the knowledge and skills to explore many different career paths in dentistry. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there. Networking is key! “Follow your passion and plan your route – the journey is one to be written only by you.” Hope to see you in May!
To learn more about RDH Evolve, visit www.rdhevolve.com
About the Author
Melissa K. Turner, is a fresh force of change and is on a powerful mission to transform the future of dentistry for both patient and practitioner. An award-winning speaker, key opinion influencer, and hygienist, Melissa represents a new generation in dentistry through a focus on inclusion, practitioner well-being, and innovative technology. She is a 2022 recipient of the Sunstar Award of Distinction, the dental hygiene industry’s highest honor, and is a top dental content creator nationwide. She leads the Cellerant Best of Class Hygiene Awards as their Chief Hygiene Officer and Director of Social Strategy. Learn more and contact her at www.melissakturner.com