More CE, More Platforms
What's right for you?
Catherine Paulhamus, MA
Depending on the state, dental hygienists are required to complete a certain number and type of continuing education credits to maintain their license. This necessity can be seen as burdensome and unproductive, because of the myriad and often confusing conditions, the lack of license portability from state to state, and the fact that these requirements are often determined by dentists, with little or no representation from dental hygienists.1
Until these issues are addressed, dental hygienists may need to work with and around these standards to develop individualized learning programs for their own professional goals. The availability of high-quality digital education platforms, along with the expansion of the dental hygiene practice itself, is creating new opportunities for hygienists to go beyond "checking the boxes" and explore what continuing education means for them—and how best to achieve their goals.
CE Beyond the Basics
Each hygienist must start with her or his own state. The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) publishes an Overview of CE Requirements for Dental Hygiene Licensure Renewal, including detailed columns on "Self-Study and Volunteer Credits" and "Special Requirements and Reporting Criteria Available" at the ADHA website. This document is intended only as a general overview, and the ADHA advises hygienists to confirm specific requirements with their state dental boards.2 Within these requirements, hygienists may find some flexibility in the CE subject and can identify courses in a topic of special interest that will also meet state requirements. Otherwise, they may choose to go beyond the minimum, taking courses that are not accepted by the state, but instead facilitate career advancement or even a transition out of the operatory. Even for those who intend to remain employed in a practice, additional education in managerial and leadership skills, software, or the latest technology can differentiate the hygienist professionally.
The ADHA advocates that licensing boards accept for credit continuing education courses in areas that advance the dental hygiene process and the professional roles of the dental hygienist, such as behavioral science; management and administration programs; and organizational development related to leadership. The ADHA also supports collaborative learning with other health disciplines that provide continuing education.3
Pursuing additional education, of course, requires time and money: time off employment, registration fees, and travel expenses. In addition, hygienists might be reluctant to attend programs designed for dentists, feeling out of place without the extensive educational background. However, the COVID-19 shutdown accelerated development of remote and virtual educational platforms (and emerging technologies will bring even more exciting options in the future). Although virtual learning has become a necessity, understanding its strengths and limitations is important for students to select better options.4
Virtual events are democratizing information by reducing the barriers to entry for everyone, no matter where they are located. Even if the course itself charges admission, the indirect costs involved in attending are eliminated. Remote opportunities, either live or on-demand, allow for participants to engage in programs they might not feel comfortable attending in person.
Therefore, hygienists interested in career, professional, or even personal development have more options. But how to choose?
Venues and Instructors
Often a classic book does not translate well into a film. The same can be said for education platforms. Depending on the subject, the learning objectives, and the instructor, a course may be better explored through reading, video, or in person. In an interview with Inside Dentistry, Dean Kois, DMD, MSD, an instructor at the Kois Center, explains that "different formats serve different purposes. For example, a webinar has low buy-in, is concise, and can be done during one's free time. Furthermore, participation can be anonymous, and webinars can provide exposure to new educators."4 Some presentations are more effective virtually than in person. "On-demand" webinars allow the learner to rewind to confirm what was said or download a case image or table. However, opportunities to ask questions, interact with the instructor, and network with fellow students are limited or nonexistent. In addition, true hands-on learning is not an option—at least until the technology develops further.
"Hands-on courses are typically much more expensive," says Joy D. Void-Holmes, RDH, BSDH, DHSc. "While it is always wonderful to learn about theory, I am definitely in favor of ‘getting my hands dirty.' I want to know how to do something. And I do not think the time for me to learn how to do something is chairside in front of the patient."5
When choosing CE platforms, hygienists might want to reflect first on their personal learning styles. Educational theory cites at least four (and sometimes up to eight) different ways to process and learn information: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. In addition, some people are social learners, whereas others do best in solitary environments. When selecting a CE option, how it's best presented intersects with how you best learn.
For those who miss networking and social interaction, virtual learning models can provide opportunities for community building without a large investment of time or energy. The ability to communicate directly with colleagues and industry experts via chat rooms, video conferencing, and other virtual formats may help a learner make connections.4
At a minimum, the hygienist should check that the course provider is accredited through ADA CERP, AGD PACE, or the AADH. Applications for accreditation are extensive, assuring certain educational standards. When it comes to clinical practice, quality CE should rely on current research, rather than decades-old traditional education. "One can never predict when research will reveal information that changes our clinical protocols or critical thinking," John Kois, DMD, MSD, director and founder of the Kois Center, adds.6
Often CE is sponsored by companies that sell products and materials that may be included in the presentation. Accredited providers will ensure that presenters follow "fair play" guidelines and remain objective about products, but it is important to be aware of who is financing the CE and how that may affect the presentation.
Researching the work of the presenter or author also assures better CE selection. Presenters often have websites, videos, and published papers that will reveal their perspective on and experience with the subject. These resources will also reveal the presenters' style and the quality of visual materials—and if they are remaining current with the subject. "Sometimes I like to seek out CE on the same topic from different people because there are different approaches; I find I get something from each," Void-Holmes says.5 She notes that hygienists can also check the reviews of the presenter by previous attendees.
"Your CE can be enjoyable, and it should be," Void-Holmes states. "I think you should loosen up your approach to learning—you can have fun and learn at the same time."5 Continuous professional development, while essential for career growth, is also about personal satisfaction, exploring what excites you and leading to other possibilities.
1. DeRosa Hays R, Moglia Willis S. The Baccalaureate as the minimum entry-level degree in dental hygiene. American Dental Hygienists' Association. https://adha.cdeworld.com/courses/22433-the-baccalaureate-as-the-minimum-entry-level-degree-in-dental-hygiene. Accessed April 3, 2022.
2. American Dental Hygienists' Association. Overview of CE Requirements for Dental Hygiene Licensure. https://www.adha.org/continuing-education. Accessed March 30, 2022.
4. Fialkoff S. For Your Information. Inside Dentistry. 2020:16(9):14-20.
5. Void-Holmes JD. Continuing Education: Opportunities for Lifelong Learning. November 2021. https://cdeworld.com/webinars/22347-continuing-education-opportunities-for-lifelong-learning. Accessed April 1, 2022.
6. DiMatteo AM. Reaching New Heights. Inside Dentistry. 2017;13(4):28-38.