Lister Sisters

Sept. 30, 2005
Hygienist describes how online chatting with peers lifted her out of professional isolation.

Jodie Heimbach, RDH

A little over two years ago, at my friend Sandra Berger's urging, I signed up at, an online community (started, managed, and run by Amy Nieves, RDH). The online community consists of approximately 2,000 members including dental hygienists, dental hygiene students and some who work for dental related companies. At the site, you can post a question to your colleagues, vent about a bad day, and ask if someone has ever used a certain product.

At first I was a "lurker." I read what others had to share. Eventually, I started posting, and I was amazed at the responses. After 28 years in clinical hygiene, I had a newfound excitement for my career. Hygiene can be a lonely and isolating profession, especially when you are the only hygienist in the office. This group is the answer to the lonely hygienist problem.

I had made a career change around this time in which I was now working with a periodontist. It was a big change after being in general dentistry for 26 years. I felt I was on the "other side." I posted a perio question on the list and one of the hygienists who answered me was Millie Thaw. We began corresponding and she invited me to her office in New York City for the day. Everyone thought we were both crazy for meeting a perfect stranger in NYC! I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go to another perio office to see how they operated.

Millie was so kind to meet me at my gate at Port Authority. I had confessed to her that I never had taken a subway before. We stopped for a quick cup of coffee, and I was amazed at how much we both had in common. Our fathers had Alzheimer's disease and both of our mothers had cancer. We shared the same religion. We had the same practice philosophies! Later that day when I saw her give her patient an extra toothbrush for the upcoming Jewish holiday, I thought "Oh my gosh, we're so much alike!"

Since that day Millie and I have become best of friends, like sisters. She has become a support system for me both professionally and personally. We share notes from different continuing education programs that we've been to. We call each other constantly about hygiene or family related issues.

As a result of joining and becoming a Lister, I went to RDH magazine's RDH Under One Roof in Chicago in July. I rejoined the ADHA. I introduced Millie to my other best friend Sandra Berger. I met so many of the Listers.

What an incredible experience to be among dental hygienists who care enough to attend a three-day conference. The energy and knowledge that was shared was incredible. The feeling of camaraderie was overwhelming. I feel like I belong to a secret sorority.

When an issue comes up at the office, the periodontist will ask me to ask everyone on the list their opinions and to get input. Besides having all of the "Lister Sisters," I am so excited about my career again. I am learning about many new products, techniques, and ways to handle difficult patients, staff and so on.

The Listers are there for each other! I am proud to be a Lister as we have all come together to raise monies to help our fellow Listers who have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. I urge all to go to and sign up to be a Lister. You will feel an enormous feeling of support and listerhood.

Jodie Heimbach, RDH, has been practicing clinical hygiene for 28 years. She currently works in a periodontal office in Ocean, N.J., where she is the only hygienist. She and her husband and two daughters live in Howell, N.J., where she enjoys reading, walking, and following the Listers online. She can be contacted at [email protected].