Nursing Home Settings42817

Just ask: Gathering supplies for a dental hygiene cause

April 26, 2017
Amy Ericks, RDH, who has been shifting toward providing dental hygiene services outside of traditional practice, takes on the task of searching for equipment.   

Editor’s note: Amy Ericks, RDH, BSDH, is in the process of pursuing a career in collaborative practice outside the dental practice. You can follow her journey beginning here.

While I am waiting on my state board of dentistry to review my collaborative agreement application, I have been busy acquiring the needed tools and supplies. I have previously discussed the long list of supplies and tools that I will need or that I would really like to have. My overall goal of this first year is to treat as many patients as I can. I am hopeful that the impact I will make will be undeniably beneficial and that the community will work hard with me to keep it alive.

However, I do not have the funds to purchase the ideal equipment for this project, and I do not want John, my supervising dentist, to invest much more than his time to this. So, what am I to do?

I haven’t ever been one to seek out much help. I usually feel that I am bothersome or that the request will be rejected. Initially I had those same feelings regarding this cause. Throughout this process, though, I have already been told “no” during my search for a dentist and a facility. I have been preparing for the dental board to tell me “no” regarding my application as well. But, I have also been told “yes” in several instances. I am learning that “no” doesn’t close that door—it just sends me down the hall to the next.

I’ve already invested several months into this journey and asked myself what else I could invest. The first place I searched was my own closet.

Yes, I hung on to every single instrument from hygiene school! This provided me with a great start. I then reached out to my hygiene classmates, thinking that some of them may have been saving instruments for a rainy day, too. I now have enough instruments for a day’s worth of hygiene patients, a perfect amount. The office where I practice clinically part time donated two chairs they had recently replaced. An office in a nearby community was remodeling and donated two operator chairs.

John has helped acquire some important equipment as well. He has been able to have someone build us a portable water and air/suction unit. We also have an older Cavitron that can be used with the portable unit. It does need some servicing, but will be great to have if we can get it functioning. Seemingly, things are coming together.

I also sent letters to some of the local area dental offices requesting simple supplies. Some responded that they would rather continue to help out by providing in-office care for this patient population, which I completely respect. Some offices did help with supplies in a big way—I have received patient drapes, bib holders, prophy paste, denture brushes, denture cleaning tablets, denture adhesives, and a wrist blood pressure monitor.

A couple of local businesses donated gift cards and denture brushes. Several dental product companies also donated samples of toothpaste, mouth rinses, xylitol gums, lozenges and nasal sprays, and toothbrushes. I have been completely blown away by this amount of generosity. How encouraging to see the community joining me in this journey!

There are a few items that are still on my wishlist, though; items that would make my job much easier and allow me to provide even better care to these patients. One of those items is a cordless hygiene handpiece and prophy cups and brushes. I have enough of the toothbrushes that I can complete a toothbrush polish with prophy paste, but oh how great it would be to have the hygiene handpiece. I would also like to find some sort of rolling cart to store my supplies in that could double as a place to set my tray of instruments and be loaded into the back of my car.

When the time comes for me to see the first patient, I know that I will be equipped enough to provide much needed care. I also know that it may take some time, some “noes” and some “yeses” before I have everything crossed off my wishlist. I will continue to ask and seek out those that wish to contribute to this much-needed cause.

Amy Ericks, RDH, BSDH, is currently transitioning offices and preparing to pursue a dream. She graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2010 with an Associate of Applied Science in dental hygiene. Five years of experience, two houses, one more child, and several internet classes later, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene. She is excited to share her journey.