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Introducing the National Network of Healthcare Hygienists (NNHH)

Feb. 13, 2020
Founded by Jamie Freitag Dooley, RDH, the National Network of Healthcare Hygienists (NNHH) is connecting and supporting the dental hygiene professional’s integration into the medical field with resources, certifications, and networking.

Do you ever do a 🤦‍♀️ when a patient reveals something outrageous their medical provider said to them regarding their mouth? And almost all of us have had a medical professional in our chair who seems clueless that the raging infection in their mouth has an effect on their cardiovascular disease, joint pain, blood glucose levels, or even their unborn child.

The National Network of Healthcare Hygienists (NNHH) came into being because we believe individuals are suffering needlessly due to the disconnect between medicine and dentistry. NNHH’S mission is to connect and support the dental hygiene professional’s integration into the medical field with resources, certifications, and networking. As passionate, highly educated health-care providers, integrating hygienists into health-care systems to oversee oral health systems, processes, and education just makes sense!

During appointments with primary-care physicians or medical specialists, an RDH can screen, educate, coordinate, and refer to an outside dental team. Dental hygienists know what to look for and are much more comfortable looking into a patient’s mouth than most other providers, but many of us may not feel prepared to approach hospital administration or be part of a collaborative health-care team.

Like registered nurses (RNs), an RDH can best serve their patient’s health outcomes by specialization with further education, but many dental hygienists feel that the cost and time of traditional advanced degrees are barriers. The NNHH strives to be the recognized leader in providing total integration of dental hygienists within health-care systems to improve overall systemic health and wellness in the United States. According to a recent survey taken on social media, the top areas where current NNHH members would like to see oral health incorporated into medicine are:

  • Oncology care
  • Oral health coaching
  • Airway disorders and sleep disordered breathing
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Cardiac disease
  • Prenatal and infant oral care
  • Mental health
  • Nutritional counseling

As we develop certification curriculum, we will continue to listen to our members and choose to prioritize topics based on their needs. Since hospitals have strict accreditation requirements, we are setting up our certifications with accreditation in mind from the start. These will be longer courses with quizzes and a final exam. Expect complex coverage with a collaboration of educators, both from the dental and medical fields.

The benefits of becoming a member of NNHH are:

  1. Access to our closed Facebook community where you can network with other inspiring, passionate hygienists
  2. Access to our online library full of resources created by our educators and shared by our members
  3. Discounts on our CE courses and certifications

A health-care hygienist’s role will be vast and ever changing. NNHH certifications will follow the demand and grow as the research expands.

Ultimately, our big vision is that every collaborative care team in the nation utilizes an RDH by 2025. We know that hygienists have the passion and knowledge needed to work within a collaborative care team. By offering certifications, we hope more of us have the confidence needed to do so.

NNHH will have a presence at RDH UOR 2020 in Denver, so please come by, say hello and learn more! You can also connect with us at https://healthcarehygienists.org.

Kris Potts, BS, RDH, FAADH, has 40-plus years in dentistry, is a member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, as well as a fellow and accredited provider with the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and member of the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health. After achieving additional certifications in caries management, sleep care coordination, and oncology care, she acts as a key opinion leader in the dental industry. Kris is a published author and international speaker and has been interviewed numerous times for her expertise. She is a founding member of the National Network of Healthcare Hygienists and serves on the board as education director.

Mary Kelly, MSDPH, RDH, CDP, is an educator, consultant, and oral health advocate, and has worked in dental public health for over 30 years. Mary has held leadership positions in the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and American Association of Public Health Dentistry and established Oral Health Connections to work with health-care providers and community groups to improve overall health, enhance the quality of life, and reduce the costs of care. She is currently serving as a founding member of the National Network of Healthcare Hygienists. Mary’s commitment to integrating oral health to total health led her to be a certified dementia practitioner and a diabetes self-management trainer. Mary is a recipient of a 2017 American Association for Public Health Dentistry for Graduate Student Merit Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dental Public Health for her published research on dental utilization by the frail elderly.