Let’s meet an inspiring dental hygiene professional! Carrie Ibbetson, RDH, has changed her clinical career into her own business and is still improving the oral health of our patients.
How long have you been an RDH?
17 years as a hygienist, 25 years in the dental field
Where did you go to school?
Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts
What caused you to change your clinical career into your own business?
My experience as a dental assistant prior to dental hygiene school helped me see how many people needed help with the actual “how-to” training of their home care in order to achieve and maintain oral health. Having to learn how to heal my own mouth from a childhood and family history of cavities, gum disease, and occlusal disease issues made it a personal journey first.
Tell us what you do as a dental hygienist.
I’ve figured out how to change the sequence in which I do things during my appointment time so that the patient is more likely to respond positively to the things we discuss. A big one for me is focusing on things that they can see with intraoral photos and showing health before disease for motivation. I also typically do OHI prior to scaling so they can “feel” what it feels like to actually brush properly. If they can feel it prior to scaling, they have an easier time replicating it at home.
Often times patients are resistant to “being educated” because of previous unpleasant experiences they’ve had in an office. I found that if I changed the pattern of the things I do and when I do them, the patient was much less resistant, the outcome was much more positive and their follow-through on home care was much higher than what I had experienced in the past.
What excites you most about dental hygiene?
The difference we can make in so many lives, and the how much we can actually change the pattern of health for humanity if we incorporate communication strategies that help allow our message to be heard by the patients we see and treat.
Strategies like motivational interviewing and reflective listening help the actual conversation when it comes to the communication aspect of what we do instead of primarily focusing on the technical parts.
Sometimes the things we have the opportunity to discuss are things that their previous dental practitioners have not, so you may run into resistance from the patient. Knowing how to work through those conversations can be a challenge, but these are the skills that help us make such a significant difference to the world. I’m down the rabbit hole of airway issues and screening for sleep-breathing disorders now, and I can’t tell you how exciting and scary it is to realize how much of a difference we can make with screening and communicating that message carefully.
What advice can you offer for the new graduate and student RDH?
Get excited about our industry and keep learning! Don’t allow yourself to feel that your education is anywhere near finished, it’s only just begun. Find what interests you and get involved with the community that surrounds that niche. Find a mentor, study club or online community that allows you to learn and practice new skills. Find a safe place to go where you can role play and grow outside of your clinical hours. Good communication that helps people make change isn’t easy, but it is worth it. It takes practice and requires feeling safe enough in your own space to make mistakes.
Lastly, if you have not had a lot of dental work done personally, talk to people who have, listen to what their experience has been, and how they feel about dental appointments. Find a way to develop empathy for your patients, it will help you connect with them. Learn about the vulnerability that is triggered for many when it comes to the mouth and being placed in a supine position with people looking down on them. Work through those issues and you will love the difference you can make in so many lives.
You can visit Carrie's site at oralhealthcoaching.com.
Biography: Carrie Ibbetson’s 20-plus year career in dentistry includes clinical care, sales, consulting, and speaking, allowing her to understand challenges and see solutions from multiple facets. When not focusing on the professional side of the industry, she spends ample time with consumers, helping mentor them into healthy mouths and ways for they can become a partner in their own quest for oral health and wellness. She is a passionate airway advocate and helps bring awareness and integration to both the consumer and clinical populations. Her nonclinical skill set includes video production, marketing, business mentoring, podcasting, speaking, sales, and her online oral health coaching program/community. She is a key opinion leader for dental companies and stays immersed in what the progressive dental world has to offer.