Smile Brands hygienists reflect on UOR experience

The Smile Brands Group sent three dental hygienists to the 2013 RDH Under One Roof conference in Las Vegas. The hygienists selected by the California-based provider of dental services in 18 states were Jerry Alexander of Texas, Jeanette Zendejas of California, and Jeana Long of Florida.

“These individuals are selected based on their performance metrics but more importantly on their ability to provide outstanding clinical care for their patients,” said Sandy Johnson, RDH, BA, the director of dental hygiene support for Smile Brands.

The company asked the three dental hygienists to describe their RDH Under One Roof experience.

Jerry Alexander

Going to RDH Under One Roof was pretty much like being inside a tornado. It went by way too fast, and every hour was packed with so many choices of things to do, that sometimes it was hard to pick. We had incredible classes, we met amazing people and made friends in places we least expected.

As soon as I got off the plane, Sandy Johnson, the head of our Castle dental hygiene program, invited me to go to dinner with people who are the top of dental corporations. To my surprise, these were regular people, who actually cared what I thought. We shared food, opinions, and dreams. They put me at ease right off the bat.

Our group then went to a really nice reception put on by Beth Thompson from Career Fusion and Dentist Select. The thing I enjoyed the most was what I learned about this group. They are mentors who help further one’s abilities to grow within their career in untraditional ways. This could be in the areas of writing, public speaking, art, etc. I never knew that a group like this existed for dentistry. The people who are involved in this group are definitely going places and the mentors are helping them get there.

I must say that we lacked for nothing the whole time we were there. We stayed at Caesars Palace, which also hosted the conference.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we all went out to dinner together. A different company who wanted to meet us hosted each night. The hosting companies treated us like royalty.

Mike Hatcher and a group from Philips hosted Wednesday night. They picked us up in a huge stretch limousine. We went to a beautiful restaurant called STK that truly lived up to its name. The food was amazing. It was just like the food they present on Food Network. The people from Philips were so gracious and so nice that I felt like I had known them all my life. On Thursday night, Sandy was telling us that Larry Cross from DentistRX was taking us to dinner.

Each night, we were presented with huge gift bags from sponsors of the RDH Under One Roof. We received Air Flossers, new instruments from Hu-Friedy, an power toothbrush from Oral-B. We received free products from Dentsply, GC America, 3M ESPE, Ultradent, and the list goes on and on. I was really glad that I had brought a large suitcase with me to Las Vegas with lots of extra room in it.

Each class had speakers who caused my mind to work. I have been a hygienist a long time, and I have been wondering if there was more in store for me. During my time there, the speakers seemed to speak directly to me, and they got me to think about my future. They gave me ideas and sparked a desire in me to think outside the box. They showed me a future I had never even dreamed of.

The keynote speaker, Karyn Buxman, talked about how we get bogged down in the everyday life that we live. She started by reminding us about how we feel on days when that “one patient” comes in that we really don’t want to deal with. You know the one. We have all had them.

Karyn went on to tell us about the divorce she had gotten after taking care of her husband for so many years and how unhappy she was when she left. She said she was disillusioned. But she had a “vision.” Karyn knew that the man she wished she could find would have certain characteristics and romance oozing out of him was one of them. She had standards she wanted met. After a while she became disillusioned again and began to think that she would never meet that special guy. At the last possible moment he came into her life in a very unexpected way. He was everything she ever wanted. He even had written a book called “100 Ways To Be Romantic”. My understanding of what she was telling us was sometimes our lives seem very dark. We then get disillusioned and want to give up, but we can’t.

Karyn then went on to say that we all need a magic wand. She pulled out a long silver stick with shiny streamers on it. She danced on the stage with her wand to her own internal music. Her head was thrown back with such joy on her face that it made you want to be invited to her private party.

Then I understood. I needed that feeling of freedom and the permission to experience the magic. That is exactly what this trip was for me: “Everything I Could Have Ever Wanted.” It breathed life back into my hygiene career. It brought me back to life. And it gave me back my passion for helping others to become the people that they don’t know that they can be.

So, this magical trip did happen to me, and I am here to tell you that it can happen to you too. You have a whole year to work and become your best. You have the time to learn what you need to do to get there. You can be the person you believe only other people are. I hope that you will take the opportunity you are given to become the person you were meant to be and that you will work so that you too can participate in this amazing experience. You will never be the same, nor would you want to be.

Jerry Alexander, RDH
Castle Dental at Barton Creek Mall
Austin, Texas

Jeannette Zendjas

Ever since I became a hygienist in 2009, I have heard hygienists talking about RDH Under One Roof. I had always heard about how much information was available for us to continue to expand our education. Every year there was always something that came up that wouldn’t allow me to have the time to go to to the conference. Last year, I told myself that I was going to make time to attend the meeting regardless of the circumstances.

I must say that I’m blessed to work with a company that enables us to continue to expand our knowledge. Every year, Smile Brands allows three hygienists that have provided clinical excellence in treating patients and being a patient advocates with an opportunity to continue their education by honoring them with an all expense paid trip to RDH Under One Roof. I’m not only a clinician with Smile Brands but also the Market Hygiene Coordinator in Orange County. I kept encouraging my team to sign up to have an opportunity to attend RDH Under One Roof. I wasn’t going to apply because I didn’t want to offset an opportunity for someone else that really deserved it. As I thought about it, I realized that I too deserved to have a chance. I didn’t think I’d get chosen but I did.

When I found out that I was one of three candidates that were chosen as patient advocates, I felt rush of excitement because I was finally going to be able to be a part of conference and, more importantly, share this experience with fellow colleagues Sandy Johnson, Jeana Long, and Jerry Alexander.

After the plane descended into the beautiful Las Vegas lights, I told the cab driver, “Please don’t take me the long way and get me to Caesars Palace quickly because I need to be there now.” At the hotel, Sandy introduced me to an amazing group of people that she had been spending time with at the welcome reception earlier that day. Although I was extremely tired from having worked all day, the energy and conversation that this group had was enough to take my tiredness go away.

The whirlwind at RDH Under One Roof began Wednesday morning and continued through Friday. As we proceeded to the general sessions, I looked around the room amazed at how many hygienists that have the same common goal came together for this conference. Some were taking notes on iPads, papers and some on printouts — all of us eager to learn more about our profession. The general sessions were so informative, and it was refreshing to hear that all of the hygienists want to better and help people understand the importance of oral health. My favorite general session was on Friday morning. It was about oral cancer, and the speaker was phenomenal and moved every person in that room to tears.

The vendor exhibition was also jammed packed with a ton of booths that revolved around hygiene. I didn’t know where to start.

I was saddened that Friday came around so soon. Although Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the world where the possibility of winning or losing exists, I must say that for the first time ever I came back a winner. I had the most amazing, educational, networking experience ever. I’m not sure if my next experience attending RDH Under One Roof will be the same as this one. But the bar will be high up there!

Jeannette Zendejas
Registered Dental Hygienist
Orange County Market Hygiene Coordinator
Smile Brands Inc.

Jeana Long

The RDH Under One Roof conference was one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever had the opportunity to experience!

I would like to personally thank Sandy Johnson and the Smile Brands team for this amazing opportunity. What an honor to be chosen to attend simply by doing what I love and am so passionate about ... being an advocate for my patients and providing quality, comprehensive care.

As I entered the hotel to check-in, I was looking around at all of the people and I could just spot the hygienists. There were no name tags, no scrubs, no hair pulled up into a neat bun, no lab coats, mask or gloves ... just passionate men and women eager to enhance their knowledge of the ever changing field of dentistry. All of them there to uphold their dental hygiene oath by continuing to improve their professional knowledge and skills. As I see it, dental hygienists are a breed of their own — caring, passionate individuals with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to keep up with the ever changing field of dentistry.

If I had to choose my favorite part of the trip, I would have to say the one-on-one time with Sandy, Jeannette, and Jerry. All three of these ladies are so empowering and passionate. The talent and knowledge within this small group was amazing! Spending these few days with them and feeding off their energy and knowledge makes me want to be the absolute best I can be!

As a Market Hygiene Coordinator, I was enthralled with the information given at the general sessions. I am so excited to be carrying back all of the information and knowledge I gained to my team. My goal is to re-ignite the passion In all of them, just as I have experienced.

Therefore, making the Florida hygienists the best patient advocates ever!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing reps that treated us like royalty! Through this experience I have laugh, cried, rejoiced, and been re-ignited with passion! Thank you again for this amazing opportunity.

Jeana Long, RDH
Market Hygiene Coordinator
Tampa/St. Petersburg Market

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