Explore the New Explorer

2021 Winter Issue


The CODHA Explorer has changed its look and changed its style. However, it hasn’t changed its primary purpose. In addition to informing its members about CODHA, the Explorer will also be a form of communication to enable its members to connect with one another.  Stories about clinical practice, about students and about its leadership are only some of the regular columns to be included.  CODHA is your professional organization and CODHA Explorer is your newsletter.  Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2021!

To view in Flipbook version click here: Winter Explorer 2021




Greetings Colorado Dental Hygienists!

Consider what an EXPLORER dental instrument does for us:

  • Allows us to ‘feel’ what is there
  • Enables us to ‘connect’ the vibrations of our fingers with ‘what we think’ the vibration represents

As the new co-editors of the Explorer Newsletter,  similarly, our goal is to impact what we ‘feel’ about our profession and each other, and to increase what we ‘think’
In other words, we hope this publication contributes to a strong ‘connectivity’ among Colorado dental hygienists to help ‘build community’!
To that end, we invite you to become involved by submitting creative articles, photos, essays, or artwork as we continue to get to become better acquainted with our dental hygiene colleagues.  Simply submit to explorer@codha.org.
We’ll start by introducing ourselves.  We are two dental hygienists with a combined total of 98 years as dental hygienists.  Why did we two ‘oldies but goodies’ decide to get involved in this way?  Because we CAN and because we CARE!

A bit about us:




I am a Colorado native.  My BS degree in dental hygiene is from the University of Iowa where I also completed a master’s degree in dental hygiene education.  After being in clinical practice and teaching at the University of Iowa,  I taught baccalaureate dental hygiene students  at the University of Colorado for almost 30 years until 2009 when the program was closed.  After completing a master’s degree in counseling and a PhD in Health and Behavioral Sciences, both from CU, I was invited to join the Graduate Orthodontics Department at the CU dental school, and have been in that role for 11 years now, with a grand total of 40 years on the faculty!
I am very excited about where I see our profession heading!  Finally, the public and other healthcare providers are recognizing our vital role in the public health arena and the opportunities beyond private practice are limitless!  I encourage you to consider gaining an advanced degree to further expand our research base and continue to move dental hygiene upward and outward!
I served 2 terms as CODHA Vice-President in the past. Between my husband and I, we have 5 adult children ranging from 29-39 years of age.



I am a transplant to Colorado after nine moves over 15 years.  As a career military family, we started in New Jersey, California, Washington State, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, and ultimately Colorado. In my opinion, we saved the best for last.  I am an ardent supporter of a single national licensure examination. Can anyone tell me – is oral disease or a patient’s mouth different on the east coast versus the west coast?  I think not.  I graduated from a local community college when a dental hygiene student could receive an AAS degree in two years with summers off and without any pre-requisites.  Dental hygiene education and clinical practice have changed.  Through the collective efforts of volunteer members of CODHA and ADHA, it has elevated the dental hygiene profession, established dental hygienists as primary care providers, and set the standard of dental hygienists’ importance in treating oral disease and promoting health.  BTW:  I am sharing a photograph of my twin brother and me the day before I started dental hygiene school over 40 years ago.




Happy New Year Colorado Dental Hygienists!

This is your CODHA President, Lisa Westhoff. I have been diligently serving and representing you since November.  My dental hygiene career has been spent in private clinical practice, public health, and education. These days, you will find me in the public health and education worlds on the western slope of our beautiful state.

2020 has now officially wrapped up and we are a couple weeks into 2021.  What does CODHA have in store for this year? Lots! – but let’s focus on just a couple things…

  • COVID – vaccination access, administering, personal protective equipment, oral health access for our communities, and whatever else we need to adapt to – flexibility is key to resilience
  • 2021 Legislation – Interim Therapeutic Restorations and Silver Diamine Fluoride

CODHA has been advocating for dental hygienists through all the changes involved with COVID-19 and we will continue those advocacy efforts into 2021 and beyond.

Our COVID-19 page continues to be a great source of reliable information. As COVID vaccination plans progress across the state, CODHA has reached out to all local public health departments to gather information about their phase 1B implementation. We have created a COVID-19 vaccine page to better assist dental professionals as we all navigate this new phase.

I encourage all of you to check these pages and our Facebook page regularly, and to sign up for our email updates.

As the pandemic continues on, the negative effects on oral health are becoming more apparent. Dental hygienists are in prime positions to provide oral healthcare services in a variety of settings. CODHA encourages and supports all dental hygienists to practice to the full extent of their scope of practice.

The 2021 Colorado legislative session will begin in January and CODHA will have a busy year. There are two sections of the Colorado Dental Practice Act that are up for Sunset Review this year: Interim Therapeutic Restorations and Silver Diamine Fluoride.

Sunset Reviews are a great opportunity for CODHA to lobby for updates that benefit dental hygienists. However, it can also be a time of risk while whole sections of the Dental Practice Act are open for changes that may not benefit dental hygienists.
Fortunately, CODHA does not anticipate threats to our practice act. Our Sunset Task Force and Lobbyists also actively monitor potential negative amendments that could be a threat.  You can read more about the work of the Sunset Task Force in the Sunset Review update.

As we begin this new year, I thank all of you for your support. Especially as we all navigate life during a pandemic. Keep moving forward and advocating for yourself. And be kind to yourself.  I am here for you and so is the entire CODHA board.

Warm regards for 2021,
Lisa Westhoff RDH, BSDH, MSDH
CODHA President



I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated hygiene school 2016. I moved to Colorado right after I graduated and started practicing as a temporary dental hygienist. I like being an on call hygienist. It lets me travel and see different parts of Colorado working in areas  around Fort Collins and Greeley, to Lakewood and Evergreen and around Denver and Castle Rock. I also get to meet many different dentists, hygienists, assistants and office staff which is so valuable to learn and work with so many different people. While I’ve worked as a hygienist the last 5 years I’ve also attended CU Boulder, I just graduated this December with a Bachelors, majoring in Psychology and Sociology. My next goal is to work towards becoming a dentist. Some interests i have outside of work or school are watching the Chicago Bears, hanging out with friends, traveling, spending time with family and my cat Ocean.


Speaker of the CODHA House of Delegates
Colorado Liaison of the ADHA Institute for Oral Health


Greetings from ADHA—Institute for Oral Health

Hello, Colorado Dental Hygienists’ Association (CODHA). I am glad to say we completed our first virtual House of Delegates. We were able to pull it off successfully because during the last decade we had a proactive-minded Board of Trustees (BOT). The BOT prioritized institution of bylaws and rules that allow electronic meetings and define the mechanisms we can use for those meetings. This expansion into electronic meetings helped solve several problems CODHA had been facing. When I was a BOT member 2004 through 2009, meetings were expensive. We were developing some progressive policies and introducing those policies to the Colorado legislature for growth in the legal scope of practice of dental hygienists. This entailed full-weekend BOT meetings and a very active Council on Regulation & Practice. CODHA had to reimburse leaders’ travel costs to meetings. Although there were occasional telephone calls to improve efficiency or to consult someone who could not attend a meeting, all meetings were face-to-face.

Our electronic meeting rules also foster enfranchisement of our members. The travel expenses discouraged us from having meetings far from the Denver Metropolitan area. Choosing the overall least cost of meetings further discouraged members of the Western Slope and Southern Colorado from joining Councils and Committees or attending meetings. It also discouraged non-members in those areas from joining our Association, as they had rare continuing education, Component meetings, and connection to dental hygienists throughout the State. Many of our colleagues participate in local, private study groups. Those study groups are worthwhile, but if they are using the study groups as an alternative rather than a supplement to ADHA membership, that is a sign that we leaders in the Constituent are failing to serve those Colorado dental hygienists.
Embracing electronic meetings has improved our activities toward legislative change. Communication among CODHA leadership, Colorado Dental Association, Department of Regulatory Agencies, and legislators has grown. Through virtual communication, we are able to speed the process of getting all stakeholders to understand each other’s expectations and introduce bills that face little or no opposition.
With decreased meeting costs, CODHA has been able to allocate more of its income to direct service of our members, less toward administrative costs. As our use of electronic communication has grown, I have noticed more participation in Councils and Committees, higher attendance rates in meetings, and growth in CODHA membership. This is a sign that we are on the right track in serving our profession and community. Reduced barriers promote increased participation among volunteers. Members of our profession recognize greater value in ADHA membership; so, they join the Association and receive the benefits they value. Increased income from dues and conference registration fees funds research that justifies the professional services of dental hygienists, the presence of dental hygienists as primary care providers in a variety of settings, and the Association’s interaction with the community and legislators. The community, seeing our continued professionalization and growth in membership, recognizes our Association as the legitimate voice of our profession and thereby respects our professional opinions.

The ADHA Institute for Oral Health has increased its funding in the past few years, largely from the fun runs at the ADHA Annual Conferences. As of the November report, Colorado dental hygienists have donated $530.00 to ADHA Institute for Oral Health. Donations serve to fund research that meets the guidelines of the ADHA Research Agenda; scholarships to dental hygiene students; community service projects; and travel costs to the Code Maintenance Committee meetings, which determine the procedure codes, names, and definitions of the procedures we use to provide care to our patients. The web page for Donations to ADHA Institute for Oral Health has become simpler to navigate. There are direct links to specific funds, in case you want your donation to go to a particular program. There are also direct links to each State, so your donation is credited toward the State’s fundraising goals. This fiscal year, ending June 30, 2021, Colorado’s goal is $1,692.17. We are more than 30% of the way toward that goal.




Laura Jacob, RDH, MA, CHC

Compliance can be such an ominous topic. For most of us, the word evokes feelings and thoughts of fear, shame, embarrassment and uncertainty. When we try to define compliance, we think of following the rules or worse, getting into trouble. I will attempt to demystify some of the uncertainty around Dental Compliance in the next four 2021 Explorer issues.

For so many, they simply don’t know, what they don’t know. I penned this in a Colorado Dental Board Newsletter, nearly 20 years ago. I started my service to the previously named Colorado Board of Dental Examiners in 1999, where I served for a decade. I have also served as a Compliance Director for a national DSO. I thoroughly enjoy supporting dental personnel in understanding and managing their compliance programs.

So, let’s break it down. Compliance is defined by Webster as, “Conformity in fulfilling official requirements”. Whose official requirements must we, as registered dental hygienists, comply? Federally, we must comply with HIPAA, OSHA and if applicable, Medicaid (or any other federally subsidized insurance provider). For each of these federally mandated programs there must be a “Lead” of the compliance program. Typically, a dental hygienist or dental assistant will be the OSHA Lead and the Office Manager or Front Desk Coordinator will be the HIPAA and Medicaid Lead.

In Colorado, we must comply with the State Dental Practice Act, the Colorado Dental Board Rules and Policies, and current Public Health Orders. This includes following all CDC recommendations, paying license renewal/fees and completing all Continuing Education Requirements, including CPR. There are additional county regulations regarding waste management, physical building safety and any public health orders. When we think of professional compliance, it is more directed towards ethics and continuing education or competency. There are also compliance requirements with equipment and products, such as lasers, sterilizers, ionizing radiation producing equipment and dental unit waterline products. Be certain to read and respect all IFU’s (Instructions For Use). There are also office-specific compliance manuals, code of conducts and HR requirements. No wonder the topic is exasperating!

I have included several links for easy access to some of these requirements and I encourage you to actually read and bookmark them. As hygienists, we often have the opportunity to be the impetus for compliance in our practices. If the dental assistant never attended an accredited program, they may have no knowledge, understanding or appreciation for the value of your license or these requirements. It is great to share the licensing process with your team, so they help maintain both the dentist and your licenses. It’s hard to value something you’ve never had to earn. Unfortunately, our dentists come out of dental school with minimal experience with compliance. It is absolutely part of the dental curriculum, but often there are paid staff to navigate those requirements for the students. I honestly, find that the dentists have very little knowledge/experience in this area. A common theme I hear is that compliance is too expensive and too time consuming. Often there is a price tag to invest in support and training, but it is nothing compared to the cost if you lose your license or your practice gets shut down.

I encourage you to take charge of the compliance requirements surrounding your license and move from ignorance/avoidance to confidence. It can be very empowering!




Laura is a Past CODHA and MDDHS President and currently has her own Dental Compliance Consulting practice and supports dental teams all over the country. She can be reached at www.LauraJacob.com



Your CODHA president, Lisa, here.
Did you know my mother is also a dental hygienist in Colorado?
And we both graduated from Colorado Northwestern Community College? (1981 and 2007)
And when I go to dental conventions I always run into every dental hygienist from the little town of Lamar, where I grew up? (Dental hygienists are everywhere)
It’s all true and I like to think it was my childhood days of sneaking Wheat Thins from the office break room that impacted my decision to be a dental hygienist.
Chair, CODHA Council on Public Relations

As a Dental Hygienist for more than a decade I have developed a solid foundation of dental experience and knowledge to be an important asset to any dental office. I have worked in 4 states and with many different cultures and economies. Rural farming, fishing islands, oil fields, metro-city life with many different ethnicities. I have found the common denominator in all people is the desire for a healthy mouth for themselves and their families. I can help provide that for my patients through an in-depth thorough easy to follow emphasis on “Oral Health Education and Instruction Program,” The more a dental patient understands and knows about the status of their oral health and how to maintain it, the better decisions they will make for themselves. Age does not matter, meticulous and thorough demonstrations to a 3 year old or a 90 year old I know that a visual demo will help patients understand the correct techniques or changes they need to make and implement in their own daily home care.

I have had a desire for some time now to be more involved in the growth and direction of dental hygiene. This has been a career that has given the world to me.  The standard of living I am able to achieve through being a dental health professional and consultant has motivated me to wake up! Be more involved with my peers in directing and paving a path agreeable for all dental hygienists in Colorado. I have chosen to step into a role that needed to be filled. As the chair for the Public Affairs of the Colorado Dental Hygienist Association I am working on a plan to help build and strengthen CODHA by focusing on several key components to help us as an organization continue to move forward.
1.  Fundraising

  • Member dues are bread/butter of support
  • Support from the Dental teams private and CHC/nonprofit throughout Colorado
  • Seeking sponsorship from the local businesses in our communities
  • Grants and funds from Delta Dental Foundation, Colorado Cares, National Health Coalition
  • Donations from Dental product providers; Hu-Friedy, Henry Schein, Patterson Dental, Benco Dental, Practicon Dental Suppliers, and more
  • Creating a Strong and supportive presence at the RMDC
  • Building CODHA a stronger financial foundation to be able to employ more guidance and support from dental hygienists in Colorado

2.  Public relations

  • Promotion of who we are as a dental professional (overlaps several other chairs in CODHA)
  • Promote oral health with youth in schools, clubs and community activities.
  • Social media “get the word out” who we are what we do
  • Community events, city days, parades, local farmer market

3.  Interprofessionalism

  • Communication between healthcare professions



How well do you know your CODHA Officers?
Which of the following officers was able to grow plants half way down a wall?
a.  Lisa Westhoff
b.  Amy Rezvani
c.  Val Cuzella
d.  Howard Notgarnie


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What fun! During the HOD Zoom meeting, the delegation took a moment to be “silly”.  Hats were worn in support the ADHA Institute of Health.



Amy Rezvani, RDH, BS
On the mountains,
and in the valleys,
we certainly learned
plenty in 2020.
We have shown gratitude for that around us, deeper.
We have loved those around us, closer.
And the pace of life has calmed, slower than ever.
On the mountains,
and in the valleys,
we certainly had
plenty in 2020




–  Patients should relax their tongue at the bottom of their mouth to rest sensor on when taking mandibular anterior periapical to provide cushioning
–  Use Chloraseptic spray or any throat numbing spray to spray the back of tongue to decrease gag reflex.
–  Place a small amount of salt on tongue before placing sensor to decrease gag reflex(as an alternative to numbing spray)
–  If taking in-op radiographs with a Nomad, try tilting chair back to help keep sensor in back of mouth via gravity
–  Have adults cross legs to help take mind off sensor placement
–  Have kids smile really big and open to help place sensor as far back as possible
–  Have kids tuck their thumbs in their fists when placing sensors (can help take their minds off of placement)
–  Make it a game for kids, such as they’re the shark and the sensor is the fish, and they can’t let the little fish get out (once placed)
–  If able, use vertical BW, but have patient just close lips around sensor, because even though they don’t bite down, the interproximals can still be seen more than if they aren’t able to close down around a horizontally placed sensor.
Next issue:  Helpful Tips for Patients with Xerostomia



Sunset Review Process of Sections of the Dental Practice Act on Interim Therapeutic Restorations (ITR) and Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF)
On October 15, 2020 the Colorado Office of Policy, Research and Regulatory Reform (COPRRR) released the 2020 Sunset Review of the Application of Interim Therapeutic Restorations and Silver Diamine Fluoride by Dental Hygienists.  The Report contained 11 Recommendations, as listed below, and one Administrative Recommendation to the Colorado Dental Board to modify the SDF course requirement to allow for on-demand course completion. Section 12-220-128 is the section on ITR and section 12-220-129 addresses SDF.  The report was released utilizing the section numbering prior to the reorganizing of the Dental Practice Act in 2020.  In the reorganized Dental Practice Act the ITR section is 12-220-505 and SDF is section 12-220-506.

Specific recommendations:

Recommendation 1:  Continue the regulation of the application of interim therapeutic restorations by dental hygienists.
Recommendation 2:  Continue the regulation of the application of silver diamine fluoride by dental hygienists.
Recommendation 3:  Combine future sunset reviews of both ITR and SDF with sunset review of the Dental Practice Act.
Recommendation 4: Repeal the language in sections 12-220-128 (1)(c) and 12-220-129 (1) (c), C.R.S., regarding liability insurance.  These sections are redundant because to have a license in good standing a dental hygienist must carry liability insurance.
Recommendation 5:  Amend sections 12-22-128 (4)(c) and 12-220-129 (2)(b), C.R.S., regarding the utilization of “store and forward transfer” technology to allow for the use of synchronous technologies in telehealth applications relating to ITR and SDF.
Recommendation 6:  Remove statutory language from sections 12-220128 (4)(c) and 12-129 (2)(b), C.R.S. regarding the method of communication with the distant dentist, and authorize the Board to develop related rules if needed in the future.
Recommendation 7:  Amend section 12-220-128(7), C.R.S. regarding the informed consent required to perform ITR.
Recommendation 8: Amend section 12-220-128 (1)(d). C.R.S., regarding the number of hours of experience required to obtain an ITR permit, and direct the Board to determine, by rule, the number of hours required.
Recommendation 9:  Require all dentists collaborating in ITR procedures under telehealth to hold a Colorado license in good standing, and have either a physical practice location in Colorado, or in a surrounding state within a reasonable travel time considering the point of location of the treatment, for follow-up care.
Recommendation 10:  Direct the Board to develop a waiver process to allow dentists to supervise more than five dental hygienists who perform ITR.
Recommendation 11: Amend section 12-220-129, C.R.S., to indicate that an articulated plan must be developed by dental hygienists in order to apply SDF, and repeal language requiring a collaborative agreement.
Eight of the recommendations were consistent with the positions that the Sunset Task Force had presented to COPRRR.  We were not in agreement with recommendation 8, 10 and 11.  Recommendation 8 did amend the section of the statute regarding the number of prerequisite hours that dental hygienists must have prior to applying for an ITR permit, but directs the Board to determine, by rule, the number of hours required.  Both CODHA and CDA support completely eliminating prerequisite hours as there is no data substantiating that hours of dental hygiene are necessary to learn this skill.
Recommendation 10 directs the Board to develop a waiver process to supervise more than 5 dental hygienists who perform ITR.  Both CODHA and CDA support modifying the language to 5 full time equivalents (FTE) to give more flexibility as many dental hygienists are not full-time employees. Also, we do not know how long it may take the Board to develop and implement a waiver process, however, we will support the Board implementing a waiver process.
Recommendation 11 amends the SDF section to indicate that an articulated plan must be developed by dental hygienists in order to apply SDF, and repeals language requiring a collaborative agreement with a dentist.  Although CODHA and CDA agree with repealing the language requiring a collaborative agreement, in favor of an articulated plan, we support repealing the whole section on SDF and adding silver diamine fluoride to 12-220-503. What constitutes practicing unsupervised dental hygiene, under (1)(g) (I) Prescribes, administers, and dispenses fluoride, including silver diamine fluoride in accordance with subsection (IV), fluoride varnish, antimicrobial solutions for mouth rinsing, other nonsystemic antimicrobial agents, and related emergency drugs and reversal agents in collaboration with a licensed dentist.  The board, by rule, may further define the permissible and appropriate emergency drugs and reversal agents.  Dental hygienists shall maintain clear documentation in the patient record of the drug or agent prescribed, administered, or dispensed; the date of action; and the rationale for prescribing, administering, or dispensing the drug or agent.
Subsection IV would state:
A dental hygienist may prescribe and apply silver diamine fluoride as follows:
(A)(i) Upon completion of a postsecondary course or continuing education course developed at the
postsecondary level that satisfies the requirements established by Board rule and provides instructions on the use and limitations of applying silver diamine fluoride.
     (ii) the course in subsection IV(i) may be completed through any of the following formats:
(a)Live and interactive course presentations;
(b)On-demand webinars with a completion quiz component to verify participation prior to certificate issuance:
(c)Any other format permitted by the Board.

Dental hygienists would still need to collaborate with a dentist and develop an articulated plan as spelled out in Rule XIII Limited Prescriptive Authority for Dental Hygienists.
We have met with the group of stakeholders and are finalizing language.  We have received a commitment from Senator JoAnn Ginal that she will sponsor the bill and introduce these amendments to the Sunset Bill.  Senator Coram will be the Co-Prime sponsor in the Senate. Representative Monica Duran and Representative Perry Will have committed to be the Co-Prime House sponsors.   Our lobbyists, Diana Orf and Kathy Oatis, are working diligently with the CDA lobbyists to insure smooth passage.  The bill will begin in the Senate.  Once we know a bill number we will do an email blast and post on the CODHA website to encourage dental hygienists to contact their senator and representative to support the bill.   For questions contact:  Deb Astroth at 303-748-4713 or dbastroth@gmail.com


Meet Your Colleagues

In each issue will you have an opportunity to get to know a few of the CODHA leadership team


Pandemic or pandemonium?
How to balance the extremes of paranoia or nonchalance of others?
Resolve to help lead. Give grace but speak truths.
Hard truths spoken have consequences but unspoken have graver ones.

Call to action to care for ourselves, our patients, each other.
Call to advocate and educate.
We hygienists are health care professionals.
Too many need to be corrected still.

We have an opportunity to protect and educate our patients.
Perhaps affect change and health on a broader scale.
We will continue to correct our patients, who do not know our education.
Patients who are at risk because of wearing their mask inside out, not on their nose and mouth.
We will correct them to protect them.

Collective Action
We are stronger together but need to come together.
Choose to call in one another.
Our other dental professionals: dentists, assistants, and front office too.
We are a team we can strengthen one another.
Nothing gained by tearing each other down, other than rubble.

There is too much work to still be done.
Lack of access to care, to education, to opportunity, to health.
Systemic inequalities that affect our profession too and need to be remedied.

Please join us, variety of voices and experience only helps us match the task better.





Student Liaison
I was born and raised in Colorado and have had a passion for healthcare since I was a child.  In my teens I volunteered at Avista Hospital to socialize and have meals with patients.
From that point I knew a career in the field healthcare is what I wanted.

I went on to become a dental assistant and worked for the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine while finishing my prerequisites for hygiene school.  I graduated from Concorde Career College in 2020, with an Associate’s of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene.  While in hygiene school I was the class president for the Student Chapter of the American Dental Hygiene Association. As President I was invited to attend a leadership conference with the ADHA and CODHA.  This opportunity led to a passion for advocating for my profession.  During my last term of hygiene school, the COVID pandemic hit, which created an issue for hygienists who were graduating and unable to take their clinical exam.  I, along with another dental hygiene student and Alyssa Aberle’s guidance wrote letters to the Colorado Dental Board and the Governor advocating for non-patient based clinical exams, and after months of writing letters and board meetings Colorado approved non-patient based exams for licensure of dental hygienists.  At the end of hygiene school, I worked at a private dental office as a hygiene assistant and was excited to be offered a full-time position as a hygienist when I finished school.  While practicing clinical hygiene full-time, I am pursuing my master’s degree in Dental Hygiene Education at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.  In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter while exploring all of the great activities Colorado has to offer.  As the current student liaison for CODHA I plan on reaching out to current students and showing them what CODHA is all about and the great benefits we offer when you’re part of this association.  My goal is to visit all of the Colorado dental hygiene schools this year to have the opportunity to visit with the students and give them a glimpse of what CODHA does in hopes of having them participate in our association when they graduate.


Western Slope Trustee

Hello, I’m Aly!  I currently serve as the CODHA Western Slope Trustee.  When I was asked to submit an article about myself for publication in the CODHA Explorer newsletter, I was hesitant but I knew I wanted to share my thoughts with my fellow dental hygienists.

My Life as a Dental Hygienist
I have been a dental hygienist for 24 years.  I graduated from Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) in Rangley, CO, with an Associate in Applied Science degree in dental hygiene.  Truthfully, dental hygiene wasn’t my lifelong career choice.  Although, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in health science.  At the time, CNCC offered a degree in dental hygiene, with a significantly reduced tuition, to any Rangely resident.  I took the opportunity, did well as a student but wasn’t in love with dental hygiene.  Several years after I graduated and was practicing, I began to enjoy being a dental hygienist.  Helping patients care for their dental health and knowing I was making a difference led me to find my forever career.
I have seen many changes in clinical dental hygiene since 1997.  The extent to which ultrasonics are used today is much different than when I was a student.  CNCC only had two ultrasonic units for the entire class, and they had to be rented if you wanted to use them.  Since I had very little instruction in the use of ultrasonics, I took continuing education courses, and self-taught myself on the contemporary use of ultrasonics.  It has changed the way I treat periodontal disease, but I know that it will never replace hand instruments.
COVID has also changed the way I currently practice.  Returning to work after COVID restrictions were lifted was very scary, and I felt on edge.  I had a sense of paranoia about approaching patients, wondering who they had contact with and where they had been.  Although over time, adhering to revised PPE standards and practicing diligent health screenings, I felt that the COVID pandemic was somewhat similar to precautions taken when treating patients during the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) pandemic.  I also thought that the ability to control clinical practice variables was far greater than in public, providing me with reassurance as I continue to practice.

My Life as a CODHA Member
I joined CODHA to broaden my horizons by taking continuing education courses and getting to know and learn from other dental hygienists.  The value of CODHA membership allows you to network and connect with people, which makes one a better clinician and a better person in general.
Several fellow CODHA members encouraged me to get involved in CODHA leadership.  Kari Brennan suggested I seek a position as a delegate to CODHA.  We talked about the importance of tripartite membership and the need to volunteer to give back to the profession.  Another dental hygienist, Amy Rezvani encouraged me to serve as a trustee for my component.  I met Tabitha Converse, Metro Denver Trustee, through the regularly scheduled CODHA zoom socials.  Both of us were “electronically challenged,” and we decided to exchange contact information and to help each other become “electronically savvy.”  We also shared the fact that we were both serving as trustees for our component.
To encourage membership and involvement in CODHA, I would suggest CODHA schedule “meet, greet, mingle” events, either in person as COVID restrictions are relaxed or via zoom; increase opportunities to network among colleagues; and establish a process in which members could call other members when they are seeking advice about a clinical situation or want to explore other career paths.

My Life Outside of Dental Hygiene
I currently live in Rifle, Colorado, 25 miles from Glenwood Springs and 1 ½ hour from Aspen.  I have been married to Chad for eighteen years, and we have a son, Kellen, who is 14 years old.    My hobbies include skiing, golf, running, reading, and cross fit.  I enjoy cross fit so much that I completed the certification training and serve as a cross-fit coach.  I teach a 5:30 am class and find myself enjoying it more than taking a class myself.

In closing, as new dental hygienists enter the profession, we must encourage them to get involved, make the time to volunteer with CODHA, and understand the value of networking with colleagues.
Feel free to send me an email (westernslope@codha.org).
I look forward to it.



Mary Catherine Dean, RDH, MS, Dental Hygiene Program Director at the Community College of Denver asked her students to submit an article that “would help ‘non-students’ appreciate what it must have been like to be negotiating an academic and clinical program during the difficulties of COVID.”
Despite the fact students were on winter break, several students took the opportunity to share their stories.
Thank you Claudia, Courtney and Arvilla for your submissions!
Editors note:
In reviewing the thoughts and feelings shared by these 1st year dental hygiene students, 2 major themes emerged:
  1. That they truly valued the support of their dental hygiene classmates and faculty during a ‘pandemic education’
  2. A request for Colorado dental hygienists to appreciate what they have been through as students during COVID ; they are concerned that the breadth of their clinical experiences were impacted.  They are hoping for ‘empathy’ and requesting ‘mentoring’ if a new graduate becomes your colleague in a practice setting.


1st Year Dental Hygiene Student
Community College of Denver

“Being a first year dental hygiene student here at Community College of Denver was a challenge just on its own. The hardships of the global pandemic have also created a different learning environment that most of us students are not used to. By having most of our lectures online, I have had to develop a new sense of discipline and focus in order to learn successfully at home. Our school has done an excellent job during clinics making sure we can be as socially distanced from each other as possible. While this is a commendable protocol to keep us all safe, it is difficult not being able to talk to other classmates as a group during clinic. Luckily our classmates have a group message where we can all talk together and gain clarification on certain concepts we may be confused about. Although this is a very strange and difficult time, I believe we will all get through it together by staying motivated and supporting each other.”


1st Year Dental Hygiene Student
Community College of Denver

I have often been told to “trust the process” that comes with being a dental hygiene student. The funny thing is that trusting the process still rings true, even in respect to COVID-19. Within my class, I think we have surprised ourselves with all the things we’ve been able to accomplish this past semester. None of us were expecting to go from only cleaning patients with light deposit loads to tackling patients with heavy bridges of calculus in a thirteen-week period of time. COVID-19 has made being a dental hygiene student exceedingly difficult, but I think my class is beginning to realize that impossible is still possible
(just barely). To the seasoned hygienists out in the world today, I salute you. I constantly hear stories about the rigors of your time in hygiene school, and I am speechless when I think about all that you were able to successfully accomplish. Your training and experiences have made you the excellent, invaluable hygienists that you currently are, and I aspire to reach the point of excellence that you have achieved. You are the role models that we graduates want and need, and we look to you for wisdom, encouragement, and support. Because of this, I want to ask you to consider the plight of current dental hygiene students in a Post-COVID world. I am well-aware that you had higher standards in your day as a dental hygiene student. You had to prove yourself “worthy” of licensure, and it should be no different now for those of us who are still training to become registered hygienists. However, that process looks different today than it did for you because it has its own unique challenges, and we need your support now more than ever. Hygiene school has always been hard, but I want to encourage you to show compassion, empathy, and understanding to your newly-graduated, Post-COVID coworkers; we could really use it.

1st Year Dental Hygiene Student
Community College of Denver

Scraping at a plastic and silicone imitation mouth, isolated in a cold tiled room, and covered in PPE to the point of being unrecognizable wasn’t how I imagined studying would be when I applied to the dental hygiene program. Hallway banter with fellow students, late-night study sessions, and being intensely huddled around a teacher as she demonstrates a new technique was how I thought I’d pass my time in school, but the pandemic dashed those plans.

There were certainly unique memories to be made. Sharing a joke through mask-muffled laughs while social distancing in the parking lot. Discovering the awkwardness of a large group trying to juggle who’s turn it is to talk in a group video chat study session. And meeting classmates for the first time in the middle of the semester during lab, but getting along like we’d been friends for years.
There were also some downsides to studying during a pandemic. The anti-cheat test taking software managed to somehow make test taking even more anxiety ridden. Constant interruptions of being accused of cheating for touching your face or looking away from the screen were critically distracting for timed tests. Inevitably technology failed to deliver, resulting in live lectures that were hard to understand at times and difficulty in communicating with the instructors during synchronous online lectures. The worst part was the isolation from fellow students since it’s hard to socialize while being covered in PPE and avoiding each other.

The pandemic highlighted some unexpectedly great things as well. The near heroic efforts of the faculty to continue teaching and their ingenuity in making sure the clinical environment was safe for everyone. The drive and determination of us students to learn and excel despite how our abilities to do so have been crippled.


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