Elevating in Atlanta

The next leg of The Dental WINEgenist speaking tour took me to Atlanta, GA.

I completed a full day of speaking in Oklahoma and zipped off to the airport to catch a late night flight into Atlanta.  I arrived at the airport and flew through security (thank goodness for TSA pre-check!) to find an empty seat at an airport bar.  After ordering a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a light salad, I opened my trusty laptop to review my lecture for the Georgia Dental Hygienists’ Association to be delivered in the morning.


Ummm…. What?

I quit PowerPoint and re-started it: a trick I “learned” from my “tech support brother” (he’s a highly successful internationally recognized software developer but to me he’s tech support).

I attempted to re-open my presentation and…


Ummm… excuse me?  I call my brother while in a total panic.  It’s 7pm. I’m about to hop on a two hour flight to Atlanta.  I will arrive at 11:30pm and need to be in high heels, hair curled, dress pressed and makeup by 7am… oh, and also I will need to be prepared with a PRESENTATION!

I requested another glass of wine to be sent on its way, sat up straight in my bar stool and went to work.

Through exhaustion, sore feet and tired eyes, I arrived in Atlanta a few hours later with the shell of a presentation, endless hope and a few choice words floating in the back of my mind.  I’m starving, because I realized in my extreme focus to build content at the airport bar, I was reaching for my wine glass and left my tiny side salad untouched.  

I arrive at the hotel and inquire: “Is room service still open”

…”It just closed”…


I check in to my hotel, chug a bottle of water and express gratitude for Katrina of 48 hours ago who randomly packed a small bag of almonds in her carry-on.

After a few re-run episodes of Friends, I’m fast asleep, dreaming of the time I actually had a presentation prepared that I was proud of.

With the beep of an alarm, the heat of my curling iron and a few swipes of my eyebrow pencil, I was ready to meet the fabulous Georgia Dental Hygienists’ Association.

I was greeted by Ms. Kendra McKune, President of the Georgia Dental Hygienists’ Association and learned about her initiatives for this incredible association.  As a true leader, Kendra shared about how she has created a campaign to ELEVATE the profession, beginning in her own backyard. She proudly donned a hot-air balloon pin as it symbolized this concept: one that embodies the idea of rising to approach new heights together.

Over the course of the morning, I proudly watched as the professionals in the room elevated: elevated their knowledge, their approach, their thoughts and, ultimately, their standards.  Through collaboration, we unpacked the new 2018 AAP Classifications as diagnostic opportunities to ELEVATE the way we are able to communicate with our patients and, ultimately improve our ability to address disease sooner.

I spent my lunch hour sitting with the fabulous Renee Graham whose wit, charm and poise are out of this world.  Between small bites and sips of tea, she shared with me the challenges the hygienists in Georgia face when it comes to elevating their position within the association.  It is clear that although Georgia is a state in which hygienists are still unable to lawfully deliver local anesthesia, there is a huge desire to bring this certification to the state and a great sense of pride these hygienists have for the work their association is doing to create opportunities for these certifications to come to fruition.

Here we go… my afternoon talk… a talk I glued together out of a sense of desperation and gratitude for my high school improvisational theatre experiences while conceptualized through a panic-ed wine buzz in an airport bar.

While it was perhaps not my absolute finest moment, I also do wonder, in writing this, if the audience knew that this presentation was… well… not what I had initially intended to present.

Nevertheless, we unpacked it: the idea that the Oral-Systemic Link continually provides us with opportunity to challenge, change, innovate and, yes, ELEVATE what we do to improve the quality of life for our patients.  In many cases, I implore you to consider, I believe we are saving lives.  

Throughout this presentation, I learned about how the Georgia Dental Hygienists’ Association is working tirelessly to provide additional parameters for the prevention of disease prevention, such as integrating silver diamine fluoride delivery into their legislation.  It is clear that although perhaps the participants presented to learn from me, I equally learned from them and was absolutely awe-inspired to understand the ways they are continually ELEVATING their clinical responsibilities to their patients.

With a wave of my clicker and a few “thank yous” later, I was back in an Uber and on my way home.  As I dreamed of kicking off my heels, putting on sweatpants and eating Chipotle on my couch which was currently clear on the other side of the country, I marveled at the beautiful day I spent with these incredible hygienists.  My email inbox filled with comments from “thank you for an inspiring day” to “I am so excited to use this information starting Monday morning” and a few great emails of hygienists sharing dog photos! One email, in particular, touched my heart in the most incredible way:

 I graduated hygiene school in 2016 and practiced for a year and a half. As of right now, I haven’t practiced hygiene in over a year (I have probably been out of the game longer than I had been in it if I’m being honest). Being only 23 at the time, I felt myself being pulled by another career path which was to become a flight attendant and travel the world. I love flying and it’s everything I hoped it would be for me. When other flight attendants ask what I did before flying I would say “I’m a dental hygienist. My original plan was to fly for a few years and go back to hygiene when I was “ready to settle down”, but now I can’t ever imagine going back because this job is so easy. That was until I attended this past weekend’s GDHA seminar in Atlanta. Obviously I went for the CE courses to keep my license up to date, but after hearing you speak today with such enthusiasm and charisma about the profession, it really put that fire back into hygiene for me. I was reminded of the first job I fell in love with and found myself opening up my Dental Post app for the first time in a year after leaving the conference. I know as a hygienist you hope to impact your patient’s lives, but you’ve also impacted fellow colleague’s lives as well. You’re so inspiring as an RDH, entrepreneur, and woman. Your mom would definitely be proud! So I just wanted to reach out and say thank you for an awesome Saturday! I appreciate it more than you know. 



THIS is my WHY – the dynamic “thing” that pulls me out of bed in the morning, tethers me to my emails throughout the day and keeps me up late at night with a glass of wine and my laptop (a laptop which, by the way, needs to stop corrupting my files!!!).  This is the reason I will hop on a series of planes, hire someone to watch my dogs and eat almonds at midnight in a hotel room while watching re-runs. It’s because of people like this, hygienists who need to be inspired, be empowered and ultimately reminded of the gorgeous opportunity they have to, in turn, impact the lives of others.  YOU are my WHY. Keep elevating, Georgia!

I want to take the opportunity to thank the incredible people at Dentsply Sirona Preventive for supporting me in this incredible mission to share my voice, spread my ideas and collaborate in a significant way.  It is through their generosity and belief in me that I am able to do what I do with such zest and passion.


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