Miles Ahead in the Mile High City

As I sit on this flight home from Denver, Colorado, all I can say is WOW.  What a beautiful weekend I shared with the incredible leadership team of the Colorado Dental Hygienists’ Association!  You know, every once in a while, a meeting just hits me to the core for a variety of reasons, and the Colorado Dental Hygienists’ Association did not disappoint!

In all of my travels, state associations are always wondering about what is going on in the great state of Colorado.  In true progressive nature, the dental hygienists have been able to lobby and pass unique pieces of legislature that have truly elevated Colorado to the upper echelon of dental hygiene advocacy across the country.  All eyes are on what Colorado is doing as we move into the next decade with a fresh sense of wonderment about how dental hygienists will be able to uniquely serve the dental community.

From the moment I arrived in Denver, I knew this organization had a unique dynamic energy about it! I was so fortunate to have a traveling buddy that weekend, as I was joined by my “work wifey” Ms. Debi Dencek, inventor, founder and CEO of the CordEze. “Look, Deb! Chocolates!” I exclaimed, as I was greeted with Colorado-style toffee chocolates in my hotel room with a beautiful card from the FABULOUS Jindy Davis, personally welcoming me to the Colorado Dental Hygienists’ Association Annual Session 2019.

Okay, now here’s the scoop: I had committed to delivering three programs over two days in Colorado.  Let’s just say that when I arrived in Colorado that evening, two of the three programs had been written… 

A text pops up: “hey Katrina, it’s Lancette VanGuilder! Want to get some wine?”

I mean…is that even a question?  So Deb and I freshened up, I crossed my fingers and toes that perhaps I’d get a strike of brilliance to finish my third program at some point in the next 15 hours and we joined Lancette at the hotel wine bar.

Can I just say – there are SO many incredible dental speakers on the circuit right now, and my heart hurts that most of us are simply ships passing in the night! I cannot tell you how many events both Lancette and I have spoken at either in different rooms or at opposite times and as such, we literally haven’t so much as shook each other’s hand or shared a glass of wine together.  So this evening was special, because next to Deb and Lancette, we laughed, learned about each other, unpacked fresh ideas about dentistry and truly connected.  What a special opportunity it was to just relax into our elements, let our guards down and just BE in each other’s space.  It was truly wonderful and Lancette: if you’re reading this: thank you for reaching out.  It was an absolute pleasure to spend time with you!

We retired to our hotel room and after a few hours in bed with Deb yelling at me to put my phone down and concentrate on my presentation, we were off to dream about mountains and toffee.

I woke up, alert and oriented but certainly NOT prepared for what was about to go down with my wardrobe.  Seeing as I was presenting over two days, I brought two dresses with matching pairs of heels (as one can only expect from The Dental WINEgenist).  Dress for Day #1 was a bit wrinkled so I plugged in the hotel iron… as ya do… and … um – what’s happening? I look down – the iron BURNT A LEGIT HOLE into my brand new dress!!!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

“Deb – do you think anyone would really be able to tell if I delivered my program in this dress?”

Thank you, Deb, for just being honest.  Alright Dress #2: you’re up to bat!  With protein shake in hand and a plan to hit up the mall later that day, I went down to my conference room only to find THE Betsey Reynolds sitting FRONT AND CENTER with her venti coffee in my audience.

Um… what am I supposed to do with this?

…but there she sat, with a wide smile and glistening eyes.  

I suppose I’ve seen Betsey speak about a gagillion times, and I’m sure I’ve sat in the front row with the same silly grin on my face, so perhaps this was pay back.

“No pressure, ginger” I said to myself as I began opening my course “Cracking Periodontal Codes with Class: Diagnostic Decisions” with an intact dress (no holes).

I just don’t know what it is about being amongst dental hygienists and unpacking content that I REALLY love, but I just feel alive!  I get asked questions like “don’t your feet bother you?”.  Um… no, they don’t, because I’m not thinking about my feet.  I’m engaged and excited and seriously in my element.  Any speaker will tell you: this is where we feel the most alive!

Even more thrilling are the participants who come up to me afterwards and thank me for such a dynamic and energetic talk, the people who ask if I can come speak for their corporate event and the hygienists who simply want to connect with me.  THIS is the magnetic power of the work I get to do, and it is an absolute blessing to be able to do what I do on so many levels.

I joined my dear friends Lani MacBeth and Susan Cotton for lunch while the leadership team from the Colorado Dental Hygienists’ Association delivered a lunch program that was integrative, informative and celebrative.  Through tears, dental hygienists who had delivered outstanding service to the community walked amongst their peers in a standing ovation and were awarded distinctions for their incredible efforts.  You could cut the dynamic energy of the room with a butter knife.  THIS is why Colorado is different: because their initiatives aren’t about taking production away from one organization or another – it is about service to the community, and finding a safe and effective way to empower the right people to deliver treatment modalities to better serve and improve the oral health of all residents of Colorado.

The President of the Colorado Dental Association not only attended the event but spoke on the collaboration between the Dental and Dental Hygiene Associations.  In my travels as a speaker, I’ve never seen the President of the state Dental Association attend the Hygiene Annual Session to respectfully address the dental hygienists in the state.  Perhaps this is another reason why Colorado is continuing to take steps forward: because their Dental Association acknowledges that the best way to elevate dentistry in the state is to work TOGETHER for collaborative support.

Either way, I was incredibly impressed, but soon realized I needed to scurry to my afternoon program.

Now this was unique: Colorado offers a student track at their Annual Session: a separate room in which the future of dental hygiene gather and receive course content on preparing for their careers, alternative careers, resume building and the like.  I was SO incredibly honored and humbled to be invited to speak on behalf of Sanders Board Preparatory in delivering a “CRAM Session”: a 1.5 hour course that squeezed in as much in the way of “NEED TO KNOW”s for the dental hygiene students to pass their NBDHE.

Let me tell ya: we CRAMMED that content and it was wonderful! These students were scribbling notes like crazy, they were motivated, they were excited and most of all: they were EXCITED TO LEARN!  How incredibly refreshing to work with such futuristic and curious students who are ready to take the dental hygiene world by storm!

Okay – time to get to the mall! I wandered around the mall for a few minutes before finding something new to wear for tomorrow because – remember the IRONY of my dress fail?

Don’t worry – I made it back to the hotel just in time for happy hour on the exhibit floor and I was DELIGHTED to learn that one of the wines at the host bar was a beautiful New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – they must have known The Dental WINEgenist would be there!

…let’s just say I REALLY enjoyed the wine late into the night while sitting at a table with some of the fabulous ladies of the Colorado Dental Hygienists’ Association.  Apparently there are videos of my excellent choreography skills and a few Instagram stories of Deb and I trashing Dress #1 a bit more… needless to say, I really enjoyed my evening in Colorado.

Next morning: 8:30am – wake up, babes, because I’m unpacking Local Anesthesia Techniques, Trends & Troubleshooting. I swear, every time I deliver this program I am reminded of how horrible the inferior alveolar nerve block is, and how technically simple and successful alternative injections such as the Gow-Gates or the Vazirani-Akinosi can be for dental clinicians.  Someone actually raised their hand and asked: “if these injections are easier, more successful and safer, why aren’t we doing these over the IA?”

I paused… ummm – THAT’S MY JOB SECURITY! 

We all laughed and moved on, but it’s true – there simply are far better injection techniques available and I’m so truly honored to be able to unpack those injections for my esteemed colleagues through instructional videos and anatomical workshopping to truly empower them and help them feel confident in delivering these injections starting Monday morning!

Full disclosure: I absolutely LOVE being in heels, on stage and sashay-ing between course participants while I talk about dental hygiene, but there is also something SO comforting in taking my heels off, putting on a pair of pants and enjoying a glass of wine at the end of a long weekend of presenting… and that is exactly what I did.

Deb and I spent the better part of the remainder of our time getting into trouble in Denver, to be frank.  We enjoyed some beer at a local brewery and bickered with a dentist who had the unfortunate opportunity to sit next to the two of us.  We bopped around town, enjoyed wine and saw some incredible sights.  In true fashion, Joy Raske rolled up in her mom van with a bottle of wine, ready to wind down with us at the hotel.  The three of us ordered about half the menu in room service and crunched on the rest of our toffee while laughing, sharing stories and behaving like teenagers awake past midnight at a sleepover party.

After a restful night’s sleep, Deb and I were off to the airport and back to Phoenix.  All I really remember about the airport was that Deb hated the oatmeal… sorry Deb!

As I sit on this flight and reflect on my time in Colorado, I am truly in awe.  In awe of their collaboration, their futuristic mindset, their hospitality, their kindness and their passion for dental hygiene.  THIS is the future of dental hygiene, and it feels SO good to be a part of it.

I simply cannot thank the amazing people of Dentsply Sirona enough for their incredible support of my programs – it is through their generosity that I am able to hop on planes and fly all over the country speaking on my favorite content and inspiring dentistry to step forward together.  Thank you to the incredible faculty and administration of Sanders Board Preparatory for their work and support as I step forward to deliver supportive programs that help empower and uplift dental hygiene students to success.

And finally: to Alyssa, Jindy and Jessica – you babes are the bees knees!  Your hospitality was OUT OF THIS WORLD.  I feel like I have a forever “second home” in Colorado, and I truly look forward to being back in the great state of Colorado as The Dental WINEgenist to unpack some unique course content… perhaps with wine glass in hand! Stay tuned…



  1. We absolutely loved having you! Your local anesthesia course is by far the best L.A. course I’ve attended… that’s not surprising! Thank you for making us all better RDH’s and igniting passion in purpose! See you in a few days at Jumpstart2020!

  2. Girl- we LOVE you and it’s such an honor to hear you speak and just to hang with you! THANK you for such a well written piece! ?

Leave a Comment