This month, we proudly introduce Mistie Dodson, RDH as our superstar! Mistie has been a dental hygienist for 17 years. In this interview, she talks about learning from her mentor, her thoughts on professional association membership, and the surprising benefit daily flossing can offer.
What made you want to become a hygienist?
I was looking at healthcare professions and originally considering nursing. My cousin was a dental hygienist and invited me to come with her to work, which I did. I thought about what I wanted personally, and realized that the field of dentistry would allow me a good work-life balance; it would allow me to have a family and a career. As a dental hygienist, I still got the fulfillment of taking care of people, which was so important to me.
Did you have a professional mentor? How did that person encourage you?
One of the hygienists who had been with our practice since before it even became Winchester Dental really took me under her wing. Crystal Lawrence is the sweetest, most sincere person you’d ever meet. I met her while I was in hygiene school, and she guided me as I worked in the practice. Watching her with patients, the way she talked to them and made them comfortable, was something I aspired to. She left the practice more than ten years ago and is now retired, and patients still ask about her! She made such an impact on people. We still talk to each other a lot, and really, she still is my mentor.
(Related Video: Crystal Lawrence, RDH Praises Her Colleague Mistie Dodson, RDH)
You’ve been part of the Winchester Dental team since 2005; in fact, many of the team members have worked together for years. What do you think drives the team’s cohesiveness?
I believe everybody at Winchester Dental sincerely wants to provide the best experience for the patients. We want patients to be comfortable, we want them to like us, we want them to come back. We also work well together. Our practice leaders do a great job with hiring, and they ask our team what we think about decisions they make. Everyone here enjoys what they do and wants to be the best at what they do. Everyone is also always willing to help–we all pitch in and get done whatever needs to be done. As the saying goes, “there’s no I in ‘team.’”
Do you have a personal philosophy of dental hygiene and oral health?
After 17 years as a dental hygienist, I know that dental hygiene and good oral health are more than just having clean teeth; it’s all about your overall health. There is so much research that points to cancers and diseases that are linked to oral health. It’s much more than having a healthy mouth; it’s the whole body.
There’s plenty of evidence supporting the importance of flossing in addition to brushing, yet not everyone flosses. What do you tell patients who are reluctant to floss?
I talk about inflammation in the mouth and how it indicates inflammation in the body. When you skip flossing, your gums can become inflamed (and eventually infected). Research has shown that daily flossing can add two years to your life by eliminating inflammation. I tell patients that daily flossing takes no more than two minutes, where the other things such as diet and exercise take a lot more time and investment of your energy to do.
That said, there are alternatives to flossing. When patients are hesitant or unable to floss, I introduce them to other things they can do, like using interdental picks and water flossers. A water flosser is not an exact substitution for flossing, but it can help reduce inflammation. Picks and interdental brushes are good alternatives for patients with physical limitations to using string floss.
You’ve represented the local component of the Virginia Dental Hygienist Association, serving in a number of leadership roles. Why is that kind of professional membership important?
It’s so important to be a member of your professional association; it supports your job and working conditions. As an example, we’re still dealing with this pandemic. During the early months of the pandemic, as we came out of lockdown, Dr. Gio did what he needed to do to make things safe for us to return to work: he provided personal protective equipment for our team, and installed and implemented new safety equipment and protocols. But not all dental practices provided PPE or other measures to allow their team members to return to work safely. In those cases, membership could have helped those who might have needed those things; the association would have supported them. That’s why I think that kind of membership is important. Dr. Gio is wonderful, but not everyone has a wonderful boss.
As another example, when I started as a hygienist, hygienists were not permitted to administer anesthetics. The VDHA lobbied for that ability, and now if I have a patient who is uncomfortable, I can administer an anesthetic to help them relax. A professional association supports what you need in your work.
When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
I just started crocheting again, and I’m reading more. I also have twins, and really like to spend time with my family and our big extended family. I’m happy that my kids can grow up with their cousins!
Is it time for your next teeth cleaning? Make your next appointment now! Refer a friend to us and you could earn $25 in credit towards your next treatment in our office!
(Related post: Meet the Superstar: Cierra Funke!)