Christine Charles, RDH, BSDH, is director of support, strategy, and communications in the Department of Global Consumer Healthcare Research, Development, and Engineering for Johnson & Johnson Consumer and Personal Products Worldwide in Morris Plains, NJ. She is also responsible for supporting professional activities in Australia and New Zealand. As a clinical researcher, Charles has been the central force in the support of Listerine Antiseptic’s therapeutic claims. In 1987, she was part of the effort to attain Listerine’s most visible claim—the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. She has been involved with the development of clinical support for nearly all of the Listerine oral care products including rinses, dentifrices, breath strips, and Listerine Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips.
Recently, Charles received the Oral Health Research Award from the International Association for Dental Research in honor of her nearly 30-year contribution to the field of clinical research. She has co-authored more than 50 clinical research abstracts and articles, and presented numerous research and continuing education programs. Charles is also a member of Dimensions of Dental Hygiene’s Corporate Council.
What do you hope the future brings for the profession of dental hygiene?
I think that improving access to care is integral to the future of the profession. I am excited about the possibility of broadening dental hygiene practice acts to allow greater access to care for those Americans who are currently underserved. Creating different levels of dental hygiene practice based on varying educational and training requirements will also help address the access-to-care issue. New dental hygiene models, such as the periotherapist and advanced therapist, will allow for more independent ways of practicing within a collaborative wellness team of health care professionals.
I think we are building momentum for evidence-based practice. I am excited about the advanced degrees that dental hygienists are pursuing, as well as the varied roles, practice environments, and career options that are continually growing. I am inspired by the number of dental hygienists serving in leadership positions in dental education, and the great interest our profession has in collaborating across disciplines. Students who are serious about their studies, excited by scientific discovery, and who want to make a difference in their communities through professional involvement are the key to our future. I commend those dental hygienists who are engaged in supporting and developing our students because this is how we will ensure the longevity of our profession.
What does your average work day look like?
I wear many hats throughout my day and I am frequently interacting with research, regulatory, legal, and marketing colleagues—either locally or globally. I usually attend meetings, work on publication planning, edit and write manuscripts, brainstorm regarding product claims, and consult on clinical programs and protocols. I also work on communications strategies for new product launches and claims. Basically, I try to bring scientific evidence to life for both professionals and consumers. I also help my colleagues understand what’s important to dental hygienists. There is always mentoring, keeping up with the literature, reviewing manuscripts, training and personal development activities, and managing my email inbox to keep every day full. My position requires flexibility, the ability to keep an open mind, and the desire to learn, which make it both invigorating and challenging. I also have the opportunity to create and nurture relationships with varied disciplines and colleagues across the globe.
How did you make the leap from clinical practice to product research and development?
After working as a dental hygienist part-time in both a general practice and a periodontal practice, I felt there was more I wanted to do. Just before I completed my bachelor of science degree at the University of Bridgeport, my mom sent me this help-wanted ad for a developmental scientist, and I decided to apply. I remembered how much I had enjoyed researching implants for a school paper—from the process of formulating a question to uncovering information about the topic, to putting it all together—and was intrigued by the opportunity. Long story short, I was offered a position in research and development at a New Jersey-based company, which I accepted. I conducted small in-house research studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of oral care products, and also managed large caries trials for a dentifrice manufacturer. I learned a great deal, and after nearly 10 years I moved on to another consumer-products company—this time with a focus on mouthrinses and other oral care products.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of working in industry?
My position requires great flexibility and the ability to remain in a learning mode. I enjoy collaborating with various business departments—marketing, sales, research, legal, and regulatory—as we work together to figure out a strategy to support the business. Creating and nurturing relationships with people representing different disciplines and cultures represents another job facet that I relish. For example, I have had to train my brain to listen and think in Spanish during all-day meetings with key opinion leaders, and to understand Portuguese while I worked in scientific and professional affairs in our Latin America division. I would call these opportunities as opposed to challenges. I am sometimes challenged by resource constraints and not being able to do all the things I would like to do. Timelines can also be a challenge, yet they force us to be innovative, efficient, and to think of new ways of operating.