Lancette VanGuilder, RDH, BS, has spent the past two decades actively involved in the dental industry as a speaker, author, clinician, and public health advocate. A graduate of the University of South Dakota, she currently resides in Reno, Nevada. A past president of the Nevada Dental Hygienists’ Association (NDHA), VanGuilder is a recipient of the Nevada Dental Hygienist of the Year Award and received the Innovative Career Vision Award for her work in all seven professional roles of the dental hygienist. She served on the board of directors for the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) and has received the ADHA Irene Newman Professional Achievement Award for her contributions to advancing the art and science of the dental hygiene profession over the past 15 years.
VanGuilder is an internationally recognized continuing education speaker and serves as a key opinion leader in the dental industry. Currently, she is an airway ambassador at Sierra Smiles, a complete health dental practice. VanGuilder also works as a clinician in private practice; owns/operates her own mobile dentistry business, Community Dental Connections; developed a national continuing education (CE) company, Hygienist for Health; and volunteers as a vaccinator with Battle Born Medical Corp. To date, she has administered nearly 10,000 COVID-19 vaccines.
Q. How did you become a COVID-19 vaccinator, and what sparked your interest in this?
A. There has never been a better time for dental hygienists to meet the needs of our communities. During the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I signed up to volunteer with COVID-19 screenings and contract tracing. I worked tirelessly alongside colleagues from a variety of organizations to elevate the role that licensed dental practitioners can play in vaccine administration. After Nevada’s Governor Steve Sisolak signed the directive expanding the list of approved vaccinators to include dental hygienists, I quickly completed my training and started giving vaccines. I have had the opportunity to provide thousands of COVID-19 vaccines to adults and children, individuals experiencing homelessness, seniors, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, casino workers, and more. I was even chosen to vaccinate my city’s mayor.
My passion for dental hygienists giving immunizations actually began back in 2017 when I began to learn more about the human papillomavirus (HPV) as I was developing an oral cancer CE course. As data continued to emerge on HPV-related cancers, I felt compelled to find a way that the dental hygienist could help with cancer prevention. In 2018, I began my work with the NDHA and the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services on the possibility of dental hygienists administering HPV vaccines. In 2020, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, as a cancer prevention tool for oropharyngeal and other head/neck cancers. By the end of 2020, a global pandemic prompted the development of a whole new vaccine for disease prevention, and my vaccine interest broadened.
Whether it is in a public health setting, a mobile outreach program or in a dental office, dental hygienists can play a key role in health education, screenings, and vaccine administration. Licensed dental hygienists are a ready-made workforce. We are highly educated, accustomed to taking CE courses to advance our skills, and maintain a great interest in increasing medical-dental collaboration. Dental hygienists and dentists can both play a vital role in unprecedented times such as these, where efforts are so vitally needed, while also preparing for the future of healthcare.
Current opportunities for vaccine administration by dental hygienists could include those mandated for school entry, influenza, HPV, and COVID-19. Looking to future possibilities, there are many other vaccines in the pipeline being studied for conditions such as human immunodeficiency virus, periodontal diseases, allergies, Alzheimer disease, and other infectious diseases.
Q. Discuss your role as an unpaid lobbyist for legislation related to dental hygiene practice?
A. I have had the tremendous privilege of serving as an unpaid lobbyist in Nevada for many years. This has allowed me to play a key role in helping shape healthcare policy by writing bill draft requests, securing bill sponsors, providing legislative testimony, and working closely with state policymakers, other lobbyists, and various stakeholders. Some of my proudest moments have been dedicated to improving access to care and expanding the scope of practice for dental hygienists. I have advocated for opportunities for the dental hygienist with teledentistry, self-regulation, botox, dental therapy, and immunizations. I have experienced many highs and lows in my legislative journey but advocacy still remains among my top priorities and the future is bright for the dental hygiene profession!
Creating systems change takes courage, flexibility, and collaboration. Serving as an unpaid lobbyist has allowed me an avenue to help build bridges between the dental industry, the state legislature, the media, and other organizations. It is important for dental hygienists to be at the table where critical conversations are happening and to be recognized as an elite healthcare provider and the disease prevention specialists that we are.