Shavonne R. Healy, MSDH, RDH, ICP, is dedicated to improving the oral health of all patients, with a focus on those with dental implants. To accomplish this goal, she practices as an implant care practitioner (ICP) at Kazemi Oral Surgery and Dental Implants in Bethesda, Maryland, and is the co-founder of RDH Innovations LLC, an organization dedicated to educating dental hygienists on best practices for implant patients and integrating them into the oral surgery team. Healy also co-manages the online Dental Implants Uncovered Study Group, in which dental hygienists can ask questions and share their experiences in treating dental implant patients. Active in furthering the profession, she is president of the District of Columbia Dental Hygienists’ Association. At her alma mater, the Fones School of Dental Hygiene at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, Healy has encouraged the implementation of advanced dental hygiene modalities into the curriculum in order to prepare graduating students for modern day dental hygiene. Passionate about continuing education and leadership, she takes pride in not only educating her patients about the importance of a healthy mouth, but whole body wellness.
What is an implant care practitioner (ICP) and why is it important to dental hygiene?
The primary purpose of my endeavors is to expand the dental hygiene profession into oral surgery; hence, the role of the ICP. This professional is a registered dental hygienist with the highest level of implant knowledge and training, a clinician who is dedicated to serving the population of patients with advanced implant dentistry. With dental implants as the standard of care for tooth replacement, their maintenance and the role of the dental hygienist in the preservation of peri-implant tissues are key. With many peri-implantitis cases directly related to the inadequate skill of the provider, there is a need for advanced education and hands-on training. After intense examination of dental and medical literature, completed hands-on training, and advanced continuing education, the health care profession has come to a consensus: in the case of peri-implantitis, the need for frequent professional and at-home maintenance practices that are current and customized to serve different needs are integral to the longevity of the implant, and, most importantly, the overall health of the patient. Research shows that maintenance procedures are key to the longevity of dental implant health and this demonstrates a need for a well-defined implant process of care.
With the integration of the ICP into the dental hygiene profession, a bridge will be laid over the gap between the dental implant patient and access to adequate care. This also presents an opportunity for dental hygiene clinicians to expand our intraprofessional relationships. For example, the periodontal patient alternates maintenance visits between the periodontal therapist in collaboration with the periodontist and the restorative dental hygienist in collaboration with the restorative dentist in order to meet the patient’s periodontal and restorative maintenance needs. To prepare for the future of dentistry and to meet the current needs of the profession and dental implant population, we now have the role of the dental hygienist as ICP working alongside oral surgeons and eager to work intraprofessionally with our dental colleagues to advance the profession and the care we provide to our patients.
What about working in clinical practice gets you jumping out of bed each morning to start the new day? What makes you want to crawl back underneath the covers?
My role as clinician is part of my overall purpose in this life and that is to serve others. My gifts and talents have led me on a path to the profession of dental hygiene. As a dental hygiene national leader, clinician, author, researcher, educator, advocate, international speaker, entrepreneur, mentee, and mentor, I am thankful for the diverse ways in which I may impact others. That is a lot of opportunity to make a difference. Whether it be in clinical care, organizing a seminar, or serving on the American Dental Hygienists’ Association House of Delegates floor or at a community service event, I am a dental hygienist and I love what I do! I don’t see what I do as “work” or a “job,” it’s a purpose I enjoy living for.