Meet Colleen! An Integrated Dental Hygienist in Milwaukee, WI

Jun 19, 2024

Meet Colleen Hogan RDH! She is an Integrated Dental Hygienist from Muskego, Wisconsin and a founding member of National Network of Healthcare Hygienists (NNHH).

Colleen is a public health hygienist and dental hygiene instructor. She currently works as an Integrated Dental Hygienist at 16th Street Community Health Center of Milwaukee, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). Since they do not have a dental clinic on site, she is integrated within the pediatric and OB clinics. She assesses their patients at well visits and follow up appointments. Her public health career began at the Aids Resource Center of Milwaukee. She found it both challenging and rewarding to work with so many patients that had never had access to dental care before.

Colleen said that once she heard that medical systems were looking to integrate oral systemic health into their care models, she began looking for jobs. She said it was serendipitous because she had seen the position online, but it did not mention any medical integration so she had not applied for it. She ran into a hygienist who was leaving the role and after learning about it applied right away.

What does a typical day look like for an Integrated Dental Hygienist?

“I collaborate with medical staff to do a caries risk assessment, dental screening, fluoride application and provide oral health education for children and their parents and OB patients. I encourage patients/parents to establish a dental home and provide them with info about what dental practices accept state insurance. I advocate for patients who are in need of emergency and restorative dental care by coordinating restorative care with community dentists.”

Colleen says she loves kids and it breaks her heart when she sees baby bottle caries or severe decay in children because they are incapable of caring for their own teeth and it is up to the parents to do so. Her role involves educating parents and children about the importance of taking care of their teeth to motivate them towards change.

Colleen's dream job would be to work in a hospital as an Integrated Dental Hygienist. Since she is very close to retiring, she likely won’t live out that dream, but feels very excited for other RDHs that will have that opportunity in their career, thanks to organizations like NNHH.

She says, “Dental Hygienists are well educated health care providers and have been underutilized for years. We spend more one on one time with our patients than any other health care provider (except maybe mental health providers). Our patients see us for 60 minute appointments two to four times a year, which provides plenty of time to build the type of relationships and trust needed to motivate and educate people towards healthy changes that positively impact their overall health. I honestly believe that utilizing dental  hygienists in public health clinics and in hospitals is the most important key to advancing the overall health of our nation and eliminating the socioeconomic disparities that exist.”

To an RDH considering a certificate program or membership at National Network of Healthcare Hygienists Colleen said,

“Do it!! NNHH is a great resource that has taken the lead in supporting all hygienists who want to take their career in the direction of medical dental integration. They are committed to advancing the careers, ideas and education of all dental hygienists who want to work in a healthcare setting.”

Connect with Colleen at [email protected] 

View all NNHH has to offer HERE

Video credit Children's Health Alliance of WI on Vimeo January 2024

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