Karen Cook RDH, Healthcare Hygienist

Meet Karen! An RDH & Fitness Instructor Who is Integrating Oral Health in an Innovative Way

Nov 02, 2023

Meet Karen Cook, RDH from Longmont, Colorado and a proud member of National Network of Healthcare Hygienists (NNHH). Karen is currently working full time clinically in a dental office, collaborating with her patient's medical providers when necessary. Karen is also a certified fitness instructor, so her dream role would be to continue to integrate her two professions as an educator and advocate in the direction of corrective exercise, posture and airway health.

Karen is enrolled in the Oral Systemic Educator Certificate Program by NNHH, and she is excitedly working on an airway-focused Capstone Project. She said:

“My capstone will definitely be focused on airway and sleep thanks to what I have already learned through the Oral Systemic Educator program. I was starting to investigate airway and breathing topics through other resources a number years ago when I wanted to learn more about my own family member’s struggle with sleep apnea. After the section on airway in the program and having a great conversation with the instructor, my passion for the topic took off. I have since implemented an airway and sleep screening protocol at work along with a clinical note template, pamphlet and follow up email with website resources and book suggestions for patients. We now have a myofunctional therapist as part of our referral team who I have invited to the office several times to help our team gain more confidence and knowledge for the screening process. It has been so enlightening and rewarding in the difference it has made for our patients and how we approach treatment planning. Once you learn and see it, you can’t un-see it… It can change a patient’s life!”

The demographic that tugs on her heart strings the most are children. Since her own daughter had airway issues that flew under the radar during palatal expansion (sinus and allergy issues, plus mouth breathing), she feels it is important for providers to detect red flags while children are young so that corrections are easier. She wants to continue to bring awareness so that we can turn future facial and jaw development around for healthier children who become healthier adults in all areas of their life.

Since beginning the Oral Systemic Educator program, Karen says she has become a much better educator chairside, and that the confidence she gained has helped with patient trust and acceptance of treatment. They’ve commented on her new level of care being appreciated.

To a hygienist considering enrolling she says, “A must!! NNHH and the Oral Systemic Educator Certificate Program took me in a direction that I never thought I’d go. It has taken me to another level in both my hygiene and fitness careers. The more educated you are, the more you understand, and you become better at conveying relevant information to patients and their medical providers. I now plan to pursue a corrective exercise program and pain management program where I will include airway health and how posture can start with the tongue - which I don’t think most therapists are aware of. I’m excited about my future. Thanks NNHH!”

Connect with Karen at [email protected]



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