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The 17th annual University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Dental Hygiene Symposium and Hinman Lectures was jam packed in more ways than one.

Hygiene Symposium

Over 1,300 people attended the two-day event in person on August 18-19 at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham, making it one of the largest hybrid dental meetings in Alabama (approximately 200 more attended virtually). While there, participants were treated to a lineup of a dozen speakers providing a total of 16 courses, along with 27 on-site vendors.

Topics ranged from the fundamentals (infection control, CPR) to cutting edge (digital dentistry, CBCT) to the unconventional (forensics, vaping), providing something of interest for each attendee.

“We make sure we have a wide variety of courses that cover a variety of dental topics,” says Ann Marie Karaki, Director of Continuing Dental Education for the UAB School of Dentistry. “That way, people can mix and match the type of classes they want to take for what best meets their educational goals.”

“We try to meet the needs of the dental community during this two-day program. You could bring your entire dental team, and they all could attend different classes. We want it to be a local dental meeting that has the feel of a national meeting.”

Karaki was instrumental in the creation of the initial Dental Hygiene Symposium in 2007, shortly after she arrived at UAB. Karaki says she was seeking to establish a meeting that focused more heavily on supporting the role of hygienists in the dental field, and she was pleased when approximately 350 people attended that inaugural event. Five years later, the SOD Hinman Lecture joined the Symposium lineup, expanding the number of dental topics covered each year.

“When I came to UAB, there were a lot of meetings geared toward dentists, but not as many specifically to hygienists,” Karaki says. “So we started this program to meet the needs of the dental hygienists in the community, and it’s been going strong for 17 years with steady, continued growth - and now also includes dentists.”

“I met several hygienists this year who attended the very first Symposium. It was lovely to see how much the meeting has grown and how many of our hygienists and dentists attend every year. We are hopeful that our meeting will continue to grow and be an educational resource for dentistry in the state of Alabama.”

The Continuing Education aspect of the Symposium is a key component to its success, Karaki says. Attendees can receive up to 13 hours of CE credit in two days, which meets all the annual requirements for hygienists and a bit more than the in-person requirements for dentists.

“That is one of our main goals,” Karaki says. “We want the dental team to be able to come here and, in just one weekend out of the year, meet all their in-person CE needs.”

Speakers at this year’s event included Ken Tilashalski, DMD, who was making his final appearance as the UAB SOD Associate Dean of Academic Affairs before leaving for a position at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Dentistry. More than 400 people attended each of his two lectures, one on oral disorders and the other on radiographic pathology.

SOD assistant professor Christine Blass, DMD, also gave a well-attended talk that focused on the importance of the medical record in today’s dental practices.

“Speaking to our community was a wonderful experience,” Blass says. “Participants were engaged and had thoughtful questions regarding their patient’s medical conditions and current recommendations.”

While Karaki and University Events Specialist Rachel Steadham handle most of the preparations for the annual event, Karaki said it would not be possible without the 20 or so volunteers who help each year.

“We rely so heavily on volunteers, and most of them come from the School of Dentistry,” Karaki says. “We are very fortunate that they want to come support us and help the meeting run smoothly. It really was a successful team effort.”

It is an effort that will take place again next year, as the Dental Hygiene Symposium has become an important part of the SOD’s calendar of events.

“This gives us an opportunity to support the dental community in the state of Alabama,” Karaki says. “Because not only are we graduating dentists, we’re also here to support life-long learning for the dental team.”