Digital Reflection

Teaching Radiography

Teaching Radiography to dental hygiene students can be a daunting task. The concepts of mA and kVp seem to be among the most difficult to grasp. Many of them have a difficult time understanding how X-rays are created in the dental X-ray tube. When X-rays are created, the kinetic energy of the accelerating electrons has to be converted into electromagnetic energy. The main way this occurs is via bremsstrahlung radiation. Here’s how I explain the process:B978070204600100016X_f16-01b-9780702046001

  1. First, we need a free source of electrons. We do this by heating up the tungsten filament (cathode) to incandescence. I demonstrate this by turning out the lights and holding up a coiled wire as I heat it with a lighter until it starts glowing. I explain that the energy needed to heat the coil to incandescence represents the mA, which is usually in the range of 5-8 volts. As the wire heats up, a cloud of electrons will form around it.
  2. The next thing we need is to impart speed to the electrons and propel them toward the tungsten target (anode). We achieve this by energizing the electrons with about 60-90 kilovolts. This is the kVp. It would be like holding the wire up to a blowtorch instead of a lighter.
  3. At this point, the electrons accelerate toward the tungsten target with tremendous kinetic energy. For X-rays to be created, we need to convert the kinetic energy of the electrons into electromagnetic energy. Remember energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can change form.
  4. As the electrons slam into the tungsten target, the sudden stop converts their energy from kinetic to electromagnetic (and other energy like heat). About 1% will be converted into X-rays. Bremsstrahlung means “braking”, and describes this sudden stop.
  5. To help them visualize Bremsstrahlung radiation, I ask them to think about what happens if a car accelerates and crashes into a concrete wall. The sudden stop will convert the kinetic energy of motion into heat and sound waves (the crashing sound). It’s similar to what happens in an X-ray tube, just on a much smaller scale.

This explanation seems to help my students understand these difficult topics. The textbook explanations can be so difficult to understand; I always think the answer is to simplify and demystify tough concepts. Visuals and dramatic storytelling always help too. After all, we’re teachers, but we’re also actors up on stage. Give them something engaging and fun, and they will learn.


Creating Movies for your Class

Currently, I’m teaching DH 226, Ethics and Law in Dental Hygiene. The students enjoy the case studies and debating issues in class; it can actually get pretty heated sometimes! Even though they like the interactive part of the class, I’ve found that they have a hard time grasping the three theories of ethics. So, one day I decided to make a video that would simplify the theories for them. It was a big hit!

The video was easy to make. First, I decided on a theme and planned the movie script and story board. I used Paint to draw each slide (they’re stick figures), then imported the images (in order- VERY important!) to Windows MovieMaker. I imported a song for the background, and completed the voiceover with my family. With MovieMaker, edits are easy and you can add credits at the end. It was a fun project, and now I use it every time I teach the class. Take a look at mine and give it a try!


Digital Learning Tools

As a teacher, I have to keep my students engaged and interested in what they’re learning. It’s also my job to make sure they are learning. I can tell if my students are mastering the material by using formative and summative assessments. Both types are important. Summative assessments are basically tests at the end of a unit or course that measures how much the students learned. Formative assessments are check points- such as little mini quizzes with no point value assigned to them. They’re used to gauge whether or not my students are mastering the material and what they need more help with. Formative assessments could be seen as taking the pulse of a classroom. If a teacher is using them, there should be no surprise test scores.53db794fb76b79467eefe848550d0f0e

I like playing games in the classroom. Most students like the competition and excitement- even adults! Two of my favorites are games on and Here’s an example of a Kahoot I created for my Radiography class:


Learning Communities for Dental Hygiene Educators

As most hygienists know, RDH magazine and Access magazine are great resources for learning about topics in our field. We attend live C.E. courses to stay current, and we have several options for online C.E. as well. However, have you ever thought about the importance of collaboration with other hygienists as a form of continuing education? We may not receive C.E. hours for discussing topics on a message board, but I would argue that there is a lot to be learned by sharing ideas with hygienists from all over the nation- or even the world.

I graduated from Southwestern College with my A.S.D.H. in San Diego, CA in 2003. Right away, I joined a learning community called Hygienetown. On this website, I was able to read message boards on endless topics that really helped me grow as a clinician. In the beginning, I mostly posted questions; now, I can act more as a mentor to newer hygienists. The site also offers C.E., blogs/podcasts, an online magazine (you can also choose to have a free hard-copy mailed to your home or office), a classifieds section, and events. It’s truly a great place for hygienists to collaborate, and even re-ignite your passion for hygiene if you’re going through that inevitable slump.

In addition to Hygienetown, I belong to two Facebook groups for hygienists. DentalDivas is for hygienists in San Antonio, TX. Hygienists post job openings or temping opportunities. It’s also a place to discuss anything dental-related. I found my current job as an instructor on DentalDivas. The other group I belong to is COHA Community from Colgate. This is a Facebook group for hygienists all over the U.S. We post and discuss case studies, give each other advice and encouragement, and sometimes vent 🙂

I used to belong to AmyRDH which was a wonderful community for hygienists. I loved the case studies and discussion boards. Amy decided to retire the website, but you can still e-mail her if you would like access to case studies; she will send you anything she has saved over the years.

Dental hygienists have many avenues for staying connected and sharing ideas with fellow hygienists. As a dental hygiene educator, it’s very helpful to stay connected to both dental hygiene and education communities. I belong to a community called EdWeb. It’s a place where educators can collaborate and share ideas. They offer different communities that you can join; I belong to one dental group (it’s very small) and a few communities focused on digital learning. They offer webinars, blogs, CE, and so much more.

Whether you’re a clinical dental hygienist, a researcher, public health hygienist, or educator, staying connected is key to keeping up with changes and new ideas in our field. I hope you’ll explore some communities that interest you. Try some of mine, and share the ones you enjoy!