Just try telling Misty Mattingly, RDH, BS, that she can’t do something and then stand back. When the self-described rebel learned of an open seat on the Georgia Board of Dentistry, it became her mission to claim it. Never mind the fact that it’s a feat not accomplished by the majority of dental hygienists.
“Some people thought I was crazy, but I believe that it’s crazy people who change the world,” says Mattingly. Her efforts resulted in her gaining a seat on the board in October 2020. It was a giant step for someone who started working in a dentist’s office at the age of 14, sterilizing instruments and assisting the dental hygienist. It remained a side gig that sustained her as she pursued a career in broadcast journalism at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta.
But Mattingly soon discovered that the side gig was her true calling and switched majors, eventually graduating from GSU’s Perimeter College Dental Hygiene Program in 2005. Her journalism experience, however, came in handy for the different paths on which her career in dental hygiene would take her. These include training, speaking, consulting, and a turn as president of the Georgia Dental Hygienists’ Association (GDHA).
Mattingly took time out of her busy schedule to share some insights into her dynamic career.
Q: You are currently vice president of hygiene operations at Sage Dental. What does your work there involve?
A: I was brought into Sage Dental, a dental service organization with 59 locations between Georgia and Florida, 2 years ago. Most of my work involves administrative duties, clinical coaching, and office operations. I still do some clinical work, suiting up a few times a week.
Q: While president of the GDHA, you worked toward the passage of Georgia HB 154, which became law in 2017. What does this new law entail and what has been its impact so far?
A: HB 154 clears the way for dental hygienists to work offsite in safety-net settings such as nursing homes and schools without direct supervision by a dentist. Now they can better treat issues in these populations before they become significant problems.
Q: What led up to your appointment to the Georgia Board of Dentistry?
A: I often met with legislators and board members with a packet of ketchup in my hand. When I would shake hands with them, they would ask what was with the ketchup packet. In reference to the profession of dental hygiene, my reply was, “Georgia needs to catch up!” So, I got to know them, and by the time a board position came up, I already had quite a bit of support. The dental hygiene community was very supportive. But when I got the phone call, I was shocked. It’s such an honor.
Q: Why do you believe it’s important to have a dental hygienist on the board?
A: There are 5,797 dentists in Georgia, and they are well represented by the majority of board members. I, alone, represent 7,666 dental hygienists in the state. It’s important to have a voice for the dental hygiene profession. I’m glad to be that voice, to work toward good oral hygiene for the citizens of Georgia. I believe I bring a lot of facets to the board, with my varied experiences.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure on the board?
A: I hope to work toward ensuring the best possible care for Georgians, and to be the voice for the dental hygiene profession in my state. Dental hygienists are counting on me to represent them and I hold that honor dear to my heart, as I love this hygiene community and profession.