Inside Dental Assisting
Judy Forsythe, RDA
Director of Education Development Pacific Dental Services
As a member of the Dental Board of California and Chair of the Dental Assisting Council, Judy Forsythe, RDA, urges her professional colleagues to become involved at all levels to understand activity throughout their State. “This experience was an eye-opener for me,” she explains. “There’s a lot to learn about the legislative process. I would encourage dental assistants to at least follow what’s happening, read your board meeting minutes, and maybe you will find yourself becoming a voice in the process.”
Forsythe’s willingness to add her voice and take on wide-ranging roles has afforded her not only a hugely satisfying career of nearly 30 years, but a multitude of opportunities to grow her knowledge. “Dentistry has been amazing to me,” she says. “I simply cannot imagine working in any other field.”
Forsythe started working as a dental assistant when she was 19 years old. She received her RDA license a year later and worked for 11 years in a small private practice. After a brief period staying home with her children, she was thrilled to find that she was able to jump right back into the profession, joining a large practice on a part-time basis. “I really excelled in the larger office,” she says. “I was assisting full-mouth reconstructions and performing other procedures that I had never had the opportunity to do in the small office.”
During this period, Forsythe met Bryan Watanabe, DDS, and Lynda Watanabe, DDS, BS. “The Watanabes were hugely supportive of my career and were always encouraging me to expand my skills and seek new opportunities,” Forsythe says. Forsythe was working as a dental assistant for the Watanabes, and Dr. Lynda Watanabe was also working in a Pacific Dental Services®-supported office. In 1998, Dr. Lynda Watanabe introduced Forsythe to Pacific Dental Services (PDS®).
In 2002, PDS approached Forsythe about training dental assistants for PDS-supported offices. “At that time, I had been a dental assistant for 20 years, and I thought the training role was a perfect fit,” she says. “From that point on, my role in dental assistant education just continued to grow.”
Now, as the Director of Education Development at Pacific Dental Services, Forsythe oversees the training of many different members of the dental team, including dental assistants, receptionists, benefit coordinators and operations managers. Her team also works closely with the clinicians in coordinating educational content for dentists and hygienists. “Together with dentists, we develop a lot of content for the dental team, and we have a fantastic group of on-the-ground trainers to manage training on-site. It’s a satisfying way to use my years of experience—preparing others,” Forsythe says.
Forsythe is deeply invested in ensuring that her trainees are ready for work in the dental field and able to use their skills to help their patients. “I believe that the dental profession gives dental assistants, hygienists, clinicians and all other members of the team a chance to really make a difference in the lives of our patients,” she says. “I’ve seen patients walk into the office covering their mouths with their hands, even while they were speaking. After treatment, these same patients leave beaming from ear to ear because their procedures altered their smiles dramatically.
“Dental work like this is a life changing experience for some people. We’re not just putting a band aid on a problem, we are profoundly changing people’s lives,” Forsythe reveals.
Helping others through charitable endeavors has become a mainstay of Forsythe’s career with Pacific Dental Services, and she has found herself making a difference in patients’ lives by providing oral healthcare all over the world. In October 2012, she traveled to the Tigray Region of Ethiopia with PDS team members and The Smile Generation®-trusted dentists for a 10-day service trip. “We saw almost 2,000 patients who would have otherwise had no access to dental care,” she explains. “It was an absolutely phenomenal experience. We all worked hard and kept going and going because we didn’t want to have to turn anyone away.”
It was not even two weeks after her return from Ethiopia, and Forsythe embarked on yet another opportunity to provide charitable dental care with PDS and The Smile Generation. She participated with a team of nearly 200 volunteers from The Smile Generation-trusted offices and PDS to build a new play area at the CPLC de Colores, a free domestic violence shelter in Arizona that is owned and operated by Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC). They also set up a one day on-site dental clinic that served 90 patients, providing nearly $67,000 in donated dental services, including cleanings, extractions, root canals, and same-day crown restorations. “I love participating in outreach programs,” Forsythe says. “Serving others helps me to grow both personally and professionally. I would like to continue my involvement in these events.”
By providing dentistry to underserved populations, in addition to training new members of the dental team, Forsythe personally tries to help alleviate what she believes to be one of the biggest issues in oral healthcare: “I really want everyone to have access to dentistry. That includes making sure that small communities out there not only have access to clinicians, but also to dental assistants, hygienists and all auxiliary members of the dental team,” Forsythe explains.