Editor's Note

You would think an editor's bookshelf would dominate a large room in the house. But we've made two major moves in 30 years, and stuck to a commitment to thin out the book collections for every new address.

by Mark Hartley

You would think an editor's bookshelf would dominate a large room in the house. But we've made two major moves in 30 years, and stuck to a commitment to thin out the book collections for every new address.

A 1952 edition of the "Questions and Answers From the Book of Knowledge" survived both purges. According to the cover, the price was 35 cents in 1952. Since I was not quite a gleam yet in anyone's eye, I didn't buy it, so the decision to transport it to yet another bookshelf was not mine.

I do glance at the trivia in the book, though.

One question answered in the book is, "Could we ever travel to the moon?" For all of the Millennials scoffing at the question, the Soviets didn't succeed with an unmanned spacecraft until eight years later, and the Americans succeeded putting a man on the moon 17 years later.

In 1952, the scientific prediction, according to the book, was, "Knowledge amassed during the last 200 years of human history … contains all the answers to all the questions anyone could ask. Nothing remains to be done but the engineering part of the problem … But we know right now that the engineers will, in the end, succeed."

I first received a check for professional observations about the dental hygiene profession 28 years ago. I'm reasonably certain that no one, including me, wants to know the first words I ever wrote about the dental hygiene profession.

I just hope it wasn't, "This monster of a woman sauntered down the aisle at the American Dental Association in my direction, and I fled in terror …"

There just haven't been many dark moments, period. Sometimes, though, after almost three decades, I admit to "Will anything ever change?" thoughts. The thoughts tend to surface when examining employer-employee relationships in the dental profession. Although improved oral health among patients who seek routine dental care remains the best testimonial for what hygienists, dentists, and other team members accomplish together, sometimes the disagreements become an emotional burden.

Will anything ever change?

The truth is, though, that dental hygienists have landed on the moon.

The body of knowledge in a variety of states and communities has prompted the assignments of dental hygienists to improve access to care. The ball has been handed off to hygienists, "You need to do something about the prevalence of dental disease in this community."

One hundred years of scientific knowledge about the dental hygiene profession counts for something. If I may loosely quote from "Questions and Answers From the Book of Knowledge," I would add, "But we know right now that dental hygienists succeed, and will continue to succeed, in achieving preventive dental health goals in this country."

For several years, the American Dental Hygienists' Association has encouraged its members to be creative about their careers. The emphasis is not necessarily on alternative practice modes developed as a result of allowing direct access to patients. But it's the avenue that generates the most publicity, again often through the negative squabbling between health-care professions.

The safe career route is the traditional one. Find a good employer in a general dental setting, and then forge a productive synergy with the restorative dentist. The impact of the slowed economy, though, has led many dental hygienists to realize that the safe path hurts someone else -- their families. Dental practices often target employment protocols in the dental hygiene operatory to compensate for revenue loss. Reduced income for the dental hygienist directly impacts his or her dependents.

We keep referring to hygienists who do think creatively about their careers as pioneers. It's probably time to stop doing that. The safe career path is to think and act in untraditional terms.

As for my personal library, there are four shelves about six feet in length, containing all of the books owned by two empty nesters. Although a brand new book still finds its way onto the shelf, e-book readers have a lot to do with keeping it manageable. Times change.

Mark Hartley
markh@pennwell.com
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