Mark Hartley, Editor
A sentence in one of the three "politics" articles in this issue evoked a "Isn`t that the truth!" response from me. Toward the end of the profile of Vicki Orsini Nardello on page 44, Judith Sulik writes, "(Nardello) said that when she meets with dentists as individuals they are supportive, but organized dentistry always galvanizes its forces against her."
That statement sums up much of what hygienists deal with on the political level. To a man (as well as the growing minority of female dentists), doctors generally make for pleasant company - well-educated, personable, and (due to their profession) caring about others. I`ve prized many of the friendships I`ve developed with dentists. My counterpart at Dental Economics, Dr. Joe Blaes, is a kind-hearted man who passionately cares about the future of dentistry. Tirelessly, he strives to put together the best information possible for doctors, staff, and patients. He has orchestrated the publication of many articles during the past two years that underscore the value of the dental hygiene department to his readers - dentists. Other publications for dentists take the same approach. The American Dental Association, in recent months, launched a public service advertising campaign, which you`ve probably seen. The ad`s title is, "The dental hygienist is a star," and the related text is very flattering, saying hygienists are "premier performers dedicated to your patients` oral health and well-being."
This is great stuff! Another characteristic that you have to admire about dentists is their persistent drive to be independent. They don`t want the government, insurance companies, etc. telling them how to conduct their lives. If I were to lead a revolution for democracy, I`d want the dentists to be on my side. They would sew "resistance to tyranny" on the flag they wave. Before we think the opposition is someone named Saddam, review the definition of tyranny. The primary meaning of the word is "absolute control;" "cruel and unjust" leadership is a secondary definition.
So what exactly happens to these guys when they enter the political arena? Judging by the way organized dentistry galvanizes its forces, as Sulik puts it, it`s a hypocritical act of tyranny. The same things our friends resist for themselves is what they expect from you - complete subservience.
A letter writer to a dental publication recently lamented the "shortage of hygienists." The exchange of ideas included the following comment, "Regarding the hygiene shortage, the tables will turn. Indiana is one positive example where there is now beginning to be an abundance of hygienists. Several years ago, the Indiana Dental Association decided to mandate more hygiene classes. The result is more graduates who are finding that (in certain counties in particular) there suddenly are not so many job openings. And guess what? Hygiene salaries are coming down ... Perhaps the representative in your state will adapt the same `fix it` attitude that Indiana did."
Call me dense, but it`s my impression that this is not "star" treatment.
In my opinion, it`s not personal. Through the school of hard knocks, organized dentistry has become very proficient at flexing its political muscle over a variety of issues; if you pay attention to the ADA News, for example, you realize political issues involving hygienists are a low priority. But it`s almost as if you can envision the good old boys instructing their lobbyists, "... and after you take care of all that other stuff, do something about those hygienists."
Well, it may not be personal to dentists, but it certainly is personal to hygienists. Organized dentistry?s relentless effort to water down the value of a dental hygiene licence to the value of a W-4 form for an employee at a fast-food restaurant is offensive, to say the least.
Some hygienists-turned-politicans (not always voluntary) suggest that RDH readers consider getting more involved in the political process. Why not? The same positive qualites about dentists certainly apply to hygienists. RDH readers are bright and articulate. You consistently demonstrate a caring attitude about your communities ? even in areas where dentists don?t (geriatric care, for example). You would be an excellent spokesperson for not only health care issues, but also education, crime, public works, etc. You can handle it!
How about this for an enticement to become a politician? Imagine yourself reviewing some legislation that has piled up on your desk when in walks the lobbyist from the local dental association. He straightens his tie and starts rambling about a bill that diminishes the value of dental hygiene in your state. Yeah, go ahead. I won?t stop you. Bounce that fellow right out into the hall.
Wouldn?t that be sweet? Imagine dentists saying, OMan, I don?t know what to think. My hygienists have always been so friendly, but when they get elected ...O