Thumbs up for hygienists!

Anyone flipping through the 700-something responses to the "State of Mind" survey (see pages 18-24) is bound to think, "Seeing is believing. I knew there was a reason why I liked dental hygienists." I`d prefer to just say dental hygienists are "good folks" and leave it at that. But the person who signs my paycheck expects me to not leave too much white space on this page. So I`ll attempt to earn my keep and elaborate.

Mark Hartley, Editor

markh@pennwell.com

Anyone flipping through the 700-something responses to the "State of Mind" survey (see pages 18-24) is bound to think, "Seeing is believing. I knew there was a reason why I liked dental hygienists." I`d prefer to just say dental hygienists are "good folks" and leave it at that. But the person who signs my paycheck expects me to not leave too much white space on this page. So I`ll attempt to earn my keep and elaborate.

The thing that impressed me the most about the survey was how well-balanced dental hygienists are as members of our communities. The world is a much better place as a result of your presence. Despite some rather poor treatment by economic and governing forces in dentistry, you sustain a very high degree of self-confidence in your commitment to health care. I refer to economic restraints simply because, in most other professional occupations, you can at least think about retiring with some benefits provided by an employer. I refer to governing forces because I don`t know if I`ve ever observed a work force with as little control over its destiny as dental hygiene has. Your spirits, it would seem, remain high despite some professional adversities and uncertainties. The people who benefit the most from this aura of well-being are, of course, your patients.

Is there a contrasting perspective to be examined here? Well, the closest one would be dentists. Every time you listen to dentists and observe their state of mind, you sense their dejection. Managed care depresses them. Their $100,000-plus in net income is woefully inadequate. Their association is constantly besieged by unhappy members and splinter associations. You hear about the high suicide rates and chemical addictions among dentists. They despise the government - or at least the IRS and OSHA - with more passion than the most ardent militia group.

Anyone aware of a dentist`s state of mind is bound to say to the office receptionist, "I know I`m here to see the dentist. But is there any chance I could see the hygienist instead?"

I am, of course, exaggerating about the "national mood" of dentists. I am, however, rebutting the "femi-Nazi" portrayals of dental hygienists by Rush Limbaugh wannabes who have a DDS after their names. After all, I think it`s only fair that dentists know how the public perceives their "prima donna whining."

Now that I`ve filled up this space, I want to thank our readers for responding to the survey. The state of mind of the dental hygiene profession is wonderful. Yes, whether you know it or not, you`re special. You`re good folks. Thank you for caring so graciously about the health of my family and friends.

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