Close the window

Jan. 1, 2009
Close the window. Fifty-two percent of you think raises do not come at “fair intervals”.

by Mark Hartley
[email protected]

Close the window. Fifty-two percent of you think raises do not come at “fair intervals”.

How weird is it to be talking about this as the 1,500 former employees of XYZ factory down the street are loitering around outside on the sidewalk? So close the window.

This reminds me of the days when the RDH salary surveys were tabulated by hand. “This person says yes, so I move this sheet to this pile. This person says no, so I move this sheet to this other pile.”

The publishing overlords didn't think too highly of these paper sorters, usually paying them minimum wage. Back then, dental hygienists were earning an awesome $22 an hour.

“Geez, Sally, get a load of this one. This hygienist scribbled on here: ‘I have begged doctor for three years for a 25 cent raise.' She makes $24 an hour. What's she whining about?”

Apparently, there was a line in the sand drawn in the sisterhood. Any woman making over $20 an hour was just another rich lady who didn't understand the working woman's struggle to smash through the glass ceiling.

Oh, but dental hygienists understand all right, even if they are currently pulling down $35 to $50 an hour.

Just to be on the safe side, though, close the window. Has it become more difficult to talk about the struggles of dental hygiene in the middle of a recession?

It wasn't that long ago … like earlier last year maybe? … we were still telling dental patients, “Hey, is that your new car out in the parking lot? Well, then you can afford our Super Duper All Comprehensive 32-Tooth Cosmetic Renovation. Just put it on your credit card. If you don't have one, you can apply for credit here.”

“Well, the car came from a used car lot. I gotta have it to drive to my job interviews as far as 60 miles away. I don't have a credit card anymore. You know, you're looking particularly flush. You're doing well? Still making $35 to $50 an hour? Got your training at the local community college, right? Every time I go online to look at the want ads, there are articles about shortages of dental hygienists and it's the new boom industry. Say, I have been coming here for 15 years. Could you write me a letter of recommendation for the dean at that college where you got your certificate?”

“Whoa, Bubba, do we look like a charity here? Do you want our Super Duper All Comprehensive 32-Tooth Cosmetic Renovation or not? The doctor says I have to ask you. By the way, how are you paying for this visit?”

Close the window for a little privacy. Still think a raise would be nice? The recession, according to the Wall Street Journal in December, will result in the lowest pay raises in 32 years. It's not impossible, though. You still need to ask if the request is legitimate. Jeanne Corso, RDH, wrote some advice in the March 2001 issue of RDH that is still applicable:

  • You do not have entitlement. Review your performance record. What are you doing better now that you were not doing then? Document what your specific contributions have been in the last three, six, or 12 months.
  • Know where your employer stands financially. Is the practice solvent? Are you and your employer on good terms?
  • Pick the right time. Go in with a good attitude. Do not demand a raise. Be armed with other suitable options. Would your employer provide incentives for successfully incorporating new programs for dental hygiene services?

Another good article to read is Dianne Glasscoe-Watterson's July 2005 column (“I need a raise” at There are helpful resources available, and you do have to move on with your career without waiting for the recession to end. OK, now open the window.