Dentists view hygienists as being sweet as my sister`s pecan pie on issues involving dental practice accountability and compliance with governmental regulations. They view hygienists as being rather tart on anything perceived as tightening the strings of the domineering control organized dentistry exerts over hygiene. So what? Dentists will continue to generate the largest amount of personal income in the dental family. Regardless of which political party seizes the day next November, the government will more than likely continue to insist on compliance with tax laws, OSHA regulations, and employment laws, as well as good behavior when fraud becomes tempting. Is all this too burdensome for the average dentist? Dental hygienists can only hope in a good-natured way that the American Dental Association`s lobbyists put their employers in a good mood.
Hygiene does have a different agenda. It`s not called waffling. It`s not the operatic whining associated with prima donnas. It`s not being unloyal to the dental profession, which, by the way, created the economic discomfort associated with a surplus of dentists and shortage of hygienists. Dental hygiene`s agenda is to complement the overall oral health care profession through services performed with a high degree of integrity and professionalism.
For some reason, it`s presumed that only dentists are intelligent enough to calculate the fate of dental hygiene. This is organized dentistry`s mistake. With that in mind, RDH celebrates Independence Day and election-year fever with "political" articles written by JoAnn Gurenlian and Lois Chandler-Cousins on pages 18-23.
As one who tends to vote sporadically, it would be hypocritical of me to suggest that all readers cast aside the joy of family and recreation and pen political manifestos beside candlelight sustained by the wicks available for $4.95 per dozen from the Unabomber`s mail-order catalog. You don`t have to get wacko about it. Gurenlian and Chandler-Cousins hardly suggest anything strenuous. But they do lay the challenges out there. Chandler-Cousins, for example, states as good a case for self-regulation as I`ve ever read. The average practicing hygienist, hustling for a salary with which to pay bills, may not be overly preoccupied with whether the profession achieves self-regulation. But, by simply being loyal members of their professional associations, they will help other hygienists who assume a greater role in these efforts. On a slightly more ambitious scale, by defining the purpose of hygiene to local elected officials you know, Gurenlian suggests that politicians will learn to shrug off implications from other trade groups that hygienists are unworthy of being listened to in the political arena.
The good news about hygiene`s agenda is that the small steps of politicking are as valued as much as the large steps.