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Readers’ Forum

Sept. 1, 2007
Dear RDH: My name is Carla Rhodes, and I have been practicing dental hygiene for nine years.

Dear RDH:

My name is Carla Rhodes, and I have been practicing dental hygiene for nine years. Since graduating in 1998, my personal life has evolved with marriage, a home, and two children. But another evolution has also occured - the evolution of my professional life.

My previous job was in an office that treated families with multiple children and that correlated well with my personal life. However, I am now working in an office that was established many years ago; our core group of patients are older than what I experienced before. This has brought many different issues to light for me.

Recently, a personal experience has changed the way I practice hygiene today. My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2005, and passed shortly thereafter in February 2006. During this time, I put my professional life on hold in order to help my mother, my family, and to spend as much time with him as possible. It was this experience that changed me professionally.

I can remember learning in school about cancer and how the treatments change the oral environment. But I was not prepared for seeing it first-hand. I never really understood until actually seeing it happen to my father. While my father was going through chemotherapy and during his hospital stay; I cared for his mouth daily by brushing and flossing. I also continued this care upon his release from the hospital.

The chemotherapy changed his oral environment completely. His entire mouth was a bright red, inflammed, burning environment. It was almost impossible for him to eat or perform any oral care.

This personal tragedy has impacted the care I administer to my patients - specifically, cancer patients who are going through or have been through treatment. Now, when I am with a cancer patient, I spend extra time talking to them about where they are in the course of treatment, explain to them what can happen in the oral cavity, and how to care for their mouth during and after treatment. I also recommend Prevention Laboratories’ mouthrinses for oncology patients, give extra toothbrushes and floss, and answer any question that they may have. At times, I have seen patients on a consultation basis, where I explain what may occur in the oral cavity.

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As I continue in this profession, I am constantly evolving into a better hygienist based on my personal experiences. We are so much more to our patients than just “the lady who cleans teeth.” We are support systems, counselors from our own experiences, and each of us has something different to offer to our patients. Each of us has had an experience that effects our professional life. I encourage every hygienist to think of what has happened in his or her own life that can help a patient.

I encourage all the hygienists who read this to spend the extra time to really listen to your patients - you may be the only person who your patient can confide in. I keep telling myself that something good must come from the death of my father. Only now do I realize that my “something” good is my ever-changing evolution in dental hygiene. I am embracing this change in my life, only to better myself personally and professionally. I can be contacted at [email protected] if a reader has a comment abut my experiences.

Carla A. Rhodes, RDH
Springfield, Illinois

Dear RDH:

Attending RDH Under One Roof is a unique experience - regardless of whether it’s someone’s first time, or as an alumnus, or as a significant other or a family member. Everyone is made to feel so so welcome.

The reason I am writing this is because of a common thread I hear every year at the conference when the many recipients of awards, speakers, and contributors to RDH encourage others to apply for the awards. Dental hygienists are encouraged to submit a presentation that is dear to their heart, or to submit an article to RDH.

Over and over, I hear people say that they are not worthy of these things. “Oh, I could never do that” But I am here to attest that every hygienist has a special place in this world of ours and in our profession. Every one of you is an award recipient in some way. Every one of you is someone we can learn from and enjoy hearing from.

Please step outside of the box. See yourself as others see you. Contribute and apply for awards of recognition, let us hear who you are and what you are about.

I have yet to meet a “dull” person or one who is not deserving of all of these accolades and hope that if you were one of those ladies or gentlemen who told me that you could not do this or that you are not worthy of this that I encouraged you enough to help make you believe in yourself as I do in you.

The hardest thing is to write about yourself. I know this from personal experience. But if you have something special that you do, something special to share with others, or that you think would be of interest to others please share yourself with all of us.

I have had the privilege of meeting so many talented and remarkable men and women in this profession. I never thought I equaled them or could even be in their “company,” so to speak. What I have learned is that everyone has a special place in this profession if they are a quality hygienist, a caring person, and one who has something (even if they do not think it to be as wonderful as others will view it) to share.

Don’t be shy - apply for those awards of recognition: Sunstar/RDH G.U.M. Healthy Gums, Healthy Life Award of Distinction and the Philips Sonicare/RDH Mentor of the Year Award. Or, contact the RDH editor about a cover photo, an article that you should write, or whatever else might come your way.

New blood is what keeps us all going strong. I encourage all of you to look into the mirror differently today than you did yesterday. Let us hear from you in one way or another.

Jane Weiner, RDH
Tamarac, Florida

Editor’s Note:

Ms. Weiner is the 2003 recipient of the Dr. Esther M. Wilkins Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2005 recipient of the Philips Sonicare/RDH Mentor of the Year Award, and a 2006 recipient of the Sunstar/RDH G.U.M. Healthy Gums, Healthy Life Award of Distinction. In every issue of RDH, an advertisement appears for either the Award of Distinction and the Mentor of the Year awards. The magazine’s Web site even allows online submissions.

Rumblings About High Hygiene Salaries

On July 15, the Wealthy Dentist released results of a salary survey for dental hygienists. The survey indicated that $36 an hour was the average hourly rate. The Wealthy Dentist ( asked questions about “dentists’ feelings” regarding dental hygiene salaries.

“Dentists’ feelings on the subject are mixed; some feel hygienists are grossly overpaid, while others insist they’re worth every penny,” according to the release. Some actual quotes from dentists included a few positive remarks about the value of dental hygienists, but most would likely be considered negative remarks by hygienists:

  • “They get paid too much for what little they do.”
  • “I am paying my hygienist too much.”
  • “We need to open up enrollment at dental hygiene schools.”
  • “In my first dental practice I had 7 hygienists working for me. I was not impressed with the return on investment ... So in my current practice I do all my own hygiene and will hire only associate dentists who will perform their own hygiene as well. My overhead and stress levels are much lower with this new arrangement!”

The article was posted on the editor’s MySpace profile, prompting rebuttals from dental hygienists:

  • “I want to see the b-----d’s clientele who said he got rid of all the hygienists and is doing it himself! I bet in a couple of years they won’t have any teeth for him to work on! Then he can see what ‘little work’ we do.”
  • “Most of the dentists I know are the cheapest people ever! The truth is that people with money just do not want to spend it.”
  • “Oh, my goodness! Doctors want to complain about what they are paying their hygienist? They need to take a peek at how much money the hygienist is making for their practice! What they are paying a hygienist isn’t a drop in the bucket to what they are bringing in.”
  • “What a crock! I don’t think I am overpaid for all of the physical ailments I have obtained from this career. It is a mentally challenging and labor intensive job.”
  • “I’m printing this and taking it to my doctor in the morning, who happens to be very good to his two hygienists. He will enjoy it too and maybe even put a smile on his face to know that he’s grade ‘A’!”
  • “Oooh, they need to stop complaining. We are the bread and butter, and a great way to boost production for them. I work damn hard for the money, also broke my back with two herniated discs.”
  • “As for those who complain their hygienist have no gumption, get rid of her and find someone who does. Sometimes she’s just burnt out and someone needs to have enough nerve to tell her.
  • “When my doctor read this, she laughed, saying a good hygienist is worth every penny they are paid. I know hygienists who are overpaid. Some don’t deserve $10 per hour, much less $30.”
  • “In my experience, few dentists want to hire full time. They can get out of paying benefits.”
  • “Some of this may be true. Some hygienists may be overpaid for what they do. However, go back and interview these same dentist and see how much production each office makes off the hygiene team, and subtract anuual pay and benefits. Who is over paid then?”

In michigan, the base rate is $25.00 hr, though in flint they make less than that. It seems the most hourly I have seen has been $34.

  • “The other two hygienists do their job and go home, and think of their jobs as a ‘job,’ not a career to build on with education and technological understanding, nor do they use the technology we have. I do believe that some hygienists make too much for what little they do.”

RDH Event
Neale Godfrey, who has written a number of books about financial planning for women and children, is the featured keynote speaker at RDH Event on Oct. 19. Godfrey is one of six speakers scheduled for the two-day online continuing education at Attendees can earn up to 5 CEUs, win an assortment of prizes, and walk the floor of an interactive exhibit hall.

Godfrey is the founder of the Children’s Financial Network and the author of 13 books, including Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees and Mom Inc. Her mission is to “combat financial illiteracy by educating our youth about money and the values and life skills that they will need to be successful responsible adults.” She spent 13 years of her career in executive positions at Chase Manhattan Bank.

More information about the keynote session and the five conference sessions can be found at the RDH Event Web site.

RDH Event is very different from RDH Under One Roof, which is hosted every summer by RDH magazine in various cities across the country. The entire RDH Event is conducted online over the two-day time period. The attendees attend seminars, visit with exhibitors, and network in an online “lounge” with other dental hygiene professionals.

The conference is free to all registrants. A $10 fee is assessed for each conference session that dental hygienists participate in during Oct. 19-20 (however, the courses will be archived on the RDH Event Web site for three months).

The “virtual” exhibit hall allows real time interaction with representatives of up to 22 dental companies. Philips Sonicare is the platinum event sponsor of RDH Event, and Dentsply and Colgate are gold sponsors for RDH Event.

Philips Sonicare is giving away a 42-inch flat panel television to one lucky winner. But RDH Event’s grand prize is a vacation package for two people to a U.S. destination from World Travel. In addition, a laptop computer highlights a series of other prizes awarded during the conference, not including giveaways provided by exhibitors.