Under the Holiday Tree

Dec. 1, 2007
Holiday trees and decorations are a tradition that crosses through cultures, often defying explanation.

by Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH

Holiday trees and decorations are a tradition that crosses through cultures, often defying explanation. Some are gaudy other are gauche. Others are mind-boggling, breathtaking, or deceptively simple. Some are downright pathetic, retro, or even goofy.

One of my favorite, decorated in a truly minimalist fashion, is about 24 inches high with less-than-lush artificial branches, adorned with a small strand of mini twinkling lights. Sample packs of dental floss and junior sized brushes dangle from the skinny limbs. It is the perfect size for our small dental office and brings smiles to even the most stoic individuals.

Now imagine a tree with a dozen beautifully wrapped presents piled high under the branches, gifts for those who make our personal and professional lives richer and more interesting. This is the perfect time of year to reflect how much better our lives are because of the support of those around us.

Whether you enjoyed your dental hygiene education or became the class rebel without a cause, none of us would be here without the dedication and devotion of those who guided our initial academic education. It takes a very special person to walk students though the process, step by step. Regional board examiners and talented continuing education presenters devote time and energy to the educational process as well. Isn’t it exciting to attend a great program and learn more about how to become a better professional?

Most of us work with amazing individuals in the clinical setting. Certainly not every minute at work is divine. but when you step back and reflect on the wealth of talent and genuine caring that surrounds us every day, spending the day in dentistry can be full of rewards. It is up to each of us to focus on the positives.

Until someone can figure out how to provide dental hygiene services by remote control or render the negative effects of plaque/biofilm innocuous via a quick 20-second rinse of some new miracle mix, patients will continue to be the center of our universe. Despite their occasional crazy antics, sometimes-unsubstantiated anxieties and extraordinary expectations, they remain the only reason that our profession exists. They believe in us, seek our professional advice, and appreciate the care that we provide. We owe our patients much gratitude for these wonderful relationships.

The variety of traditional and online publications that support our profession is stunning. The information ranges from serious scientific research to clinical applications of current information to strategies that support our clinical careers. The publications give us a voice — allow us to share ideas and opinions. Writers give us new information that puts our professional and personal lives in better balance.

Both large and small companies support our profession in a wide variety of ways. Companies support speaker honorariums and continuing education activities, fund educational grants, supply door prizes and samples, donate products for fundraising, underwrite professional awards, donate supplies and manpower for community outreach activities, and purchase exhibit tables at dental meetings.

Each activity costs money. Without the generous support of corporate dentistry we would not have as many options. The RDH Under One Roof Conference is a perfect example of an event that would never happen, or the tuition would be 10 times more expensive without substantial and widespread company support.

Two other closely related groups are deserving of our thanks — scientists and researchers, and the inventors. Scientists and researchers challenge the status quo with basic questions, providing answers that keep us on track when making an assessment or providing clinical care. Imagine where we would be if scientists and researchers had not proven the theories and developed appropriate products that can help us solve age-old problems. Sealants are a perfect example. Decades of research have proven the value of sealing susceptible tooth surfaces, preserving valuable tooth structure that was previously at high risk for developing what we now acknowledge is a true bacterial infection — dental caries.

Inventors, on the other hand, use fertile imaginations to step way past conventional boundaries in creating marvelous products. The first ultrasonic dental scaler was invented to cut teeth, not remove hard and soft deposits. The original machine, quickly displaced by the air turbine handpiece, found a new purpose when the inventors realized it’s alternative clinical value. Power brushes are another wonderful example of how inventors create devices that make our lives better. How many of you would want to practice without a power scaler or work with patients who did not routinely use power brushes?

The future of our profession depends on two different groups. First, the ADHA is the recognized collective voice of our profession. The organization is made up of thousands of dental hygienists who volunteer time, talent, and money to keep our profession moving forward with high standards. Whether you appreciate politics or not, dental hygiene professionals need to unite. Just the act of paying your membership dues tells the world that you are willing to make a commitment to your profession. Thousands of dental hygienists go much farther and we owe them a big round of thanks for their dedication to preserving dental hygiene.

Students are the true future of dental hygiene. Without eager minds and fresh outlooks, dental hygiene will stagnate and fade away. It is up to each of us to nurture and guide our future colleagues in obtaining a wonderful career.

Most of us have two types of families that are important to our well-being. Our biological families encourage us, support our dreams and massage our aching backs and necks. Many of us received financial support during our formal academic training; others still rely upon family to provide while we pursue additional education.

Our dental hygiene colleagues make up our professional family. Those active in dental hygiene internet communities such as the Amy List know the power of an extended professional family. Members of e-mail chat groups share clinical advice; cheer each other’s accomplishments; organize support for various charitable events; provide product or technique insights and tips; legislative updates; and provide moral support or potential options to those in crisis. These groups support the universal truth that no one really understands the challenges of the profession like another dental hygienist.

There is much focus on religious activities at this time of year, giving thanks to a power greater than ourselves. During this time of year, plenty of opportunities arise for reflecting on the riches in our lives, as well as say thanks to those who support us and allow us to take full advantage of our skills and talents. Our comfort zone is a refection of all these wonderful relationships. Take a few minutes to express your gratitude to those that make your life good. Happy holidays!

About the Author

Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, is the senior consulting editor for RDH magazine. She is an international speaker who has published numerous articles and authored several textbook chapters. Her popular programs include ergonomics, patient comfort, burnout, and advanced diagnostics and therapeutics. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award, Anne is an ADHA member and has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston since 1971. You can reach her at [email protected] or (832) 971-4540, and her Web site is www.anneguignon.com.