Is dental hygiene so easy?

Feb. 1, 2007
Let’s listen to “The Fishing Hole” song - the whistled introduction to the old TV series, The Andy Griffith Show - one more time.

by Mark Hartley

Let’s listen to “The Fishing Hole” song - the whistled introduction to the old TV series, The Andy Griffith Show - one more time. Andy and Opie are walking down that North Carolina dirt road. Opie dashes to the side of the road and points to a crustacean emerging from the wetlands.

“Pa, what’s that?”

“Well, I’ll be darned, Opie! What we’re seeing here is evolution. These things normally stay in the bottom of the pond, and they help keep the bottom clean. This feller is coming out to try something new, I guess.”

“But, Pa, what’s going to clean the pond now?”

“Well, Opie, I don’t rightly know.”

Let’s break for a commercial - sort of a spinoff to the Geico caveman commercials.

“Dental hygiene is so easy a dental assistant can do it.”

Let’s go ahead and tolerate another commercial. After all, we’re used to it, one after another. This one is for the best-selling book by Randy Gage. It’s titled, Why You’re Dumb, Sick & Broke...And How to Get Smart, Healthy & Rich!

I’m not going to dial the toll-free number, or get on Why? I don’t want to read the book because of the title. I find it somewhat irritating that marketing people prey on the insecurities we all have. Presumably, there are people who are genuinely dumb, sick, and broke, and I feel sympathy for them. But the book is not being marketed for that narrow niche of our culture. It’s being marketed for all of us - to catch us at a “bummer” moment. Yet another bill arrived in the mail today. Gas just went up another nickle a gallon. The talking heads on the news keep referring to how we’re going to have to work until we’re 90 years old just to survive.

Hey, wait a minute! You marketing people stop preying on my insecurities!

I don’t know. Sometimes I think dental hygiene gets caught in bummer moments too. If I clean one more person’s teeth, I’m going to scream.

Motivational speakers and authors are everywhere, ready to help you seize the day. They can help you get out, escape, blaze a new path for yourself.

Is there anything wrong with that? No. If you truly want to get out of clinical dental hygiene, godspeed to you. (Although, at some point down the road, I’ll probably ask: When does a dental hygienist stop being a dental hygienist? If a forest ranger leaves the woods and heads to the city for another career, how long should he keep referring to himself as a forest ranger? Doesn’t he look silly after awhile, particularly while we’re waiting for the freaking light to change in this traffic jam?)

As an editor/journalist, I have interviewed many motivational speakers. A couple come to mind as I write this. One was a self-described humorist who used his style to motivate audiences, and was very good at it. When I interviewed him, he was anything but funny. In fact, in a very didactic way, he focused on telling how he made people laugh. There’s a very serious technique involved in tickling people’s funny bones. The other one was a more recent interview. This guy was extremely dynamic. He just pushed all of the right buttons. If his presentation had gone on for just a few more minutes, I would have been bellowing, “Hallelujah!” I talked to him at the airport afterwards, and he was very subdued and just a different person altogether. Maybe he was having a bummer moment about the rising price of milk.

Both of these speakers were not the same people they were on the stage. They were acting out a role. I’m not implying that they don’t believe in what they advocate. I just think “acting” can be dangerous if you’re trying to influence people at a very emotional level, where a life-changing reaction is expected.

Just be careful out there. Even though dental hygiene is not self-regulated, the training that is administered and the pressure placed upon you as a health-care provider means, in all probability, that you’re probably a very good dental hygienist. Don’t let the bummer moments get you down.