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Readers’ Forum

Sept. 1, 2005
Words can make or break someone's spirit.

Reference to Carlin inappropriate

Dear RDH:
Words can make or break someone’s spirit. Using the appropriate words is important to hygienists. I was shocked to see George Carlin’s picture in the July issue of RDH two times and to see his name mentioned six times by two different hygienists. Do we as hygienists really care what George Carlin thinks?

Yes, George Carlin does have a unique and humorous way of looking at words. However, in recent years, most of his presentations have become extremly crude. He does not even pretend to present a family oriented program. If the profanity, degrading statements (primarly about women) and vulgar language were removed from his shows, his vocabulary would be cut by about 75 percent.

Isn’t there a better role model for communication than George Carlin? The answer is “yes.” I believe we should elevate our profession and not stoop to such obnoxious and filthy “entertainers” for our examples. And to use him in a professional publication such as RDH? Why? It probably helps him, but it doesn’t help the professional image we as hygienists should be trying to present.

Bonita K. Davis, RDH
San Antonio, Texas

Editor’s note: The author of the article titled, “Fascinated with words,” in the July issue is Patti DiGangi, RDH. We asked Ms. DiGangi if she would like to reply, and she said, “Ms. Davis, the very articulate and passionate way you mentioned that words can ‘break the spirit’ is exactly the message of the article and the reason I believe we need to rethink the use of the term compliance. As far as using something from George Carlin’s body of work, it does not denote agreement with its totality nor does it mean the intent is to hold this person up as a role model. Being in agreement or disagreement with aspects of a person’s beliefs or behaviors does not necessarily negate the value of everything else.

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“In June, I used the Texas Hold ‘Em fad to talk about risk. Does that mean I am advocating gambling as a lifestyle? Hardly.”

Enjoyed UOR

Dear RDH:
I am still on such a high from these past few days in Chicago at RDH Under One Roof. It is such an excellent meeting for hygienists, and the “cream of the crop” of hygienists from all over the country and Canada and elsewhere attend. How PennWell and RDH make it such an exhilarating experience is amazing to me, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The different companies who sponsor the luncheons, the cocktail receptions, and the farewell dinner should be commended as they were all so lovely. The food and imbibements were plentiful and no one left either hungry nor thirsty.

The array of courses that were offered were phenomenal and there was something for everyone if they wanted to take a CE course or just sit in on parts of several as many ladies and gentlemen chose to do. They called it “flitting,” and it was right for them.

The Palmer House is such an excellent choice of a hotel - so elegant and yet so comfortable and homey at the same time.

The two events on Friday night were excellent as well. I loved Tommy Gun’s Garage (as everyone who attended did ) and thank you all for planning such a lovely evening.

As for the camaraderie and friendliness of all in attendance, how do I explain this to those who did not attend? Have you ever walked into a room not knowing anyone and then before you knew it so many had said hello to you or asked who you were sitting with or if you had plans for later that it made it so comfortable? Well that is how UOR is ... no one has to be alone if they do not choose to be even if they come to it not knowing a soul ... It is one of the warmest and friendliest meetings that I attend and will continue to attend due to the warmth and friendly atmosphere. No one is above anyone at UOR, and it is very clear that this is so true.

And last, but certainly not least, the exhibitors were all excellent as they have been in past years. They concentrate on the hygienists’ needs and that is so important. They know how to make hygienists feel so special too.

So thank you all again at PennWell and RDH magazine for such a wonderful event for hygienists to attend.

If one has not been able to attend any of the UORs to date please mark your calendars for next year’s in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel as it will be spectacular. Sincerely,

Jane Weiner, RDH
Tamarac, Florida

Editor’s note: The RDH Under One Roof conference scheduled for 2006 will be hosted at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on July 26-28.

Salary is not top priority

Dear RDH:
I always find it interesting to read articles and letters in RDH about our salaries. Every year we see a salary and benefits survey, and often, within our community, these types of surveys are taken. I also see a lot of competition with the newly licensed dental hygiene graduates, calling each other to see who makes the most money. I feel somewhat insulted and find it appalling that hygiene salaries have come to whatever the going rate is instead of based on the hygienists’ experience, length of employment, or clinical abilities and communication skills.

I have been a practicing dental hygienist for 12 years now, and I am a part-time instructor for a dental hygiene program at a community college (11 years). I feel at this point in my career that I have some experience under my belt. It took me several years of practice to feel like I am “good” at what I do, and I know I would not have the skills and knowledge I have today without continually staying in tune with continuing education and the latest trends and issues in oral health care. (Basically, practicing what I preach!)

Nine months ago, my employer of 12 years hired a new part-time hygienist with barely over one year’s experience, and she gets paid the same wage as I do. I did recommend and support this new hire because I knew her as a student, she is a wonderful person and I felt she would be a good fit in our office. I actually received a pay raise when she was hired because she made a high hourly wage at the office she was leaving (my employer wanted to offer her at least a desirable wage), but she did take a small pay cut.

Don’t get me wrong; I am very satisfied with my employer, salary, and work environment. I have received what I consider to be consistent salary raises, as well as good benefits. But now, this makes me feel that my salary is not based on my longevity, skills, and work ethic, but is just what “the going rate” is. When she first started it was very positive; she was happy and patients commented on how nice and gentle she is.

A few months ago, I was perusing old RDH magazines and read the Editor’s Note about being thorough vs. being gentle, and the dentist who commented, “I don’t care how thorough she is. If she ain’t gentle she’d be out the door...” I started feeling a little insecure because maybe I am a little “too thorough” or maybe I am the one who the patients aren’t going to want to see. Obviously, a meticulous or thorough hygienist following a “gentle” hygienist is going to be perceived as perhaps aggressive, or even “rough.”

But, I believe good communication skills (empathy, respect, warmth, etc.) help our patients to work through these uncomfortable moments. Educating your patient as to why the scaling procedures may be somewhat uncomfortable when the tissue is not healthy helps the patient to take responsibility for his or her condition!

When I am out of shape and I go to the gym, my muscles are sore! When I go to the dermatologist to get a suspicious mole biopsied, it hurts! When I go to the masseuse or the physical therapist for treatment, it can be uncomfortable! But it is all for the greater goal of keeping myself healthy!

Still, I kept worrying, and thinking that maybe I was going to get the reputation of being a “rough” hygienist, and maybe I should rethink how I am performing instrumentation on our patients.

I guess I consider myself lucky, that I have not been pressured by production. Production is certainly important. I feel that my production is up to standard, but I do not let this dictate how I treat my patients. If I need 90 minutes for quadrant periodontal scaling or a periodontal maintenance visit, I ask for it! I want to provide the best possible care I can to my patients! I realize there are many hygienists who work on a commission, and I have reservations that this has the potential for encouraging their salaries to become more important than their patient’s oral health.

So what is really going on here I wonder? Where does thorough vs. gentle begin? Can I be thorough and gentle? I can see where it would be easy to become complacent as soon as we get that license; we get a great job, great salary, and everyone likes us, why should we do anything different? It is easy to start cutting corners right away, especially given the challenge of time management. Perhaps our textbooks get passed on to a new student or stuck in a box somewhere. Did you keep your textbooks and do you review what you learned in school, or did you just forget it all because “the real world is nothing like school?” Are you keeping current with continuing education so that you can provide your patients with the best level of treatment? Or do you feel like you just have to buddy up to patients to keep them happy?

I feel our clients/patients are consumers, and they want to feel as though they are getting their money’s worth out of their visits to the dentist! If the clinician carries on talking the entire time about trivial things, patients feel they need to interact, and less time is spent providing care. When I go to the masseuse, and she talks the entire time, I feel a bit short-changed; I know I do not get as good a massage as when I just close my eyes and let her get into her work, and provide the treatment that I am paying for.

Every patient is different; obviously talking and visiting can relax the anxious patient. You can put your schedule aside (as Ms. Vivoda stated in the July 2005 issue) and be there when a patient simply needs to talk.

The key is being in tune to each individual client’s desires for the hygiene visit. Many are perfectly happy to lay there, close their eyes (especially in today’s busy hectic society of running here and there), and take an hour in the dental chair to “do nothing” but get a good “teeth cleaning.”

As I was analyzing all this, I went back to the Editor’s Note to see if there was anything further in that issue about the idea of gentle being better, and I came upon Tammy Carullo’s article about clinical complacency and I realized that was just what I needed to read again. Complacency leads to substandard care. (I went on to September’s article, part 2). “It is paramount that your clinical skills be up-to-date and that you have avoided that ‘complacency rut.’ Know your stuff. The information needs to be state-of-the-art, the instrumentation cutting-edge, and your approach subtle, yet thorough. Make certain that your patients leave knowing that you have provided the best possible level of care for them and that their faith and confidence in you has not been misplaced.

“If you need additional training in regard to advanced perio instrumentation, so be it. But, always put your best foot forward. Be confident in your abilities and your patients will be confident too.” (Carullo, Sept. 2001).

Then there was the dentist in this same issue of RDH (Readers’ Forum) who said, “A well-trained dental hygienist with sharp instruments and an ergonomically efficient technique can easily do a good scaling and polishing in 10 minutes on most normal patients.”

Well, what constitutes a normal patient? I guess I don’t have any normal patients, unless you consider a 5 year old who can only sit still for 10 minutes a “normal” patient! This dentist believes patients want to get “in and out” and likens it to a fast food restaurant.

I am definitely far from perfect, and I know that I miss calculus too, and that not every patient is going to necessarily like me. But I take my time and give 100 percent to each patient, and if they don’t want 100 percent (“I have to be out by 9:45”), I can do that too. But the bottom line is to do your best. Go back and read Tammy Carullo’s articles in August and September 2001 and renew your spirit for good dental hygiene care.

I would challenge new hygienists to think about your skills and what you have to learn and offer before you ask for top dollar. I do realize that there must be a range in which a professional is paid in a specific line of work, and I have taken this into consideration in my meanderings. But, show the practice what you can do for them! You will be paid what you are worth. Don’t assume that you deserve top pay just because you have a dental hygiene license, and “that is what everyone else is making.”

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Be that efficient, cutting-edge clinician and a warm and caring health-care provider! It’s not about the money for me; it is about the personal rewards and satisfaction.

When a patient says, “You are really good, you do a good job, thank you for your hard work.” When they come to you with their questions because you have stimulated their interest, and you consistently follow up with their concerns to provide them with current information and education that pertains to them. It’s treating grandparents, parents and their children, and watching those children grow up, have children of their own, and then you get to treat their children! You are an important person in their lives! Enjoy your work, and the relationships and friendships are a bonus to providing your patients with the best health care possible!

Tamara Maahs, RDH, BS
Eugene, Oregon

To submit letters to the editor for publication in Readers’ Forum, send by:

• Mail - P.O. Box 3408, Tulsa, OK 74101
• Email - [email protected]
• Fax - (918) 831-9804

Besides a “signature,” letters also must indicate the city and state where the writer resides or practices.


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The 2005 RDH Under One Roof conference was hosted in Chicago on July 21-23. Above, PennWell’s editors who attended the conference included (from left) Dr. Joe Blaes, editor of Dental Economics, Dr. Lori Trost, editor of Woman Dentist Journal, Mark Hartley, editor of RDH, Kevin Henry, editor of Dental Equipment & Materials and Proofs magazines, and Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, director of RDH eVillage. Additional photographs from the conference can be viewed at during the month of September. The next RDH Under One Roof will be at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on July 26-28, 2006.

It was watermelon and vanilla

One of the contests hosted during RDH Under One Roof was to guess the flavor of a sample of lip balm provided by Sonicare.

The flavor was watermelon and vanilla. Delphine Lehmann of Arlington, Texas, correctly guessed the flavor. She won a $50 American Express Gift Check and a Sonicare IntelliClean System.