A beer with Tom

Jan. 1, 2003
The results of the salary survey were written up a couple of weeks ago and placed in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. I'm a little foggy on exactly how much you earn.

By Mark Hartley

The results of the salary survey were written up a couple of weeks ago and placed in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. I'm a little foggy on exactly how much you earn. But I do remember perfectly well that you are rich. In fact, if you're single, I know some guys who wouldn't mind me introducing you to them. They'd love to develop a relationship with a rich lady, kick back in the recliner, and turn on ESPN. They say they'll even take out the trash before you arrive home with that hefty paycheck.

Actually, even though the results of the survey were very upbeat for a difficult economic climate, there's still the sense that finding a good job in dentistry is like winning the lottery. That kind of random luck probably doesn't sit well with people who do have relationships with hygienists.

I really don't know spouses and boyfriends of dental hygienists very well, certainly not enough to write an Editor's Note about them. I've met a few, of course. I usually say howdy-do and turn my attention to the business at hand, which would be the dental hygienist he's married to. By the way, if you're looking to spring a first on me, I've never met the significant other of a male hygienist — even after 18 years of hanging around RDH.

I decided to head for the sports bar and plop myself beside the hubby of a hygienist. After a few misses ("My wife wouldn't stick her hands in nobody's mouth ... except mine. You know what I'm saying?"), Tom declared that he was married to a hygienist.

"I guess it's not a piece of cake being married to a hygienist, huh?"

"You got that right," he said, taking his eyes off the TV set, "and if you're gonna ask me about whether she harps on me about flossing too, she does."

"No, I wasn't. You don't have to talk about what goes on in the bedroom."

"Say what? I wasn't going to," Tom said, puzzled.

"Well, I presume you're usually in the bedroom when she nags at you about flossing?"

"I guess. Were you serious when you said you'd buy me a beer?"

I had the bartender set us up with a couple of draft beers. "What bothers you about your wife's career?"

"Well, since it's almost halftime, I'll tell you. She's been doing the same thing for all of these years — just cleaning people's teeth. Drives her nuts, and, of course, she brings it home to me. I'm the one who has to listen to her vent about how she's not allowed to do what she was trained to do ... cure this periodontal disease stuff."

"If she's not doing what she was trained to do, why does she hang around?" I asked.

"She makes good money, I guess, but she wonders — venting aloud to me, understand — if she's accomplishing what she thought she would. Meanwhile, she's telling me all this while rubbing her hands or her back, which she says hurts from the job."

"Yeah, good ol' on-the-job injuries," I said. "I suppose you wouldn't put up with it in your job?"

"Only if I was one of those ballplayers, making millions," he replied, gesturing to the TV.

"Despite all that, she still likes her employer?" I asked.

"It's almost like she's a stagehand, serving at whatever whims her doctor dreams up. And this guy, by the way, won't spend a dime more than he has to. I can't believe how people are fooled by him, just because he's got a doctorate. Our teenage son works in a mom-and-pop store on 21st Street, and sometimes I have trouble figuring out who's got the worst boss. I guess these small-business owners get away with murder on how they handle employees."

"Yeah, I'm not surprised, but I do think it's getting better," I said. "I think dentists are pressured by dental journals, competition with other dentists, and consultants to realize that there's an actual commitment involved with a professional image. At least, that's what I got out of this survey our magazine conducted; hygienists, as a rule, think dentists are supportive of preventive dental care and feel like they're treated well by their employers."

"How many beers have you had?"

"OK," I acknowledged. "Want to watch the highlights from the first half?"


Mark Hartley is the editor of RDH. He can be contacted at [email protected].