Director's Message: The tallest blade of grass is the first to be mowed down

April 21, 2005
One definition of underachievement refers to the principle that, if you attempt to grow, a lawnmower will cut you down.

by Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, BS, Director, RDH eVillage

How do you choose to express your dental hygiene?

A friend and colleague of mine once said, "I now choose to express dental hygiene from the podium. In clinical practice I treated, educated, and motivated one patient at a time. Now, as a speaker and writer, I have the privilege of motivating and educating hundreds of hygienists who can then influence their patient's oral health." (Well, of course, I paraphrased her comment; one cannot expect me to remember verbatim a three-year-old statement when I admittedly cannot remember to pick my daughter up from her weekly Brownie meeting).

But since hearing that, I have always thought it was an innovative way to think about dental hygiene. There are so many ways we all express our dental hygiene expertise, skills, and abilities. For example, we work in private practices, educational institutions, not-for-profit clinics, and corporations. We can choose the role of manager, clinician, researcher, sales person, consultant, writer, speaker, and/or change agent. Plus, let us not minimize the other roles we play where dental hygiene also shines: PTA members, running club enthusiasts, sports Moms and Dads, and/or parishioners. Whenever and whereever our worlds take us, and in any combination, we express our individual dental hygiene talents.

Now, can all the "real-world" hygienists please stand up?

Who stood? And, of those who did, please e-mail me and define exactly what a "real-world" hygienist is? And, while you are at it, please explain who determines who is and who is not a real world hygienist?

I'm writing about this conundrum, because at a recent dental convention, I found myself in a rather heated conversation with a fellow hygienist. It was her perception that I was not a "real-hygienist."

What I could not understand was how she came to that conclusion after a one-way, conversation at me. In addition, I was puzzled about the criteria was she using to determine and ultimately label me as non-real-world hygienist?

Was it because I only practice clinical dental hygiene one day a week? Or was it because I was working with a dental company discussing my experience with X product? Was it because I have chosen to express dental hygiene in a hybrid of ways through clinical practice, writing, speaking, and consulting?

Perhaps she didn't realize that after my dental hygiene day is done, our lives are probably quite similar. My convention foe and I probably share many second shift tasks, such as raising children, doing housework, taking care of parents, volunteering at community events, and all the life challenges we encounter daily. I must admit that, looking back at the tiff, what irks me the most is not her narrow perspective of the different roles in dental hygiene, but my allowing her to make me feel insecure enough, that I felt I had to verbally justify and defend my choices. Ugh, never again.

That exchange and my reflection upon the event, reminded me of the following definition of underachievement: the tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut down by the lawnmower.(1) Translation, if you underachieve, then others will leave you alone; yet if you achieve or grow, someone will be there ready to mow you over.

Our field of hygiene should be filled with tall, broad bladed achievers. These textured hygienists should have strong roots in all areas of dental hygiene. With a variety of roles, dental hygiene can survive the intolerable weeds and or pesticides that attempt to drench our fertile achievements. Achieve, underachieve ... it's your choice. Either way, in my hygiene landscape, it's all "real."

Director's Footnote:
Let me be one of the first to announce that PennWell is again rising beyond our expectations and is beginning a series of Webcasts dedicated to the educational growth of its readers, a one-hour interactive presentation. Please join Align Technology and PennWell on May 20 for the introduction of the Invisalign Webcast. There is no charge for the educational session. It will concentrate on case review and applicability, and will introduce the attendees to ClinCheck, a proprietary visualization software program. After successful completion of the curse you will receive one continuing education credit. Busy on May 20? No worries. The Webcast will be available on Dental Economics ( and RDH ( Web sites for one year.