Good for a laugh

Jan. 1, 2013
It is my understanding that dental hygienists are sometimes accused of being overly intense.

by Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS

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It is my understanding that dental hygienists are sometimes accused of being overly intense. It is also said that we take ourselves a mite too seriously. (I’ve been there.) To that end, I dedicate this column. It’s a lonely night here in New Jersey, post-Hurricane Sandy, dark and powerless in my house. I need to laugh right now!

I have a couple of funny anecdotes for you – one from the clinical world and the other from business. I will never forget an incident that happened one day in my dental office. I had seated my patient and gone through the preliminaries. Before X-raying Mr. G, I removed his glasses. As I was getting ready to look inside his mouth for the exam, I put on my glasses (this occurred back before I started wearing loupes), donned my mask, washed my hands, and gloved up. As I approached his mouth, I could not fathom what was happening, but I knew that something was very wrong. Hoping in some way that things would improve, I continued my approach – but I simply could not focus. In less than a minute, my vision had completely deteriorated. I noticed Mr. G. looking at me oddly. I had such a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach that I did not acknowledge his body language. He then questioned me in a matter-of-fact tone: “Eileen, why are you wearing my glasses?”

Of course it became immediately apparent that after I had set his glasses on my counter, I switched them with my own. It failed to dawn on me while I was desperately trying to do an exam in the midst of total distortion! He and I both laughed so hard that it took a full 10 minutes for me to be able to regain composure so that I could treat him. Since that day, I keep patient glasses in a different location.

Here’s another good one. As a consultant, I am occasionally in offices giving presentations and workshops. At one point, I was contacted by the owner of a dental laboratory, who wanted some help with marketing.

I should tell you that I was previously acquainted with these gentlemen from a former affiliation with a study club. I had been in their office only seven minutes and was seated at a desk with four of the laboratory technician owners of the business. I thought that I looked like a total fashionista that day, attired in black pants and a contemporary zip-up jacket. The jacket is the type that stays zipped, so it’s not necessary to wear a shirt under it.

As I got into my presentation, I became very animated, tossing ideas about, and enthusiastically waving my hands. Suddenly I became aware that one technician’s eyes were averted downward. Feeling suddenly nauseated (sixth sense?), I glanced down, and to my horror realized that my zip-up jacket had become unraveled from the bottom up! The two sides were now open, exposing my pasty, white stomach. I cannot be sure, but I feel certain that the zebra striped bra I had selected for that day was now also on display.

Clutching the two sides frantically, I exclaimed, “Uh-oh, my zipper is broken!” (As if they needed an explanation.) These were true gentlemen, and one offered me his blue lab coat. I thanked him, but grabbed the raincoat I had hung nearby at the start of the appointment. This, I attempted to accomplish while anxiously trying to keep the two opened and now flapping pieces of material, together with my remaining hand.

I ran for the ladies’ room and put my raincoat on. It took everything I had to walk back into that room with any morsel of dignity. What can one do? I held my head high, pretended I was the Queen of Egypt, and sailed back to continue with the presentation.

Hey, I got their marketing business! With a strategy like that one, who wouldn’t? At the end of the day, I laughed and counted my blessings. It could have been worse. What if I’d worn the white bra with the permanent stain on it?

I’ll bet most of you have stories that can top these. We need to laugh at our foibles, especially when we are taking ourselves too seriously. So when you are feeling either blue, or just a bit too intense, laugh it up. Onward we go; it is in our hearts’ core! RDH

EILEEN MORRISSEY, RDH, MS, is a practicing clinician, speaker, and writer. She is an adjunct dental hygiene faculty member at Burlington County College. Eileen offers CE forums to doctors, hygienists, and their teams. Reach her at [email protected] or 609-259-8008. Visit her website at

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