Life in the Sulcus
A veteran of the microbial pond sends us a few postcards from the other side of the dental wars.
Mike Danley approached RDH in search of an audience. He had these cartoons about those unwelcome fellows who reside in the microbial pond known as the sulcus.
Who knows more about the favorite songs, movies, and vacation spots of oral bacteria than dental hygienists?
If you see a kinship between Life in the Sulcus and The Far Side, Danley admits Gary Larsen was a big influence on his style. After all, Danley says, "Drawing is not one of my strengths. But I could draw teeth, and I figured drawing bacteria would be easy enough."
Danley, a resident of Overland Park, Kan., did not stumble upon the sulcus as an inspiration after visiting his dental hygienist. He was a practicing hygienist from 1975 through 1996. During his career as a hygienist, he developed a career niche for working with geriatric patients, and he became a member of the American Society of Geriatric Dentistry. In 1993, Dentistry Today published his article on professional ethics. In 2000, his alma mater, Johnson County Community College in Kansas, awarded him the Outstanding Alumni Award.
So he knows all about the inhabitants of the sulcus too.
"What I need now is an audience," he says. "Creating the strip is fun for me, but the best part is sharing my creation with members of the dental family and having them get a laugh out of it. Some of the cartoons can be appreciated by anyone, but what I enjoy most is coming up with an idea that can only be understood by the crazy people who chose dentistry as their profession.
"I'm appealing to a very limited population, but it is a group that needs comic relief in order to keep its sanity."
Life in the Sulcus is the most recent example of Danley's creative efforts. In the 1970s, he formed friendships with two professional puppeteers in the hopes of bringing Muppet-like characters to dentistry. He eventually created a puppet known as Dr. Julius Orange.
"Dr. Orange had his own office inside the dental practice," he recalls. "We cut out a section of wall in the reception area and covered the opening with curtains that opened up. I also took Julius to schools and preschools. Later, Dr. Orange had an advice column in the local hygiene alumni newsletter."
Danley welcomes e-mail from RDH readers. The address is danley email@example.com.
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