I posted a photo of my granddaughter, forgetting that dental hygienists were watching.

May 1, 2018
Ellie was caught by a photographer in the middle of a no-holds-barred peal of laughter, and it moved me. I’m her grandfather.

Ellie was caught by a photographer in the middle of a no-holds-barred peal of laughter, and it moved me. I’m her grandfather. So I put the photo on Facebook. Quite a few personal acquaintances chimed in with dutiful oohs and ahs. But dozens of dental hygienists also were very kind in acknowledging the infectious joy of Ellie’s facial expression.

There’s little question in my mind that Facebook is the single most relevant method of networking within the dental hygiene profession. Several Facebook groups catering to dental hygienists have followers numbering in the thousands. Many hygienists use these Facebook groups for solutions to daily challenges. More importantly, social media has allowed hygienists to develop social outlets that they otherwise may not have. For this reason alone, we can be very grateful to Facebook. There are, of course, other social media options. My employer, though, conducted a 2017 survey of dental hygienists that indicates 30% have active accounts on Instagram, 23% are on LinkedIn, and 17% use Snapchat. But the percentage on Facebook, 75%, kind of leaps out at you.

What kind of a secondary headline could be added to the main headline of “Dental hygienists on social media.” Would “Hygienists go wild, wild, wild!” be suggested? Probably not, fortunately. There have been too many seminars and articles advising hygienists to “keep it professional.” The conflict within social media is that professional and friendliness is not necessarily synonymous.

As Facebook now readily admits (as a result of the company selling members’ data), stuff falls through the cracks, and information falls into the wrong hands. For every Austin Powers meme (“Why do your teeth need sealants? Because they’re groovy, baby!”) there’s the derogatory meme (Patient: Can I swallow? Hygienist: No, your own saliva becomes toxic once you have sat in the dental chair.”). For every Easter bunny meme depicting where the silly rabbit gets its candy supplies (dental office), there’s the Willy Wonka meme (“So you smoke, drink, and take drugs? Tell me more about how fluoride is poisonous.”). Most dental hygienists keep the rough humor about patients within Facebook’s closed groups. However, to refresh my memory for this article, I just looked them up on Pinterest. It was quicker to find the negative jokes and comments about patients on Pinterest than by browsing through Facebook pages for dental hygienists.

My favorite meme, by the way, is the two robbers discussing the loot (random teeth scattered on a table). One proclaims to the other, “You were supposed to rob the tooth fairy on her way to work, not on her way home.”

I’m not alone when I publicly share a photo of my granddaughter. However, “it’s complicated.” I have to admire Ellie in a friendly, yet professional way. Yeah, being friendly on social media can be complicated.

Mark Hartley

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