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Feb. 1, 2005
I get odd looks when I state my opinion that discontent, frustration, and disagreements are positive things, but my opinion does not waver. Argue with me all you want, but I stand my ground.

by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS

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I get odd looks when I state my opinion that discontent, frustration, and disagreements are positive things, but my opinion does not waver. Argue with me all you want, but I stand my ground. These three words are the basis for change, and, to avoid becoming stagnant, we need change.

Ever study the water in the bottom of a pond? It is green and thick, often with a less than pleasant odor. Yet, the water in a swift running stream is clear and the rocks underneath are smooth. If we show up for work everyday and "do our job," then go home every night and leave 18

Discontent has been a part of my life from the very beginning. Unhappy with my home in the womb, I was born six weeks early. Later, I was the pre-teen that was never satisfied with sitting at the "little" table for holiday dinners. My parents would chastise my need for doing everything in an unconventional manner, noting I had to do it my way, even if it wasn

Most of the "movers and shakers" in history were discontent with normal life. Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony, and Patrick Henry all helped create change because they were appalled with the status quo. Civil rights for all citizens might still be a dream if Martin Luther King, Jr. had waited for someone else to step forward. He was willing to risk everything, even his life, to improve the lives of all Americans. All you risk by being proactive in your career is your current position. Doesn

If you are not content with your present working conditions, that is great. Now, what are you going to do about it? While complaining has its place in change, whining accomplishes nothing. Find others with your same complaint and work together for change. Better your environment through mutual discontent. Join with your local and state organizations to ensure laws are favorable to our profession. Know the address of your state dental board and use it. Raise your voice and be heard. Or, if you are shy, support someone else who is willing to be vocal.

Find a way to get your opinion out to those in charge of change. Take the shy way out, and type your thoughts. For me personally, speaking in front of even one person can lead to extreme embarrassment. But typing on my computer makes me feel so brave. There may be those who would call me a coward, but I am an articulate coward.

Discontent eventually leads to frustration. When you reach frustration, you know what is making you unhappy and start looking for ways to change the situation. Frustration comes when others don

Is there another dental hygienist in your office who might also be frustrated? Band together and present your objections (or suggestions) to your employer. I know nothing frightens the doctor at our office more than the two of us asking to speak to him. Such power can be exhilarating. Remember that voicing frustration is not the same as griping and moaning. You want your frustration to be taken seriously and not brushed aside as PMS (prima donna syndrome). Yes, males have been known to exhibit symptoms similar to both conditions, so don

In fact, acting class should be a prerequisite for our career. Some of the best hygienists I have met are the ones who can smile and sweetly say, "Yes, Mrs. Nostyle, that is a lovely crocheted green and purple halter top." Or even better, "No, Dr. Asktoomuch, I don

Nothing promotes change faster than disagreement. If there were no disagreements in our profession, there would be no need for leaders. The great leaders are those who can take the best out of each argument and put together a plan that benefits everyone. Continuing education would not exist without disagreement. There would be nothing to learn after our initial diploma because no one would challenge the current ideas. In my case, this would mean hand scaling 98 percent of my patients and placing selfcuring sealants. Because of disagreements among the experts in infection control, our work environment is safer and toxic fumes are diminished. In fact, I have yet to miss the smell of gluteraldehyde.

My youngest two children are 13-year-old boys. Jake is quiet (most of the time) and appears almost always agreeable. Dan will argue with the rising of the sun and the color of grass. While there are moments when I consider stitching Dan

Disagreements among our governing officials have led to elections, petitions, and even our freedom. Think what might have been if, during that famous debate in U.S. history, Patrick Henry had risen and said, "Give me liberty, or whatever will cause the least amount of trouble." Apartheid would still reign in South Africa without leaders who dared to disagree with oppression. I salute the trouble-makers in history.

Research would be unnecessary if there were not disagreements among the experts. We would still be telling our patients that being pregnant can "rob" the mother

You are welcome to argue with my logic, but there is truth to my opinion that discontent, frustration, and disagreements have made our profession (and even lives) better. If we can use these emotions to promote a better work environment, patient and clinician alike will benefit. This is my nightmare of all nightmares; practicing dental hygiene in white dresses while standing and wearing those hats.

Some great dental hygienist was discontented and frustrated enough to disagree with the status quo of that uniform and saved me from a career as a taxidermist.

Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices in Napa and Sonoma California in both general and periodontal offices. She graduated from Idaho State University and is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. Through her involvement with Dental Hygienists against Heart Disease and other organizations, Lory hopes to bring a total health concept to the dental practice.