Little Red Riding Hood

Aug. 1, 2006
I am willing to bet that 99 percent of the people reading this column have no idea what name my parents gave me at birth.

I am willing to bet that 99 percent of the people reading this column have no idea what name my parents gave me at birth. (It could be 100 percent, but my mother reads this too.) While there are several reasons for this, it’s mostly because nobody knows to ask. It has never occurred to most acquaintances that I have this little secret. You can’t find answers to questions you don’t know exist.

What happened to Little Red Riding Hood after the demise of the wolf? Happily ever after is just a state of mind; a state not likely to be maintained forever. Now that the question is out there, let me offer my version of the answer.

Over the years, the concept of providing bread to grandma became widespread in the forest. Mom set up a program to teach other moms to make bread her way, and a certificate was issued to each person who completed the training. Only those with a certificate could make bread for any grandma.

Seeing the success of the “mom program,” Little Red Riding Hood decided it was time to have trained hoods to deliver the bread and also water since it was a basic need of all grandmas. Moms didn’t want their bread delivered in just any manner, so they regulated the actions of the Red Riding Hoods (RRHs). Moms also recruited woodsmen to carry the flour and yeast to the kitchen, leaving mom free to do the all-important baking.

Time moved on, and the forest population grew. Educational programs stepped up the training of moms and RRHs to keep up with the demand for bread and water. It wasn’t long before more and more grandmas were living on the edge of the forest near the largest oak trees. Retired grandmas and those who couldn’t afford nicer houses in the center of the forest lived near the oak trees. Most moms were not willing to build kitchens in this remote area; therefore, many grandmas were not only missing out on bread, but also were not receiving essential water.

The mayor of the land near the oak trees knew the grandmas there needed water and bread. Since help was not forthcoming from the forest moms, the mayor looked to the swampland for assistance. Nannies in the swampland were schooled to perform some duties of a mom. The mayor figured with some additional training, these nannies could provide bread and water to the grandmas near the oak trees. The nannies were willing to come to the oak trees, and the grandmas were grateful for the service. The moms were not happy.

The moms sued the mayor for endangering the lives of the grandmas. It seems that moms believed no bread or water was preferable to bread made by swampland nannies. After all, that bread may not be up to mom’s standards. The nannies were forced to leave the land, and the grandmas were once again unable to receive needed staples.

The mayor and some local residents were getting restless with the lack of bread and water in their area. A solution was needed and the moms sensed that to remain in control, they would need to propose a resolution of their own. The moms came up with a plan that would train bluebirds who lived near the oak trees to gather information about the bread and water needs of the grandmas in that area and report back to the moms. The bluebirds were promoted as new team members in the bread delivery system.

The moms would decide which grandmas needed food service based on the report from the bluebirds. Only after the moms decided which bread and water needed to be delivered could the RRHs or bluebirds take the items to the grandmas. These deliveries could only be made with written permission from the moms. Those grandmas who required specific bread for their health would still be left in need, since the moms would not allow anyone but a mom to dispense specific breads. Still, most moms were unwilling to set up kitchens near the oak trees to meet specific needs. The attitude of the moms remained that no bread was better than bread delivered by nannies.

A few RRHs were outraged by the proposal of the moms for a new team member. It was common knowledge that RRHs were able to determine what type of bread was needed by the grandmas, even if they were not allowed to provide the bread. Years of education and practical experience had produced RRHs with advanced abilities in diagnosing the bread needs of grandmas. It seemed logical to utilize the skills already possessed by RRHs to meet the needs of those near the oak

trees, especially since RRHs already lived in the area. Yet the cries of these few RRHs went unheeded.

Not enough RRHs knew about the proposal for a new team member because they didn’t keep in contact with other RRHs, nor did most RRHs even bother to keep up-to-date on legislation in the land. Many Red Riding Hoods were focused on their little part of the forest, and as long as the moms kept the paychecks coming, these RRHs just did their deliveries and went home satisfied. The turmoil near the oak trees did not involve them.

Some RRHs had anticipated the needs near the oak trees long before the moms presented their proposal for a new team member. These RRHs were organized and drafted a proposal of their own years before the moms, yet the RRH proposal went almost unnoticed. The moms were smaller in number yet more involved in their professional organization than the RRHs. Therefore, the mom proposal gained more attention than the one set forth by the RRHs.

In the end, the RRHs were phased out of the delivery team, replaced by woodsmen who were trained directly by the moms to provide most of the services of the RRHs. Bluebirds continued to report on the needs of grandmas near the oak trees, but these needs continued to go unmet. Many RRHs were upset that their leaders had not protected their careers, yet these same RRHs had never contributed to the organization, written a letter of protest, or even thought to ask what was happening around them. Life in the forest continued without the RRHs, though less than happily ever after for the grandmas.

While this may just seem like a silly story, many of us realize it is happening in our world today. The ADA has proposed a new dental team member to help bring access to dental care for those in underserved areas. This new team member would be called a Community Dental Health Coordinator and would be trained in a manner decided upon by the ADA. Why should we be outraged? This is our career, simply renamed and handed over to someone with less education and training. In my opinion, it is just another cog in the control game.

When I was in college, our class was visited by a registered dental hygienist who worked in the public health arena. She held a master’s degree and worked within the community to provide dental screenings and education to underserved members of the population. This RDH also referred patients to local dental clinics for needed restorative and preventive treatment. While she could not “diagnose,” she could recognize signs and symptoms of oral conditions needing further attention from a dentist. This RDH fit the description of a Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC), as outlined by the ADA proposal. She had a higher level of education than the ADA is recommending for the CDHC, but I don’t see that as a negative.

Long before the CDHC proposal by organized dentistry, our own professional organization presented a lengthy and researched opinion on the advancement of the dental hygiene profession. This proposal included an outline for the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner. The ADHA proposal is more detailed and requires a specific level of education (a bachelor’s degree) for the ADHP, unlike the proposal for the CDHC which merely states the “length of training may vary depending on how didactic and clinical instruction is delivered.”

Who will dictate the future of your profession? Call me crazy, but I believe the ADHA is more concerned about my dental hygiene profession than the ADA. Just look at the names of the respective organizations: The American Dental Hygienists’ Association and the American Dental Association.

Would you prefer to be represented by fellow dental hygienists or organized dentistry?

I challenge everyone to read and ponder the proposals set forth by both sides. Go to to read the research behind the ADHP proposal. See for yourself the logic and thought that went into this important step for our future. You can find all the links you need on the home page, and it is easy to navigate. Also visit and read the short, nonspecific proposal for the new dental team member suggested by the ADA. Hopefully each of us will be compelled to action after considering both proposals.

If you don’t ask any questions, you will not receive any answers. Not every question can or will be answered right away, but it is still our responsibility to ask. You won’t find out my given name, not even if you ask my mother. But you can find answers on how to protect the future of our profession simply by looking in the right place and questioning the right people. My name is not important; our professional future is essential.