Content Dam Rdh Print Articles Volume37 Issue5 1705rdh C1

A ballpark estimate: On 8,064 days of my life, I have read at least one dental article.

May 1, 2017
I feel like I should qualify for some sort of elite airline status.

I feel like I should qualify for some sort of elite airline status. “Mr. Hartley, here are some mixed nuts for you to enjoy as we prepare for takeoff. Would you like a glass of white or red wine with your dinner entrée? For your inflight entertainment, we offer two great choices: The cast of GERD re-enact the enamel destruction of the third molar, or a documentary, The Big Trooth, which explores how insurers collaborated to control fee-setting on certain procedures.”

There are no funny cartoons on this flight? Not even an old love story such as The Bridges of Madison’s Quadrant?

I generally don’t read dental articles on Saturdays and Sundays. The boss occasionally bids farewell for what I think are too few vacation days. My vacations would be far removed from dentistry if only I would stay away from email. “Hey Mark, here’s another draft of that article. Can you let me know what you think?” Yeah, I’ll usually read it anyway. On those 8,064 days, I typically read several dental articles. Forgive me, but I’m going to pass on calculating the number of dental articles I’ve read since May 1985. I’m not sure if I want to know.

Most of the articles were published, either by my employer or another publication. Some rejected articles may never have been read by anyone other than me and the author. Dentists have a strong command of the language. I’m not sure of the reason why - perhaps the early hurdle of freshman composition en route to dental school left a lasting impression.

Dental hygienists generally denote a stronger curiosity as writers. Many years ago, Trisha O’Hehir referred to hygienists as professionals who enjoy sleuthing. If dentists are the mayors of Dentalville, then hygienists are the public safety officers, deriving clues from within the community to build healthier neighborhoods.

In last month’s issue, I wrote in this space: “Too much of a dental hygienist’s contentment over his or her career choice is dependent on the value placed on prevention by those who repair teeth. These are the doctors, of course, and health ethics requires them to advocate for the prevention of disease.”

I just felt like repeating that on this 8,065th day of reading dental articles. I watched a nationally televised program the other day that featured a panel of four dentists explaining the value of flossing. Naturally, I still long for the day when it will be a panel of dental hygienists explaining the importance of interdental home care. Nevertheless, the panel - two male and two female doctors - did a good job. Unfortunately, the camera crew did not follow the doctors to see if the message was being delivered at the home office too.

It’s not your destiny to read about dentistry for 8,000-plus days. It’s your destiny to take your knowledge and detect how your community can benefit from improved oral health. Godspeed to you!

Mark Hartley

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