I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your magazine for many years. Diverse articles and up-to-date information, as well as thoughtfully expressed opinions, are available for the taking. However, an opinion expressed in your last issue made me run for my computer keyboard. By the end of the third paragraph, I was convinced that it was written by a dentist. Unfortunately and disappointingly, as I approached the end of the opinion, I found that I was right.
Don`t get me wrong! I have the highest respect for the dental profession. As a dental hygienist and clinical dental hygiene instructor, I am a definite team player. This dentist from Illinois (Dr. Neiburger) seems to believe that most all of the economic woes of dentistry can be solved with the demise of traditional dental hygiene and the addition of what he terms "para-hygiene," hence, preceptorship. He states that the "ADA is dying a slow death" and that the "supply and productivity of classically trained hygienists is not keeping up with the demand." He also surmises that because of the latter, hygienists are paid exceedingly high wages, and this, in turn, is bad for dentists, patients, and insurers who have to pay the bills.
Whoa! Exu-U-use me!? Because hygienists are not producing enough, dentists are not able to afford to join the ADA? Are you kidding me? Couldn`t it be that the values and ideas of our new generation of dentists do not agree with some of the backward and selfish opinions of the ADA`s "old" way of thinking?
In my opinion, the hygiene department has never been more productive. We are finally being reimbursed for the quality services that the patient deserves. Scaling, root planing, perio debridement, and other periodontal therapies as well as sealant application, bleach tray fabrication, and education on implants and other restorative services are just a few of the money-producing services the well-trained and motivated hygienist can provide. If the employer dentist gives the time and resources as well as positive and active involvement in these services, his practice should be successful. Too bad that some individuals measure success only in terms of money, because I believe that quality workmanship and the development of lasting interpersonal relationships should be very fulfilling as well.
Successful dentistry is accomplished through teamwork and good communication between all team members. From the dentist to the assistant, from the office manager to the hygienist, everyone plays an important role and all of these roles intermingle on a daily basis. The dentist from Illinois seems to put a lot of burden for financial success on the hygienist, saying, "If your employer sees that you are being more productive, treating more patients better, and aiding the efficiency of the dental practice, then you will usually be rewarded. If not, eventually, you will be replaced." Hello??!!??
He also states that "scraping teeth requires no exceptional skills." I dare him to ask any dental hygiene student what they think of this statement. And to think that just anyone off the street could be trained in a preceptorship program or by a dentist, well, let`s talk about financial and productivity losses when lawsuits multiply across the land.
I am obviously taking this very personally. But I am one of the many hygienists who take their profession very seriously. We are a very professional group (contrary to the dentist from Illinois` opinion). We are very highly educated in all aspects of dentistry, as well as much of medicine. We are quality oriented. We are caring. We do care about the bottom line as dentists do. But if we are not allowed to help make decisions or to be actively involved in practice management then we are not being used to our full potential.
My advice to the dentist from Illinois is this: If you open your mind, then you will see that we are efficient. If you do not, you will be forever seeing red, and it will be you seeking the new profession. Think teamwork and professionalism; that`s the way of the future. Good luck.
B.S. Wurzell, RDH