Reader's Forum

June 1, 2002
I was pleased to read the article in the April 2002 issue about the Minnesota hygienist who became a living kidney donor for a friend.

Proud to be a donor

Dear RDH,

I was pleased to read the article in the April 2002 issue about the Minnesota hygienist who became a living kidney donor for a friend. On February 6, 2002, I, too, donated a kidney to my brother's wife, a severe diabetic who had been on dialysis for nearly a year. My story was very much like Kris Anderson's (except that I am older than Kris and my children are already grown). I had no complications with surgery and, except for some initial pain, I healed rapidly and was back to work within a month.

Living organ donation is a priceless gift. Everyone has their own personal reasons for considering a donation, but let me just say to anyone who has the opportunity to be a living donor - do it. Sharing the gift of life is a most satisfying experience. Whereas I don't feel like anyone's hero, my recipient tends to view the situation differently. At any rate, it is a very worthwhile endeavor. I would be happy to answer any questions about my experience as a living organ donor.

Caroleah Johnson, RDH
Oroville, California

No commissions, and proud of it

Dear RDH:

This letter is in reply to the Staff Rx column in the April 2002 issue. In the author's response to the query about "commission vs. daily rate," there was no mention of the ethics involved in switching to commission.

I have always considered that being a dental hygienist was part of the health care system. My first priority is to the patient, then my employer. Yes, I try to fill my schedule at all times, but I think my patients would be appalled to find out if I were working on commission! In telling my patients that probably 15 percent of all dental offices are on commission, they are incredulous. I pride myself on the quality of work that I provide, not on how much I made that day (or month).

And, yes, I'm well compensated with paid vacations, holiday pay, and a retirement program. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Connie Sidder, RDH
Ft. Collins, Colorado

Misinformation about lasers

Dear RDH:

There is a lot of misinformation in the "Pretty in Pink" article (March 2002 issue). First, bacterial decontamination of the periodontium has never been proven to be of theraputic value. Even if it ocurred, it would be short-lived in an open system. The FDA has clearly stated that the laser is not approved for this application or for cross-contamination, ENAP procedures, and periodontal ligament or bone regeneration.

Red swollen gums are the signs and not the cause of the disease and do not need to be treated with a Nd:YAG laser. There is little science to support the value of laser curettage, and there could be significant collateral damage to the pulp and adjacent hard tissues, especially at the 2.5 watt setting. For more information, please contact the California Society of Periodontists at and click on "News."

Gerald Drury, DDS
Hermosa Beach, California

Editor's note: In two recent, published letters, the writers cited the lack of references as a concern. The author, Dr. Martha Cortés, did supply references. If you would like to review the references for the article referred to above, send an e-mail to [email protected]. Please include a fax number within the e-mail, so we can expedite the forwarding of the references.

The rest of the bad and the ugly

Dear RDH,

I am writing in response to a hygienist's letter in the March issue. I resent being grouped with preceptorship trainees just because I graduated from a community college with an associate's degree. I received a wonderful education at my college. I had caring, compassionate instructors, dentists who not only spent required time in the clinic, but also were available at any time for tutoring and questions. My radiology instructor was, and still is, one of the best in the country. She lectures from coast to coast and her dedication to dental hygiene inspired me to stick with my chosen profession through thick and thin.

I received my "lowly" diploma 20 years ago. Since that time, I have attended continuing education classes and my credits must be close to the thousand mark. I have worked for oral surgeons, holistic dentists, periodontists, hospital dentistry, a medical insurance company, and a very caring family dental practice. If I wanted to get my bachelor's, I'm sure that this experience would account for some life-credit, then I could take whatever courses are required to get my public health or management degree. Right now, I am happy to be a highly experienced, caring, and dedicated periodontal therapist and dental health educator.

That is the good news. Now let me fill you in on the bad and ugly, since you must be too young or naive to know what the real world is like.

I have worked in dental "factories" - patients in, patients out as fast as possible. I've worked for a man who has underworld connections and was afraid to go to work every day. Hygienists were only paid $6.50 an hour at the time, but I really needed the work (thankfully, that didn't last too long.)

I've worked for a dentist who throws sharp dental instruments when he is angry - usually at the assistant who made an error or if the crown just didn't fit. I've worked for a narcoleptic who fell asleep filing canals. His wife had to drive him to work every day because he lost his driver's license. I've worked for a dentist who charges people for his services according to the type of car they drive to the office. I've worked as just a dental "technician," doing prophys all day and just going home.

I could go on, but is this enough of the bad and ugly? All of these jobs paid $10 an hour or less. I needed to work, and my searching time was limited because of financial need. As she said, not everything comes right to us.

I am now working with a great dentist who appreciates my experience and doesn't care if I have an AS or a BS. She knows what my experience can bring to her practice, and she treats me as the true professional that I have been trained and have learned to be. We collaborate on patient care, and she values my expertise on periodontal therapy, as she doesn't have the time to evaluate every pocket on every patient. I am finally being compensated for my knowledge and experience, and that feels good, too.

It is not about the type of degree. It is not about what you put into it. That wonderful practice might be out there, but you'll never find it because of life's circumstances. To assume that an associate's degree is a compromised education is erroneous and arrogant. If you want to feel what the hygienists who answered the salary and benefits survey feel, just wait a few years. When you have been working in an office for 10 years and the latest hygiene graduate (from a community college) comes looking for a job, don't be surprised if she starts working for your same salary or slightly less.

Jacqueline Tinberg, RDH
Chanhassen, Minnesota

Not the same category

Dear RDH:

I am writing in responed to the March 2002 Readers' Forum letter "Finding Career Happiness." I am extremely upset to see this Nebraska-trained hygieinst group associate-degree hygientists with those that are preceptorship trained. First of all, preceptorship-trained hygienists are trained on the job and, by law, can only scale above the gum line. The associate-degree hygienist completes a 21/2-year training program, which not only includes didactic work, but also extensive clinical training in treating patients.

As an associate-degree hygienist, I can perform every clinical procedure that you, a bachelor-degree hygienist, can. Plus, since I practice in California, I can also administer local anesthesia and nitrous oxide sedation. Please remember that associate-degree hygienists take the same national board exam and the same state board exam as those who hold a bachelor's degree.

For your information, the American Dental Association recently honored the Diablo Valley College dental hygiene program the top ranking out of the 231 national programs. This ranking is based upon the performance of the students on the national boards taken last spring. Diablo Valley College is an associate-degree dental hygiene program in Pleasant Hill, California.

So, in the future, could you please give us associate-degree hygienists a little credit and never, ever place us in the same catagory, or even the same sentence, as a preceptorship-trained hygienist. Last, but certainly not least, do I feel I deserve the same compensation as a bachelor-degree hygienist? In a clinical setting, you bet I do!

Lori Nolasco, RDH
Fairfield, California