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Dec. 1, 2003
The editor, of course, reads every word that appears in RDH, discovering some favorite articles, quotes, writing styles, etc., along the way. There are three things to remember about the "editor's choices."

by Mark Hartley, Editor

The editor, of course, reads every word that appears in RDH, discovering some favorite articles, quotes, writing styles, etc., along the way. There are three things to remember about the "editor's choices." First, his vote is the most insignificant vote. The reader's vote is much more important, and readers can always cast their ballot for their favorite parts of RDH with a letter to the editor that's published in Readers' Forum.

The second thing is that the editor is sort of a weird fellow. His choices below are not necessarily going to transform a dental hygienist into an All-Pro Dental Hygienist, if the reader chooses to refer back to those articles. The "editor's choices" are merely the articles and photographs that made the 2003 issues of RDH a more interesting job for the editor.

Finally, if the reader thinks, "I sure wished I had read that too," you still can. All of the articles can be viewed at

Consultants beware

Kristine Hodsdon, the author of the Hybrid column, took a poke at some dental gurus in the January 2003 issue (page 67). Hygienists sometimes feel overwhelmed by doctors who read articles about what constitutes an ideal dental hygiene appointment.

Hodsdon wrote, "I often read articles U that the doctor turns to for 'help with hygiene.' The articles often have titles such as, 'Is an hour too long for a cleaning appointment?' U They appear qualified to provide 'profitable advice' because they took a turn at cleaning teeth and now know how to solve all of the other doctors' problems because they have 'lived it.' They list the duties that hygienists perform for a 'cleaning' U Sometimes, this list of duties is laughable, because it never even mentions six-point periodontal assessments. Not to mention that the 'solution' usually comes with a price tag of a minimum of $395 to purchase a videotape, an 'all you need to know' workbook, or a 'laminated chart.'"

Wannabe just like Dad

In the February 2003 issue (page 52), Trisha O'Hehir wrote about how hygienists should become "oral health detectives" in questioning patients about oral conditions. She wrote of her father, a police detective.

"As a kid, police work sounded like the kind of job I'd like to have. I thought my Dad would be so proud of me when I announced that I intended to become a policewoman when I grew up. He studied me for a moment, thinking of the two policewomen who worked for him – both 'hard drinking, hard smoking, and hard living' women – and shook his head. He said to me, 'Honey, you can be anything in the world you want to be when you grow up, but you will not be a policewoman. Is that clear?'"

Pitching horseshoes

Cathy Hester Seckman wrote about several dental hygienists who take being equestrians very seriously (February 2003, page 62). Seckman quoted Juli Holmquist, a rodeo rider from Michigan, as saying her horses are "just like my kids. I spoil them. They get new shoes before I do."

Digging a blombe

In a Periodontics column (March 2003, page 22), Trisha O'Hehir discussed strange conversations with patients during recall appointments. She referred back to her days as a hygienist in Switzerland.

Juli Holmquist of Michigan
Click here to enlarge image

"Patient after patient would ask me – in German, of course – something about 'blombes.' I couldn't find that word in my German dictionary, so after hearing it repeatedly and just shrugging my shoulders and looking really stupid, I asked the assistant what blombe meant. 'Oh, that's easy,' she said, 'blombe is a hole.' All this time, patients were asking me how many holes they had in their teeth, convinced it was normal to have new holes each time they came in. They just wanted to know how many."

The things you see on two wheels

Jennifer Tebo is a cyclist, and she rode in one of those tours around the globe. She offered the following quote in Cathy Hester Seckman's article in the March 2003 issue: "Cycling was cool; it gave us an opportunity to see things not as a tourist. I was in Greece, going down a back road, and saw a woman skinning a rabbit. I'd never seen that. I took her picture."

Most intimidating introduction

This was Shirley Gutkowski's (author of Thinking Sharply column) opening paragraph in the March 2003 issue (page 72):


The Web address was for some statistics that she needed for the article. Who says writers don't work hard?

Taking over for Miss Popular

Kristine Hodsdon wrote about her experience in securing a job with a dental office (Hybrid column, April 2003, page 48), and then establishing her style with the staff and patients. She, unfortunately, followed on the heels of one of the most popular hygienists the world has ever seen. Hodsdon wrote, "The bumps in the road came with the patients. I heard so many times during a day, 'Oh, you are not Jessica. She was soooooo nice. I loved coming to see her. Well, I guess you will do.' I still kept a smile on my face. They were not exactly criticizing me, for they did not know me yet. Any RDH reader who has taken over for a beloved hygienist can relate to this battle."

Can I have my pen back?

Everyone talks about how hygienists cope with the psychological struggles of being a perfectionist. Perhaps no one describes that better than Cappy Snider in the May 2003 Guest Commentary (page 12):

"Why do we put such pressure on ourselves? I think there must be a special gene for hygienists that make us want to be perfect — you know the one I'm talking about. It's the way we line our scalers up 'just so' on the bracket table, the ever-so-neat stack of 2x2 gauze squares (usually a specific number in the stack) that lie next to the scalers, the exact placement of the container of floss on the tray, right next to the specific brand of prophy paste we love to use, and of course, the only brand of prophy angle that will do the job we expect. If you are like me, the drawers in your operatory are well-organized, with related items placed together, and your pens and pencils are always replaced in their holder between use — unless of course, it's your special pen, then it's placed in a pocket so no one else can take it. With these tendencies, it's no wonder we stress over any calculus that may have been missed during an appointment."

Sweet nothings on a romantic evening

Kirsten Brancheau described the most interesting anecdote about how a decision was reached to pursue a career in dental hygiene. In the Guest Commentary for the June 2003 issue (page 10), she wrote:

"My minimum wage job was boring. I wanted something else; I just didn't know what that something else was. One evening I took a walk with my boyfriend and poured out my troubles to him. 'Why don't you become a dental hygEEnist?' he suggested. 'What's a dental hygEEnist?' I wanted to know. 'I don't know,' he replied, 'but that's not important. What is important is that they make lots of money and only have to go to school for two years.' Intrigued, I went back to my high school guidance counselor and asked him about becoming a dental hygEEnist. 'It's hygienist,' he said, 'and you will make a great one.' 'But what exactly is a hygienist?' I still wondered. My counselor didn't know the answer to this either, but he gave me some county college catalogues to look through."

A whole bunch of crooks?

Shirley Gutkowski slyly raised some questions about dental ethics in her June 2003 Thinking Sharply column (page 16). Her comments included:

"In most states, however, this [dental hygiene treatment] routine goes against the letter and intent of the law. The hygienist who provides any service to a patient without a treatment plan telling him/her what to do is practicing dentistry without a license — a felony. Here's why. The doctor cannot make a diagnosis if the oral environment has been altered, right? Hygienists work much like pharmacists; without a prescription, we cannot provide our service."

Gutkowski sure raised some eyebrows with that second sentence.

Best question of the year

Anne Guignon is the author of the magazine's Comfort Zone column. In the June 2003 column (page 28), she asked some questions that need to be asked. She wrote:

"I sometimes hear hygienists say things that make me wish I could reprogram their psyches. 'He (or she) won't do that (or let me).' 'It won't (or can't) happen.' 'I wish I could do that.' I just want to shout, 'It is up to us to make a difference!' They think that nothing can change with the thoughts of, 'yes, you can,' 'yes it can happen,' and 'your wish can come true.' Why are many hygienists so fearful of change? Why do so many believe that they cannot move forward? Or worse yet, why do so many feel powerless to bring change forward? This type of victim mentality reminds me of the thinking of an abused woman. These powerless thoughts scare me."

They scare me too.

The best view

O'Hehir went scuba diving in her June 2003 Periodontics column (page 32), searching for clues as an "oral health detective." Her description of the war in the mouth offers quite a view:

"Best cover" — August 2003 RDH
Click here to enlarge image

"Our detective work requires an undercover investigation. To get a look at what's happening on a cell level, we'll shrink ourselves, like in the movie 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.' Put on a scuba diving suit and oxygen tank, and slip into a sulcus and around the mushrooms and towers of bacterial biofilm — subgingival plaque. We're actually swimming through fluid channels filled with the toxic waste products of the bacteria in the plaque biofilm. Don't worry, your special diving suit protects you. At the base of the pocket, we approach the epithelial attachment."

The second best view

Cathleen Terhune Alty opened a discussion about xerostomia ("The Wonders of Spit," June 2003, page 54) with a rather graphic view:

"Oh, the wonders of spit! It looks adorable bubbling out of a baby's mouth, nasty spattered on the sidewalk, insulting when hurled at another person, and worthy of an Olympic medal when 'pit-tooeyed' a great distance. Foamy, stretchy, ropey or thin, saliva changes in texture and quantity within seconds. Nearly as individual as fingerprints, saliva can be analyzed for DNA content, various cancers, and drug usage. So much more than mere water, this alkaline fluid continually bathes oral mucosa, lubricating and breaking down food for digestion."

Best cover

The August issue has my vote. Photographer Paul Harris spent most of the session taking photographs in a garden and underneath a covered patio. The model was Patti Cantor, a Los Angeles hygienist. She eventually ended up beside a swimming pool for a few last photos. Daisy, the family dog, sprang into action, and Harris took a few additional photos, sending them to us mainly for our amusement. But as we studied the choices, we realized that we liked those poolside shots U and liked them U and liked them. Why not use a photo of a hygienist whose dog "surfs" in the family pool?

Ode to John Lennon

Kristine Hodsdon, in her September 2003 Hybrid column (page 12), started off by apologizing to the late Beatle for changing the words of "Imagine." But I'm not sure if the apology is necessary. I think Lennon would have liked it.

If you missed it, the first verse was, "Imagine there are no scalers, it's easy if you try, no calculus below us, above us only sky."

You can almost hear him singing it, can't you?

Remembering 9/11

Cathleen Terhune Alty interviewed Winnie Funari, a New York forensic hygienist, for the second anniversary of the 2001 tragedy (September 2003, page 32). The portrayal of how the dental community volunteered countless hours to help identify remains was very touching.

Alty wrote, "They came and they gave. Together, they found strength beyond themselves. They came and they gave in the spirit of helping their fellow man. As a result, this Dental ID Team, forged in loss, transformed into a family of over 300 volunteers. The team never lost sight of why they were there — to positively identify remains. Winnie said the team fulfills its mission when they are able to make identifications and send a victim home to the family. When asked how she feels to be able to make such a difference Winnie answers, 'Privileged.'"

The politician in you

Anne Guignon updated readers on hygienists campaigning for political office across the country ("Politically correct," October 2003, page 30). Her ulterior motive, as the author, was to illustrate how it's not that much of a stretch to imagine hygienists as politicians. She would like to see more of her peers hit the campaign trail.

Guignon wrote, "Dental hygienists must be excellent strategists, savvy negotiators, and ultimate dealmakers. We must be able to focus simultaneously on the big picture and the minute details, know which battles to pick, when to cut our losses, and when to walk away from a losing proposition.

"Successful hygienists also must possess excellent 'baloney radar' and have the ability to roll with the punches. We practice these skills every day with our patients, employers, and co-workers."

Juli Holmquist of Michigan

The Editor's Favorite Articles

1 "Literally writing a book on dental hygiene care at nursing homes," by Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, March 2003, page 26

Editor's comment: Want to know how tough hygienists are? Permit access to an underserved population, and send a hygienist in after them. There's no how-to manual for this kind of adventure.

2 "If only2," by Shirley Gutkowski, RDH, BSDH, August 2003, page 30

Editor's comment: This article is actually a "sequel," an update of information presented in October 2002. You know what they say about sequels usually failing? Not here. You feel like you're agonizing right along with the author as she observes a lifelong friend undergo cancer treatment.

3 "Dentistry at the rooftop of the world," by Heidi Baier, RDH, July 2003, page 62

Editor's comment: Man, I was breathing hard from just reading the article! Those mountain peaks in Nepal are tough to climb! What a "day at the office" for the author!

4 "Mary," by Cindy Kleiman, CDA, RDH, BS, May 2003, page 58

Editor's comment: Kind of hard to keep the eyes dry. We extend many kudos to the author, who specializes in treating traumatic brain injury patients.

5 "Organ transplant," by Dianne Glasscoe, RDH, BS, May 2003, page 64

Editor's comment: If "Mary" above doesn't get you all choked up with emotion, this story about Dianne's father finishes the job.

6 "Make the best of it? Or U head for the state line," by T.K. Allen, July 2003, page 32

Editor's comment: This article is actually written in a pretty straightforward manner. The author interviewed Alabama hygienists who earned their credentials the traditional way, and then wrote down their comments. But as long as the Alabama Dental Hygiene Program remains in existence, this type of article is important.

7 "Dear Listers: My patients won't floss," by Carol Jahn, RDH, MS, May 2003, page 52

Editor's comment: Jahn took one of the most tired subjects in dental hygiene – flossing and alternatives to it – and ended up with arguably one of the most creative articles published by RDH this year. So creative, in fact, that some readers thought an email address of one of the bulletin board's members was legitimate. They tried to get information about a chart by emailing the fake address.

8 "Tropically missing," by Joanne Iannone Sheehan, RDH, February 2003, page 54

Editor's comment: Yeah, there was actually a short story in RDH in 2003. Since we never ever publish fiction, you might want to go back and read it. Sheehan's characters go sleuthing in Hawaii.

9 "Assembling a dream team," by Cappy Snider, RDH, October 2003, page 50

Editor's comment: Sometimes, it's just nice to read a "happy ending" to how health-care professionals can team up successfully on a case.

10 "The second banana syndrome," by Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, September 2003, page 38

Editor's comment: It was extremely frustrating to sit in on the author's "phone calls" with a couple of colleagues. Both colleagues prioritized everything higher than their own health, all in the name of self-sacrifice. I hope everyone "listened" to the phone calls.

11 "Finding Marcia," by Cathleen Terhune Alty, RDH, August 2003, page 20

Editor's comment: The author made the dental connection with "Finding Nemo," the popular Disney movie, while sitting in the theater watching it. She scrambled to put together the details for the article (movies tend to fade quickly from the limelight these days), and the profile of Marcia Peck turned out to be quite an interesting piece of trivia about "Finding Nemo."

Meet a Writer

The RDH Under One Roof conferences have in hosted in Chicago (twice), Denver, and Las Vegas. The conference puts many of RDH's writers in one location at the same time, hence the reference to "under one roof." Although the conference allows the accumulation of continuing education credits among other benefits, we intended to create an opportunity where readers of RDH could interact with writers in an informal atmosphere.

The next RDH Under One Roof conference is scheduled for March 4-6 in Costa Mesa, Calif. The conference is divided into lectures and hands-on workshops. Many of the speakers in the workshops written for RDH. However, as of the press deadline, not all of the speakers in the hands-on workshops in Costa Mesa had been designated.

The lecture presenters, though, are selected early in the organizational process for the conference. They all have a connection with RDH as authors.

• Kristy Menage Bernie, RDH, BS. Bernie will deliver the keynote address. She has written articles on halitosis (January 2002) and full-mouth disinfection (September 2002) for RDH. In February 2003, Ann-Marie DePalma profiled Bernie's style as a speaker in the From the Podium column.
• Margaret Fehrenbach, RDH, BS. Fehrenbach wrote an article on cigar smoking for the February 2003 issue.
• Dianne Glasscoe, RDH, BS. Glasscoe is the author of the monthly "Staff Rx" column.
• Shirley Gutkowski, RDH, BS. Gutkowski is the author of the monthly "Thinking Sharply" column.
• Joen Haring, DDS, MS. Dr. Haring is the author of the monthly "Case Study" column.
• Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, BS. Hodsdon is the author of the monthy "Hybrid" column, which started out under the title of "Esthetic Hygiene" in 2000.
• Carol Jahn, RDH, BS. Jahn has written on interdental aids (May 2003), hygiene and orthodontic care (April 2003), patient compliance (March 2002), and continuing education (August 1998).