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It is my fervent hope that the 468 readers who responded to an RDH survey about occupational health are the only ones experiencing job-related pain. But I suspect that`s wishing for too much.

It is my fervent hope that the 468 readers who responded to an RDH survey about occupational health are the only ones experiencing job-related pain. But I suspect that`s wishing for too much.

Mark Hartley, Editor

The rash of occupational injuries at the Hartley household pressed my taxi service into a daytime shift this past week. Normally, my car is converted into a cab at night so kids can practice something on the north side of town and then practice something else on the south side of town. I get lots of practice driving a car at night.

The daytime shift belongs to my wife. It`s more convenient for her, and, besides, we wouldn`t want something like a family member`s appendicitis to interrupt the preparation of this fine publication for the dental hygiene profession, right? But she`s been unavailable and so my oldest son, a high school senior, called me at work. "Dad, I`m bleeding in my ear," he said in a normal tone of voice.

"How do you know that?" I asked, thinking people who bleed profusely from an ear generally are unable to make telephone calls.

"When I stick my finger into it, there`s blood on it," he replied.

"Well, the first thing I want you to do is stop sticking your finger in your ear." Then I said something that makes me thankful that people seldom listen to me. I suggested that he find an eye dropper and flush it out with warm water. A school nurse was hovering nearby, and she promptly nixed that idea. So I left work and drove him to the doctor`s office, where he was diagnosed with a ruptured ear drum. My son relayed the news that my suggestion of cleaning out the ear canal with water caused the physician to scowl in an expression reserved for amateur doctors.

The next day, the nurse at my youngest son`s school, where he attends eighth grade, called. Apparently, the sprained ankle he suffered prevented him from making the telephone call himself. The nurse thought X-rays were in order. So I drove over to the school, where I`m led to an inner sanctum within the administrative offices. This tiny cubicle contains little more than a gurney and a first aid kit. My son was lying down on the former, and I can see the knot about the size of a baseball swelling out from his ankle.

"That looks like a bad one," I said.

He gives me one of his courageous grins. I`ve never understood how children smile when in obvious pain and offer a contorted grimace when they want to skip school.

"What happened?"

"We were playing soccer in PE, and I scored a goal. Then I tripped when I was celebrating it."

The highlight videos of professional athletes suffering career-ending injuries while celebrating don`t have much of an impact in my house, I guess. I`m probably not very sympathetic, since my career doesn`t lend itself to such celebrations. There`s not a whole lot of drama to slamming a dictionary shut after confirming that a word has been spelled correctly. Regardless, my son needed a doctor and that`s where I took him.

It is my fervent hope that the school doesn`t call me about my daughter tomorrow. My kids haven`t been laboring all that safely at school this week.

It is also my fervent hope that the 468 readers who responded to an RDH survey about occupational health are the only ones experiencing job-related pain. But I suspect that`s wishing for too much. I have a feeling many more of you ached a little too much the day you contemplated filling out the survey.

It is my fervent wish, of course, that dental hygienists suffer zero injuries during their career. That, too, may be a little much to wish for. But I hope that, if you are experiencing some painful symptoms, you`ll read the results of the "pain" survey on page 32 and take some preventive actions. On behalf of the profession, I thank the Hygienists` Pain Network. This informal pooling together of notes about occupational pain has already worked some wonders in preventing the pains peculiar to dental hygiene. I`m very grateful that this network has stepped forward in an effort to document occupational pain.

Editor Mark Hartley can be contacted at markh@pennwell.com

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