Inside Hygiene 22610

Feb. 19, 2010
RDH Editor Mark Hartley crunches some numbers about your last pay raise; admits he couldn't think of a better novel involving a dental hygienist than the real-life story behind the Italian scandal; and reminds you to buy your dental assistant a cup of coffee next week.

By Mark Hartley, RDH magazine

Some number crunching over your last pay raise
Even before the current recession, dental hygienists complained about the frequency and quantity of pay raises. Regardless of whether or not it’s a myth, there was the persistent perception of dentists’ viewing dental hygienists as personnel who are paid too much for the services they render. Has the recession, though, affected the frequency of pay raises for dental hygienists?RDH magazine and RDH eVillage have been conducting salary surveys for several years. One question that is always asked is whether a reader has received a raise in the last 12 months. The surveys always target a couple of months a year, usually late summer or early fall. Although we generally write the related articles soon afterwards, the surveys are still “live” on the Web sites; readers find the surveys year-round and answer the questions when it’s convenient.Altogether, 4,598 dental hygienists answered the question about the frequency of raises since Aug. 11, 2008.Before we address the frequency of raises in dental hygiene, we need to touch upon another important factor. Are dentists getting “raises” via revenue increases in dental practices? If a dental practice is not producing revenue at an elevated level, is it reasonable to expect a raise? The answer to the first question is “yes” for about half and “no” for the other half.In early 2009 (which, admittedly, is an old date, considering the length of the recession), the American Dental Association said 51% of dentists reported declining income. I guess the key word here is declining. We’re not certain if the other 49% enjoyed banner years in the fiscal success of their dental practices. Here’s what hygienists said about their “last raise”:• From August 2008 through October 2008, 52% of dental hygienists indicated that they received a raise during the last year.• From November 2008 through July 2009, that number dropped to 48%.• From August 2009 through September 2009, the percentage receiving a raise during the last year fell to 40%.• From October 2009 through February 2010, the percentage is at its lowest point, 33%.So the percentage of hygienists receiving raises keeps getting lower and lower.The survey did not inquire about the quantity of raises. A hygienist recently wrote me about earning a 15-cent raise. So, technically, a raise did occur for her, even though she was grumbling about the amount. The survey asked if readers thought they received raises in “fair intervals.” Interval, of course, is synonymous to frequency. But the word “fair” is a different matter. Using the same time periods as above, the hygienists believing raises occurred at fair intervals were:• August 2008 through October 2008, 48%• November 2008 through July 2009, 43%• August 2009 through September 2009, 38%• October 2009 through February 2010, 44%Those numbers steadily dropped except during the recent time frame. Perhaps dental hygienists believe the recession pertains to them too?Real life is stranger than fiction
If I wrote a novel about dental hygiene, I’m not sure if I could come up with a plot as interesting as the facts emerging from news stories about Italian hygienist Nicole Minetti. The Italian prime minister was attacked with a marble statue and sought treatment from a former employee, a showgirl, who had since become a dental hygienist. Next thing you know, she’s on the political fast track too.How can you make this stuff up?If you were very busy last week and missed the news, click here, here, here, and here.Finally, but not least
As an advocate for dental hygiene, I am certainly guilty of creating editorial distinctions between dental hygienists and their peers in the dental office, primarily dentists and dental assistants. Most of it is political in tone: Hygienists provide a service as a licensed revenue generator in dental practices, which are typically managed by dentists, and hygienists should not be viewed as just another staff member. Regardless of what you think about the “lobbying voice” of RDH magazine, for example, I do admit to worrying about the fragile network of dental teams. Just as I have met many excellent dentists through my work in the profession since 1985, I have met even more dental assistants who strive daily to ensure their role in dental care puts the entire team at the top of its game, so to speak. So before this becomes another kudos for dental assistants that gets lost in translation, I want to refer you to a article by Angela M. Swatts, CDA, EFDA, president of the American Dental Assistants Association. She does a great job of getting everyone fired up about Dental Assistants Recognition Week March 1-7. Don’t forget to buy your dental assisting colleagues a cup of joe next week!