Occupy your dental office

Jan. 1, 2012
My wife recently told me about a low-income kid she was tutoring through a program at the school where she works. “He told me his teeth were hurting,” she said.

by Mark Hartley
[email protected]
Follow RDH on Facebook

My wife recently told me about a low-income kid she was tutoring through a program at the school where she works. “He told me his teeth were hurting,” she said. So she told him to brush his teeth, and, at the subsequent tutoring sessions, she asked him if he was continuing to brush his teeth. She is, of course, very aware of what I do for a living. But she was not asking for any wisdom I may have on the subject. She was just recounting her day to me before we sat down to dinner.

The thought that ran through my mind was, “Baby, that’s not your job; it’s the dental hygienist’s job.”

While writing the “best states to be a dental hygienist” article in RDH eVillage last month, I considered a state ranking of “recent dental visits.” I was sorely tempted to count this category twice while grading the states for RDH eVillage.

Connecticut residents are the best at checking in at the dental office. Yet, over 700,000 adult residents don’t. Oklahoma is the worst. Somewhere around 1.5 million adult Sooners haven’t seen a dental professional lately.

Who’s supposed to get those people lined up for dental care? You.

Oh, we can blame that stupid woman up front who couldn’t schedule her bathroom break five minutes from now. We can shovel a huge load of blame down the hall toward that narrow-minded dentist who forgot everything he ever learned about preventive dentistry. But it’s really not their job. It’s yours.

If there’s one occupation designed to ensure that all Americans pursue routine dental care, it’s dental hygiene. All of the other dental professionals are just bystanders at this party.

Roughly 10% of your neighbors are unemployed. Occupy your local Occupy Wall Street encampment.

“Here, turn around. I have a piece of scrap paper and a pen. Let me write this down on your back. OK, you can turn around again. This is the address for a clinic here. You may have to wait in line, and there may be some strange characters in there. But you really need to go to the dentist. Understand? Just go.”

Occupy the sidewalk in front of the school. Ditch the lab coat, since someone might mistake it as a replacement for the trench coat favored by predators. Observe the bully seizing the candy bar out of the weakling’s sack lunch, and intervene.

“Hey blockhead! Give the candy bar back! Have you been to the dentist’s office lately? No? I want you to go home tonight and tell your mother that you want to go. I mean it! I’ll be back here tomorrow to check on you.”

Occupy something. Unless the dentist has kicked all hygienists out into the unemployment line and is directly providing hygiene services, it’s not his or her job to do this task. It’s yours.

Do you even have to be employed as a dental hygienist to occupy the sidewalk in front of the local news media in the hours before the deadline?

“Lady, why don’t you go home? People have been occupying something all day long. I’m all worn out, and I’ve still got to write this article.”

“I have something very important to say to your 1.5 million readers who haven’t been to the dentist lately. Go! Go now!”

This activism is part of your job. No one else is responsible for creating dental awareness as much as you are. Occupy your dental office.

The aforementioned ranking of states was also heavily influenced by the 2011 salary survey conducted by RDH eVillage.

The salary survey results are also included in this issue. Only 2% of the hygienists who participated in the survey are unemployed due to local economic conditions — so you can dismiss the “sour grapes” theory of who answers the survey, and just compare your status with that of your peers.

More RDH Articles
Past RDH Issues