National Dental Hygiene Month!
I love what I do! I feel very blessed and privileged to work at a career that truly makes a difference in people's lives. I once asked my daughter, “Do you think you would ever want to do hygiene as a career?” She said, “Mom that is so gross, I don't know how you are able to work in peoples' mouths. That is just disgusting!” I laughed.
Dental Hygiene is really where I feel I am supposed to be. I followed in my big sisters footsteps who has had dental hygiene as her career for 35+ years. She is an amazing hygienist and I knew that I wanted to be just like her! Still after all of these years, she loves what she does and she is very good at it!
In honor of this month, I salute my fellow hygienists as to all they do for their communities to bring recognition about health, systemic issues and overall health and well-being. Thank you for all you do!
Nothing became more clear to me about how much we as hygienists' do as when I served in Guatemala on a dental missions trip. Here we were, my oral surgeon partner (Dr. Ricky Felton) and me working feverishly (99 degrees, but more like 120 with the humidity) in the back jungles of Guatemala. Our set up was an old soccer complex that had been gutted. We had our fold out dental chairs, head lights and our instruments and we were ready to go. We waited for about a half and hour and then we saw very old trucks filled with 20+ people making their way to see us. People on little scooters with 3 people packed on. There were village people arriving on horses and donkeys, and others running to get in line. Our first day, we saw 100+ people. Mostly extractions, but many wanted to have their teeth “feel clean”. Blanco dientes! They all exclaimed - WHITE TEETH! Many had never had their teeth cleaned before. And a mirror that sat next to our make-shift operatories allowed them to see what their teeth looked like before their cleaning and after. It was so cute to see the ladies smiling from ear to ear as their teeth were whiter as a result. The ladies would giggle and they would smile at each other and point to their mouths. They loved the results that they received.
In America I see the same thing. I am working with many Medicaid families who have never had their teeth cleaned, or for that matter, had their teeth touched, something we think only happens in third world countries. I am shocked and saddened by the state of health that I see in our own country and sometimes feel so helpless to help them. There is nothing worse than seeing a young child in so much pain that they come in crying, and mom says that the child just ‘lives with the pain'. Or to witness a beautiful forty five year old woman who opens her mouth in embarrassment and states that she never smiles because of her teeth - (she needs 12 extractions!)
Dental hygiene has come a long way toward bridging the gap to meet the needs of our under-served. Its exciting to see where we are headed as the American Dental Hygiene Association has just come out with a ‘white paper' discussing ways that hygienists are going to be more on the front lines and how are careers are going to be changing in the 21st century and beyond. Education, becoming dental first responders, and thinking out of the box are just a few areas that the ADHA is delving into. I am excited toward the progress we are going to be making to meet the needs of our community.
What a privilege it is to serve my community! And what a blessing!
Posted In: Uncategorized