Take a guess, what is the ratio of women to man in dental hygiene? According to the American Dental Education Association, over 95% of dental hygienists are female. The ratio is about the same for dental assisting. While the topic of gender equality is important, let’s celebrate Mother’s Day by highlighting some of the exceptional qualities of a mother/woman. Those brilliant qualities may be the reasons patients love their dental hygienists and assistants so much!
Mothers/women are good at:
1. Holding hands, giving hugs, and offering love.
Patients are people, and they carry stories that are sometimes not always pretty. My friend Mary, who is one of greatest dental assistants I have ever seen, knows when to stop the treatment and let the patient cry. She is an exceptional mother and grandmother, and her support is not limited to her family. She sincerely cares for her patients too. When someone is having a bad moment in their life, she does a lot more than dental assisting. She holds their hands and assists patients, in their personal life.
I know that is not just her, it is you, and all mothers out there. You are “motherly.”
2. Having the patience to explain.
Our patients are afraid of local anesthesia, the (pointy) probe, radiographic exposures… Hygienists’ favorite: “you probed my gums that’s why they are bleeding.” Let’s roll our eyes (secretly). But confronting the issues harshly will not help anybody win. When mothers are faced with hurdles, they try to persuade their children by providing explanations. They will sit down and go over their children’s fear. And as a dental professional, you do the same. You explain to patients what gingivitis is, what a probe is, you let them feel the point (that is not so pointy), you provide a mirror, so they see the bleeding spots, you show them how you are recording the numbers, you compare the current numbers to ones captures during the previous appointments, you make up analogies…. Someday, you will win the patient over.
You show patience; you try not to break under pressure.
3. Appealing to emotions.
The patient is afraid of getting topical fluoride even though the dentist has prescribed the treatment. Facts and science do not always win. Mothers are generally good at getting in the other person’s head and understanding the emotional barriers. If we continue with our fluoride example, you can explain how the fluoride ions create stronger teeth structures. The CDC guidelines may also help. But if all facts fail, mothers know to say: “I know how you feel. What are your fears?…… I know that it is scary when you have read a lot of articles out there about fluoride toxicity. That is true, at extremely high dosage, it is harmful. But at this current dosage, this varnish is not going to cause the reactions you read on the internet. You are not the first patient to be worried. And you have all the rights to refuse the treatment. But if you can give science a second chance and focus on the positive aspects, you may change your minds.”
Bammmmm! It is those words that appeal to the patient’s heart that are so powerful.
“When a mother brings her natural multi-tasking skills to the dental office, everybody benefits!”
4. Multi-tasking, getting things done.
This is how mothers operate – everything at the same time, but getting things done one by one. The cycle never ends, but somehow, mothers always find the power to keep multi-tasking. A dental office has many moving components – patient care, insurance, scheduling, disinfection, charting, reporting, etc. Everything happens quickly too; we don’t have forever to care for a patient (unfortunately). When a mother brings her natural multi-tasking skills to the dental office, everybody benefits!
Give yourself a pad in the back.
5. Creating brilliant solutions.
Mothers know to be creative with their solutions. If they didn’t have the toys to entertain their children, they would give them pots and pans to “play” music (yikes, I can imagine the noise). Mothers apply this principle all the time in the dental office. My friend told me that she used her bobby pin because she didn’t have a paper clip for a messy chart. Often, you find instruments malfunctioning in the dental office. If the high-speed suction does not work, you know how to quickly switch to the low-speed suction without making anybody nervous.
Do you remember some “tricks” you had to pull to save the day?
6. Making children cooperate.
Mothers have experience training their children to brush their teeth. Naturally, they made their own tricks to help their children comply. They tried singing, counting, using a timer, using a disclosing solution, using tasty toothpaste, and many more tricks. And when the fun approach fails, they become “strict.” It is pretty much the same at the dental office. The suction becomes Mr. Thirsty, the lead apron becomes the “special shield,” and the “sugar bugs” are getting removed. Any dental professional who can make a child cooperate is a star.
So, high five to you!
7. Keeping calm when the storm hits.
A day at the dental office is never calm. Things you did not expect happen all the time – fainting, seizure, unwanted injury, panic attack, insurance failure, broken handpiece, lack of staff… You name it. In a household, the situation is similar. Unpredictable events happen. My CPR instructor’s mother is a good example. She had 5 kids and never had a CPR training. When her youngest child started to choke, she calmly flipped the boy and pounded on his back. Everybody in the room did not know what to do, but the mother performed exactly what needed to be done, without any instructions. This is the type of calmness a mother can have even in the toughest conditions to make sure everything is ok.
Zen when needed, you can handle anything!
The list is not over. Mothers are also good at:
- Cleaning up after everybody.
- Giving advice.
- Having a soothing voice and composure when needed.
- Survive in harsh conditions. All kinds of harsh conditions.
- Putting others need in front of hers.
“(dental hygiene and dental assisting) mothers, you are respected and valued.”
So here is the appropriate time for me to say, “thank you.” Mothers and women, you are respected and valued. The dental profession can only be as strong as the heartful help of dental hygienists and assistants. Of course, fathers can do the same.
The ratio of women to men is 20:1 in the profession of dental hygiene and dental assisting.
Therefore, it is safe to say that women lead the world of dental hygiene and dental assisting with their extraordinary strength and compassion. Patients are relying on you (dental hygienist and dental assistant) to provide care. The dentist knows he/she must count on you too because you play such an important role in the dental office.
So, cheers to all mothers and women!
This leads to this wonderful post written by Stephen. Stephen belongs to the 5% male demographic in the dental hygiene world, and he just graduated dental hygiene school (congrats x 10000!). Originally, the unproportionate female to male ratio in dental hygiene scared him. Through the post, he described his journey as a male dental hygiene student. Through his eyes, we can have a better perspective of the other gender in this female-dominating profession. Continue with Stephen, a “guygienist,” who had the courage to share this experience.
Disclaimer: I am not just praising women, please understand that this is a Mother’s day post!
 American Dental Education Association. (2017). Dental Hygiene by The Numbers. Retrieved 2017, from ADEA.org: http://www.adea.org/GoDental/Future_Dental_Hygienists/Dental_hygiene_by_the_numbers.aspx
(Disclaimer: StudentRDH is NOT affiliated with the NBDHE, NDHCE, CSCE, CDCA, WREB.)