have loved teeth since prehistoric times…
Teeth, those small anatomical structures that most people only care about when they hurt or start to turn brown, are literally my life. We spend our hygiene school years in a dental centric world, taught by tooth enthusiasts. We carry tooth shaped USBs with tooth topics all in an effort to save the teeth! It was only after I graduated that I learned that not everyone shared my sentiments regarding the value of routine dental maintenance.
I learned their importance early in life.
When I was about age 3 I lived in a prehistoric land with cement playgrounds and swings that would
allow you to flip over its supporting structure. It was in these prehistoric times that I learned I was afraid of spiders. I was so afraid of spiders that I ran down the aforementioned cement playground steps and avulsed my two front teeth. The spider was plastic but I guess that is neither here nor there. I simply remember my mouth filling with blood and my mother suddenly appearing to take me to the dentist. I imagine that tears and pediatric emotional trauma were involved but I do not really remember the despair. I do, however remember the dentist and his staff. They were all so calm and even full of jokes in an effort to help calm my worried mother and me the toothless child. After an exam, the assistant stuffed my mouth full of saltwater soaked cotton balls and I was immediately at ease.
For the next four years or so I had to shove food in the back of my mouth to chew and smile with tight lips when people would tauntingly sing “all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth”. My first dental experience taught me that even a traumatic experience can end with a toothless smile. Thus, it is not completely surprising that today I am a dental hygienist making my way in a world full of dirty teeth and loving it.
I work at an urban non profit dental clinic. We treat on average 100 patients per a day. Many of my patients are newly immigrated Spanish or Amharic speakers. Due to the central urban location and the modern aesthetic of the office we have patients ranging from low income to patients who were appointed by the president.
My job has become a place where I can freely express my passion for dental hygiene in at least two languages. It is also a place where my appointments end with hugs even if they sometimes begin with apprehensive tears. The patients are almost always appreciative and when they are not I hum Joan Osborne’s “What if God was one of us” while biting my lip under my mask.
I am who they depend on to encourage them as they complete their treatment, solve that mysterious bleeding of the gums in non flossers and translate the muddled verbiage they just heard from their masked dentist in their exam. I do this all while assessing the patient’s periodontal health, creating my own treatment plan and trying to figure out how to get the patient who has never heard of floss to try to floss. I am a dental hygienist and I have loved teeth since prehistoric times. Teeth are my life and I will share my crazy experiences in a therapeutic effort to educate and humor all of my readers.