I am a dental hygienist by trade. I received my Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene from Loyola University of Chicago. Oh, and a Minor in Psychology, too, so…yeah. I’ll allow a few seconds for the inevitable “oooohhhs” from my impressed readers. Continuing….often, people will ask, with a look of distaste, how I can put my hands in people’s mouths for a living. Truth is, usually, it ain’t that bad. Usually. I’m pretty tough. It takes a lot to gross me out. Saliva? Child’s play. Blood? Please. Wanna’ get a little peek into the brain of your hygienist? Here goes: she probably won’t lose sleep over your not flossing every day. She really won’t. Periodontal disease is not what she lives for. Not if she’s normal, that is. What, then, you may ask, keeps her returning day after day? Her patients. I suppose, at this point, I can really only speak for myself. I work in a great office. The staff work well together and I have never seen a doctor who loves her patients (and is so loved in return) as much as she does. And, to be fair, there are a few patients I wouldn’t be heartbroken to learn that they moved far, far away. But, overall, our patient base is great. Every day I look at my next schedule and think, “Yes! Mary is coming in. Or Mark. Or Karen (you know who you are!).
My husband marvels over how emotionally invested I am in my patients. We talk. We confide. And, well, we just become friends. We laugh like crazy. I’ve cried with them, too. We hug. And somewhere in between, I take care of all that nagging scraping and x-raying that is required for me to collect a paycheck. So, today, I had one of those great moments. I saw a man almost ninety years of age. He was frail and in a wheelchair. I love this man. He is so gentle and sweet, you just can’t help but love him. He was a soldier in the Army and served in the South Pacific during WWII. He was shot in the leg. Twice. He still owns and wears his original pair of aviator sunglasses. And he is just one of the coolest guys I know. Because of a recent fall, he is confined to a wheelchair. He told me he hopes it’s only for a while, but I think it will most likely be for good. And that made me sad. He was accompanied by his son-in-law, whose compassionate tending to the father of his wife was nothing short of amazing and, quite honestly, very touching. He carried this elderly man out of his chair, transferring him into my chair and back again, all the while encouraging him with, “Come on Bud, we got this.” Old Jake cannot communicate very well anymore. But his eyes speak volumes. They sparkle when he smiles. And he smiles often. As they were leaving the office, his son-in-law told us that they were now going to enjoy beer and hotdogs for lunch together! Seeing these two men really made my day and I just wanted to share that.
So, when people make faces and ask how I can do the same thing day in and day out, I counter that it’s not the same thing. Every day is different. Every day I look forward to catching up with my patients. I can’t wait to hear what their kids are up to. I love talking to my teenage patients about how their school’s football team went to state or what part they won in the school play or what college they’re thinking about attending, or what they want to major in. That’s the best part of my job. Quite honestly, the part I could do without is the scraping and x-raying. I know I’m not alone in that. But, hey, I gotta make a living. That Minor in Psych probably won’t lead to anything.