Create Ripples, Change Your World
Never underestimate the power you have to change the lives and health of your patients.
Where are you from?” I’ve been asked this question many times, likely because I look like I could be from numerous ethnicities. So it’s no surprise that I was asked it again throughout a recent overseas trip. My husband and I decided to cruise through the Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal, and Red Sea, ending our travels in Dubai. On this particular trip, when I answered the question with “the United States,” I was always greeted with a winsome smile. I could tell the person was thinking “how fortunate you are.” And I couldn’t agree more. While not perfect, our country enables us to accomplish things that other individuals can only dream about. And we are able to provide care and help our fellow Americans in ways that are not possible in many other countries.
As people in Egypt, Crete, Jordan, and Oman smiled at me when I responded to their question, their lack of oral care and preventive oral hygiene were blatantly apparent. Their smiles displayed missing teeth, stained teeth, the obvious “perio breath,” and oral malodor, yet none of this seemed to faze them. Habits such as hookah smoking are widespread—there was even a large display of hookah pipes, tobacco, and shisha in an airport we flew through. It struck me how priorities can be so different in various parts of the world and how, as Americans, we tend to think that everyone else gives the same level of importance to the things we consider valuable. Not so. Obviously, in countries where poverty is rampant, oral health falls far behind other issues that need attention. But even in a wealthy society like Dubai, it was clear that good oral hygiene wasn’t necessarily top-of-mind.
The disparities in oral health care that I witnessed seem especially poignant considering this time of year. It’s the holiday season and the time when we feel grateful for family, friends, good health, and prosperity. We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for! In fact, as dental hygienists when we consider the ways we can help our own patients and the general public, look at how our “Six Dental Hygienists You Want to Know” have made an impact. In the areas of academia, clinical practice, industry, “mover and shaker,” public health, and research, these dental hygienists are breaking down barriers and affecting change to make oral health care better now and into the future. What’s more important is that for each one of our six featured individuals, there are many more of you achieving great success and making strides in your own part of the world.
Mother Teresa is often quoted as saying, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Never underestimate the power you have to change the lives and health of your patients. And celebrate the fact that they value your efforts! Happy holidays and best wishes for a wonderful New Year.
Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. December 2017;15(12):6.