I feel like I’m in the dentist’s chair.
Waiting in suspended silence with my dry mouth draped and dammed.
I know this latest session is likely to put me in at least some pain no matter how much freezing goes into my gums or roof of my mouth. I’ve decided that I have sensitive teeth. Or maybe I’m just sensitive.
The dentist is off in another cubicle apparently examining my latest x-rays and plotting his course of action. I am told this by the dental hygienist – who has perfect white teeth and a nice smile. She’s the only person in the room with me. She’s the one who gives me updates like – “it will only be a few more minutes…”
I haven’t seen the dentist yet.
Minutes pass and the dental hygienist offers me water in a paper cup. She gives me an oral rinse. She’s “set me up” for my filling procedure, so when the dentist arrives, he just has to say ‘good morning’ followed by ‘Say ahhh.’
Yes, I know that’s not all he went to dental school for – it takes years of study at university to become a dentist and years of experience after that. But I see a lot more of the dental hygienist than I do the dentist.
She (they can be male, but mine was female) does the preliminary oral exam, any scheduled teeth cleaning, flossing, scaling, whitening, set up for x-rays and teeth molds and all the other things that they spend two years in training learning all about so they can get their diploma.
It’s a dam good career.
At the College of New Caledonia, the two-year dental hygiene program costs (as per their website) $9,914 – $5,155 for the first year and $4,759 for the second year plus a few extra costs. That is the price of a second-hand car but unlike older cars that can turn into lemons, this course puts its graduates in the driver’s seat for life with a good job.
Today (Friday) is decision day at CNC.
At a board meeting scheduled for Friday morning, they will decide whether, in light of budget restraints, CNC will suspend future dental hygiene intakes. That is, they will decide whether to pull the tooth or perform a root canal and try to save it.
I signed the petition (as a private citizen) Sunday to support keeping the dental hygiene program intact. Whether or not this petition will have any teeth with the decisionmakers is hard to say, but there are many of us who see the long-term importance of the program.
Once pulled, unless there are wisdom teeth, it will be hard to fill the gap. Talk of tampering with the dental hygiene program is pure folly. Implants are expensive and bridges (as in financing) can break down.
People who had taken the program gave testimonials, parents of graduates made their pleas, and dentists in the community wrote letters to the editor last week giving us the merits of the program. What better endorsement does one need?
On Sunday, CNC dental hygiene hosted an open house so visitors could see for themselves what the students learn. They demonstrated on mannequins how oral examinations and teeth cleaning is done – mostly by using a mini pick and shovel (my terms) and probing the gums.
In the foyer, a wonderful buffet of healthy food was set up with fresh fruit, cheese, snacks (whimsical “smile” apple wedges with peanut butter “gums” and marshmallow “teeth.”.) Yes, there were Timbits – but they were just for the sweet tooths in the crowd. Mostly, it was Canada’s Food Guide on display. Visitors got take-home goodie bags with toothbrushes and toothpaste and there was lots of information about the program.
I sampled the snacks but as for the pamphlet on dental health, I didn’t need it.
My grandmother taught me all I need to know about that when I was a little girl.
She’d come to visit us all the way from Camrose, Alberta and she caught me gasping at her until then well-kept secret, her set of dentures, soaking in their solution in a glass by her bedside.
“That’s what will happen to you,” she said, “if you don’t look after your teeth.”
It was a good lesson. And, if she were still here, Grandmother Bleasdale would teach CNC a good lesson on how to balance their budget and still keep all their own teeth. First, though, she’d insist on regular dental check-ups and then she’d bring the Province over for a game of musical chairs.
Because when there are fewer well-trained dental hygienists in the room, taking care of patients, there will be some very busy dentists hopping from chair to chair trying to keep up with the music.