November 13, 2020
by Irene Iancu, BSc, RDH, CDTP
I had virtual coffee with my former classmate last week. We’ve been having coffee nearly every month since we graduated from dental hygiene school together in 2007. We chat about dental hygiene, what’s new in our offices, cool things we’ve read, the weather, politics, the most recent Zara sales, and let’s face it, Facebook group topics come up, too. Since she doesn’t participate in Facebook groups and rarely uses Instagram, I get to be the storyteller of what’s happening in the hygienist social media world. Her reactions are both funny and innocent. We’ve never worked in the same practice and live two very different personal and professional lives. But this week, we realized we had a little more in common than we thought. The world’s devastating battle with the pandemic has revealed common ground we share, despite appearing so far apart on the social platforms.
We spoke about dental hygiene in the past tense. Like we were mourning a person we once had the privilege of knowing intimately. Phrases like “remember when we could…” and “I wish we still had…” flooded our sentences like distilled water when you accidentally overfill the tank— the breakup we both experienced back in March that abruptly ended the way we once knew dental hygiene and provided little to no closure. Now we are trying to put the puzzle pieces back together without knowing what the new picture will look like.
We spoke about how the pressure of hand scaling is slowly taking a toll on her body, heart and mind, and I found myself talking her out of retirement. You see, we are not only perio slayers; beneath the surface, we have souls and a conscience and we miss being the most efficient versions of ourselves.
Two long years of planning and construction are behind me and my new practice had just wrapped up five weeks of being open. But, I feel insensitive to celebrate. Two hundred brand new patients and 26 five-star Google reviews suddenly don’t feel impressive. Having fitted N95s, gowns and wipes is now more #goals. Things just aren’t the same.
Dentistry is our home and many of you are celebrating milestone anniversaries. We share so much in common; we are a community. Other hygienists across the country are reading these words at the same moment as you; now, if that isn’t a small world, I don’t know what is.
United we stand. United we scale. And united we miss the way things were.
We miss smiling and talking without a mask on (not to mention the N95 and face shield). 2020 has been a rough year for huggers; often that warm embrace from a long-time patient would make everything feel worth it. We’ve lost even the simple handshake with a new patient to start off on the right foot. We miss sharing our lunches with our office fam, celebrating birthdays as a team, and let’s not forget the delicious baked goods from our patients. The memories of pre-COVID dental hygiene practice live in our minds and hearts. We may not all share the same views on what is happening today, but we all share common feelings about the past.
Perhaps we will never get back to that past; however, if we stick together and remind ourselves of the reasons we became Dental Hygienists, maybe we won’t feel so alone in our noise-polluted
bubbles pumping hot air through our HEPA filtration systems.
One day the unobstructed sound of our voices and the clear sound of music will return. Until then, hang tight, you are not alone, we will get through this together.
About the Author
Irene Iancu has worked in various specialties including Paedo, Perio, General Practice and Orthodontics. Her goal in her current holistic practice is preventing and maintaining an optimal mind, mouth and body. Irene connects the systemic effects of oral conditions to her clients, while making a change for overall health and wellness. As a Peer and Quality Assurance Mentor contacted by the CDHO, a Clinical and Theoretical Dental Hygiene instructor at Oxford College, and a practicing dental hygienist in Toronto, Irene shares her passion for education with us today in the hopes we can change the lives of our clients and their loved ones. Irene can be contacted at Irene@toothlifestudios.ca, www.toothlifestudio.ca, IG: @ToothLife.Irene, @Toothlife, @Toothordare.podcast.