What are your sacred cows?

January 13, 2015

Millennials need to feel as if their treatment is important and that they are on the right track; this means being inquisitive. Is there anything in the practice of dental hygiene that should be exempt from questioning and examination? 

Millennials need to feel as if their treatment is important and that they are on the right track; this means being inquisitive. Is there anything in the practice of dental hygiene that should be exempt from questioning and examination? 

Apparently, periodontal probing should not be questioned, making it a sacred cow. Being a Modern Millennial Hygienist (MMH) challenges sacred cows.

What’s a sacred cow?

Some religious beliefs hold a high reverence to cows. Sacred cow status means something reaches a level of belief where it becomes exempt from examination or criticism. In dental hygiene, just to name a few, they often include:

·      Flossing

·      Polishing

·      SRP language

·      Annual radiographs

·      Superiority of hand scaling

·      The patient expects….

Time after time, you have sat in a course, read an article or been introduced to a new product, gotten excited by the possibilities – yet end up doing things basically the same way you always have. How many of us have any extra time to add more? Many us of have gone through a half or full day and never even taken a bathroom break. If we do make changes, the change is more about tweaking around the edges rather than contemplation about how things are now and what they could be. What can stall the thinking are those should and musts, those sacred cows.

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Others Questioning the Cows

The American Dental Association past President Dr. Maxine Feinbergsaid "We must do targeted research and be sure that we are asking the right people the right questions so that we get real-world answers to real-world problems. There can be no sacred cows". To emphasize her point, she brought a blowtorch to the podium saying it was part of her required instruments for dental school and that there are items that have only historical significance but have lost their relevance in world. 

There is also an article titled: Slaying sacred cows: is it time to pull the plug on water fluoridation?, another example of thinking people questioning deeply held beliefs to find their current relevancy. This 2012 article appeared in the journal Critical Public Healtha United Kingdom journal published by Taylor & Francis, a publisher that has been publishing academic research since 1798. The paper is valid not just in the UK, and the current trend of looking only at research from the USA is crazy in this world of interconnectivity and global economy. Looking only at US-published papers, or research and articles published in our peer-reviewed journals is another sacred cow.

Free E-book: How floss alternatives can help patients improve preventative care

The Struggle

Many of us feel a struggle every day we practice as we put what we learn in articles and courses to the test. We continue to struggle because we are bombarded daily with information on how to create a career of choice. The authors believe that many of us are kept from our potential by an inability to see what is possible. The profession of dental hygiene, guarded by the profession of dentistry, continues to allow others to define our place, worth and limitations. We continue to perform according to the calves, “I was always taught…” or “The patients expect….” Or “I will lose my job if….” Are these your thoughts or your interpretation of others expectations?

Questioning is the Key

Sacred cows are myths and traditions that distort our thinking. The cows are thoughts and beliefs widespread and constantly perpetuated or reinforced by educators, online groups, professional originations and friends. What happens is the beliefs become so pervasive they are rarely questioned and even less often defeated. Much of what we describe as being a MMH is designed to be spicy/controversial to provoke an emotional response that advances thinking and questioning. It isn’t throwing the baby out with the bathwater; it’s revisiting the foundations of our actions by examining what, where and when they are based and whether they continue to be of service. Explore those ideas, and evaluate their necessity in the practice of an oral health care provider. 

Do yourself and your patients a favor and wonder about your own sacred cows. What beliefs, if challenged, have you seen others react to? What bring up an emotional response in your own body? We invite your to share your Sacred Cows by putting them into the comment section below. 

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