As a Dental Hygienist, I have a certain amount of ease in the art of conversation. Conversation often comes easy to me. However, I am no stranger to the tougher nuts to crack – those patients that no one can find a common ground with or a conversation starter. Despite many attempts at conversation sparks, I usually stick to the following: weather, weather, and weather. I understand that the dentist isn’t always the most pleasant place to be, so I get that some people just don’t care for the small talk. But I’m an extrovert….and I enjoy nothing more than a good conversation.
There are certain topics that are considered No-No’s in almost any setting, especially a dental office. The three big ones? Politics…Religion…and Finance.
The irony? These three are the three that are most likely to come up in the dental office.
Politics are everywhere, especially as we approach the election. Religion is everywhere, especially living in the “Bible Belt.” Finance is everywhere, because dentistry can be expensive. FYI, dentistry is not expensive…neglect is though. But I digress.
Even more ironic? When you (and your patient) discuss these topics, that’s when and where the rapport is built.
When these No-No topics get discussed, that’s when I see Jesus in all of my patients.
Politics: Honestly, politics isn’t something that comes up with me very often. Most patients avoid having the TV in the operatory on any kind of news as if they were dodging a wasp circling them. I’ve had my fair share of political remarks in my op, but by and large it doesn’t dominate the discussion. I see the patient’s heart and concern, and I love it.
Finance: I’ve made many friendships in my operatory by discussing our Debt Free Journey. These patients have become the biggest cheerleaders in our journey – each visit, they ask about our progress as I sit them down. I see the patient’s heart and excitement, and I love it.
Religion: Perhaps it’s because I live and practice in the “Bible Belt” religion of the country, but religion and faith come up quite a bit. Sometimes it’s a subtle, “I’m very blessed,” and other times it’s a moving testimony to the healing power of God as patient’s tell me a cancer or car-wreck story. And then sometimes it’s a touching witness as a patient tells me about their conversion or the conversion of a family member. I see the patient’s heart and compassion, and I love it.
These topics are when I see Jesus in my patients. I see their heart and what motivates them.
Faith is such a big part of my life – it’s the driving force behind all my actions and decisions. I am not perfect but I believe that we must always try. I work diligently to be a God-fearing woman who isn’t afraid to share her heart and God with others. For such a long time I tried to censor myself and become just what I needed to be for the patient in my chair…not too vocal, not too religious, not too talkative, not too quiet, etc..
When I decided to shed the fear of claiming my faith is when I was able to grow into my identity as a woman in Christ.
When I decided to shed the fear of being too much for others is when I began to truly blossom in my faith, friendships, marriage, motherhood, and even my career.
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” [Matthew 10: 32]
When I realized that my faith could not be separated from my career, I began to appreciate my identity in Christ. My faith is what allows me to be a compassionate wife, mother, friend, and even Dental Hygienist. It is what allows me to treat each patient with unbiased care and then come home and love on my family like no other.
My faith is what allows me to admit (and thank God) that my knowledge and skill as a Dental Hygienist can be a gift to others.
I now live and practice at the intersection of Faith and Career.
Every once in a while, you just mesh with someone.
Every once in a while you have conversation that is never forced in which time seems to stand still. You think to yourself, “I could talk to him/her forever.”
I recently had an appointment like this. It was such a fruitful conversation in which I willingly divulged the struggles I face as a young momma who just wants to raise God-fearing and chaste men. Where do I start? How do I start? Where can I go wrong? What if I push too hard?
This patient was more than twice my age and boy did she have some wisdom to drop for this heart of mine.
The two biggest nuggets of wisdom? 1) Never stop saying yes to God. 2) It is your job to evangelize to your children, don’t let society evangelize your children...and you can’t evangelize to your children unless you yourself have a firm foundation.
1) As a twenty-something momma, I can attest to the power of having women in my life (older and younger) that keep saying yes to God. Young women in particular need to see other women (in different/later seasons of life) saying yes to God…it reminds us that we can always answer the call, whatever that may be.
2) Wow. Just wow. Talk about a truth bomb dropped right on this momma’s heart. That’s all.
She shared many kiddo-friendly resources with me. She shared her story with me. She shared her wisdom and experience with me.
At the end of the appointment she gave me a Journible – a resource that she uses to literally transcribe the Bible and instill scriptures in her heart and mind. The one she gave me was an extra that she happened to keep carrying with her for no reason (although she said the reason became clear after our conversation). They have them for many books of the Bible – the one my patient gave me goes with the book of Matthew. It is such a simple practice in which you transcribe the Bible on one page and the corresponding page has (optional) discussion questions to help you dive deeper into the scriptures. So simple but so fruitful.
I’ve used the Journible every day since our appointment. I’ve added it to my existing practices of daily scripture readings and prayer time. It’s been the biggest blessing to my faith practice and each day I open it I remind myself that it’s okay to share my heart with my patients – that it’s okay to be who Christ needs me to be (both inside and outside of the operatory).
However, this post isn’t just about the Journible or the conversation with my patient. This post is about finding where you’re rooted and not wavering. This post is about not being afraid to be who you already are.
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.” [Psalm 139: 13,14]
When you allow yourself to become the wife, mother, or friend that you were created to be, beautiful things can happen.
I know that there are clinicians out there who can keep it all separate, and I truly commend that. It’s something I tried and forced for so long, but it just never came easy to me. I still struggle to find my intersection sometimes. But when I do find it, beautiful things can happen.
If you struggle with the fear of being too much (of anything), remind yourself of who you truly are first. If you aren’t quite sure who you are or where your intersection is, there’s always a room at mine for you.
***It’s important to note that the dental hygiene appointment should never be seen as an opportunity to evangelize or convert a patient to a certain way of life (unless we’re talking about becoming an avid flosser).
***It’s also important to note that not all patients want to open and divulge, and that’s okay. My patients dedicate at least an hour of their day to me for our appointment, the least I can do is respect their time and their beliefs.
***It’s also also important to note that I’ve had many patients who don’t believe the same thing as I do, head to this blog post to see what I have to say about that.