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Dental Hygiene Newswire

News and research for Ontario dental hygienists

Power of words: The implications of what we speak

A message from Maheen Cassim, ODHA President

Words. So simple yet have the power to leave a lasting impression – both positive and negative. It’s important to be accurate in the words we speak, particularly in reference to the profession – now more than ever.

The protected title of our profession is dental hygienist. There are so many others that use hygienist in their title. Using the word hygienist instead of dental hygienist devalues the profession and the specialized skill, expertise and regulation that it takes to be a registered dental hygienist in Ontario.

Title protection helps the public identify oral health practitioners registered with the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario who are responsible for providing dental hygiene services that meet the standards of practice of the profession. Clients want to know that the oral health care they are receiving is from a dental hygienist that is registered and qualified to provide competent and safe care. Making light of the protected title, lessens the significance of what that title represents.

Be proud of your professional title. We fought hard to achieve it.  The dental hygienist designation is reserved solely for dental hygienists who are registered with the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario. No one else can take that title or do the job that you do every day. I want to put the challenge out to you to up your game and protect the title and make a point of using the correct title when referring to yourself, your colleagues or your profession!

Another controversial reference that comes up in the workplace is the use of the word
“girls” or “ladies” when referring to female dental hygienists. Again, there’s nothing professional about those references. Using the word ‘colleague’ is professional and respectful. Girls, in particular is very demeaning in the context of professional status and may be used solely for the psychological impact and inference.

It can be easy to let your guard down in an environment that you are accustomed to and are comfortable working in, but the terms ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’ are and can be highly offensive to not only fellow dental hygienists but to clients as well. We’ve all heard stories outside of the dental practice, where for example, a customer service representative refers to customers as ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie’. No one likes that and the dental practice is no exception. There is no room for those references in any environment, let alone a professional dental practice.

I challenge you to change your words – and to call on other dental hygienists to do the same – it takes just three weeks to change a habit and it’s time to use the proper words for our profession.  If we don’t demonstrate our own pride how can we expect others to see value in our profession and respect the life-saving services we provide?

I would love to hear your thoughts on both these ‘hot topics’. Join me on the ODHA Social Hub and let’s continue the conversation.

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