Dirty Jobs – The Lost Episode: Dental Hygienist

How many of you have ever watched the TV show Dirty Jobs?  For those of you that may not have watched the show, the format of the show involved the host, Mike Rowe, working alongside a small team of workers performing a job that many of us would consider “nasty” work.  The show traveled to various locations across the US and aired on the Discovery Channel until the end of last year.


I watched the show on a number of occasions and often times, I found myself thoroughly disgusted by the conditions that Mike worked in.  From inseminating cows to cleaning out septic tanks, Mike would show the viewer what it takes to keep America moving.  The show stressed the importance of these professions and how they make our lives easier everyday.

Now to the point of this blog.

Today, I had the pleasure of taking my three wonderful daughters and myself to the dentist for our 6 month cleaning and exam.  Carrie was supposed to go with us, but she had “meetings” at school today.  So it was me and my three girls.

Getting one’s teeth cleaned is something that someone with good dental insurance should have done on a routine basis.  Surprisingly, I have decent dental insurance and very rarely have to pay out of pocket so I don’t mind going to have my teeth cleaned.

As most of you know, a trip to the dentist doesn’t involve a great deal of facetime with the dentist.  95% percent of the time is spent with the dental hygienist.  The hygienist, who is usually a woman, has the pleasure of doing all of the dirty work.

The normal routine for a hygienist when working on a patient is to take x-rays, spend some time scraping plaque and tartar from the teeth, and then polishing them.  For people that go to the dentist every 6 months to a year, that’s how it goes.

However, I’m pretty sure they see some nasty stuff – even before the dentist walks in the room.  Stinky breath, abcessed teeth, gum disease, rotten teeth to name a few.  A dental hygienist has to have a strong stomach and a kind heart at times.  They have to stay professional even when faced with the worst possible conditions.

I really think Mike Rowe missed a prime opportunity here.  I can see it now.  Mike in scrubs talking with Mr. Johnson about the importance of flossing and brushing as he scrapes the protective layer of plaque off of his teeth with the little scraping device.  The dental hygienist stands beside him laughing as Mike asks how she likes her job.  And this is an easy patient.

Mike’s next patient has chronic halitosis and appears to have early onset gingivitis.  He gags when the patient opens his mouth.  The smell is overwhelming.  I can see Mike looking at the hygienist and asking her, “How the hell do you do this everyday?”

The next patient is a screaming 5 year old child. I can see Mike as he looks at the hygienist and says, “Are all of your patients this happy to see you?” – as they strap the kid down in the chair as the mother sits in the room texting on her iPhone.

Finally, Mike gets to assist the dentist with an extraction.  I can see Mike administering the nitrous oxide to the patient and then to himself.  Then he asks the dentist when he gets his shot with the pliers.  He’s obviously pretty high at this point.  Of course, the dentist tells Mike he can’t let him do that.  To which Mike replies that he needs to get a real feel for the job and snatches the extraction tools from the dentist and promptly pulls the patient’s top front teeth.

That would have been a great episode.

So the next time you go to the dentist, be sure you thank your hygienist for a job well done.

They have a tough and sometimes dirty job to do.



2 comments on “Dirty Jobs – The Lost Episode: Dental Hygienist

  1. Melanie says:

    Dental professions should really be more appreciated. Our kids think hygienists and dentists are monsters and probably most adults rather have a meeting with police officers then dentists. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s