I grew up in the countryside. Yes, I played with the dolls, and I had my own tiny stove and iron. But I was dying to join the boys in their adventures. They exercised for the big battles, stole cherries, occupied uninhabited houses, built fires, and roasted corn. There were two obstacles: I was a girl in ‘’boy’s world only’’ company, and even worse, my brother hated the idea of his younger sister sticking with him and his friends.
Still, I followed them like a shadow. I tried everything to get into their inner circle. Eventually, they let me join them—not as an equal, but as a nurse. A girl was a “lesser in a boy’s world. Fit to help in training if a real boy was missing. Of course, I was quickly defeated at wrestling and boxing, which they loved. But they soon came to admire my bravery and fearlessness. I jumped from the highest points, ventured into the darkest woods, and balanced on the tiniest tree trunk over the “canyon.” And being a girl nurse during the boy’s world era wasn’t an easy task. It required a lot of creativity.
I adopted a Robin Hood mentality.
Disinfectant was a necessity, but only the “rich” adults had resources. So I raided the liquor cupboard for schnapps, reserved for guests. It had to be done cautiously, not more than few drops at a time, later replaced with water.
Bandages for “training” wounds weren’t a problem. I cut old shirts into strips. But “real” battle wounds required sophisticated treatment. And the only professional bandage material was in first aid kits in cars. Back then, first aid kits in cars were all-important. Most of the traffic fines were paid because of missing content in a first aid kit. Don`t ask me why. Maybe because there were no seat belts and the cars couldn’t drive faster than allowed.
So stealing bandages required skill. And that’s where having a girl in their boys world became paramount. My ingenuity and creativity skills were honed during this time. And it grew to include more and more spoils taken more boldly and more cunningly. I learned to prepare meals for the boys without my mother noticing. The trick was taking small amounts of food at a time from random places.
Altogether, to be a girl embraced in a boy’s world, I had to be innovative, courageous, and skilled.
Is it any wonder I became a surgeon?
Once again, I entered into a “boy`s world.”
As mother and spouse I couldn’t simply pack my suitcase and go for a weekend education. I bought all the surgical video tapes on the market and subscribed to the best dental journals. I practiced surgery on fruits and vegetables, dishcloths and plasticine. Nothing in our household was safe from me! This way I got some good ideas which I’ve applied in my now-daily surgery.
Relying on my keen intuition, I began performing what is now called the VISTA approach before it was ever described. Even though the IVAN technique for simultaneous hard and soft tissue augmentation was published in 2007, I’ve been doing it’s modified version since 2004. Perhaps my girl skills developed in that childhood boy’s world have held me in good stead?
Here’s my “girl’s modern-day Robin Hood” tactic.
Stealing from the rich and giving it to the poor. That’s turned out to be a perfect model for my oral surgery practice. Using autogenous tissue (tissue taken from the patient’s own body) is the gold standard in oral surgery. And there are many great sources of autogenous tissue in every patient!
When I`m doing surgery for the upper jaw I always look at tuberosity regions (places where bones protrude). Bone plates can be harvested from the sinus window, and at the same time the sinus can be elevated. If the patient doesn’t care about aesthetics and doesn’t want me to harvest connective tissue from the palate, I just steal a piece from the adjacent area.
If I take a connective tissue graft from the palate, I harvest the bone directly from that place without opening another donor site. When I perform surgery in the upper and lower jaw, I steal connective tissue from the upper jaw (maxilla), and the bone from the lower jaw (mandibula). Take it from the rich and give it to the poor!
If the tooth is hopeless, but the buccal root part (the part towards the cheek) is healthy I use the socket shield technique to maintain the buccal bundle bone. Nothing goes to waste, even hopeless teeth, cleaned and ground down, are fantastic for autografts. There are so many possibilities!
I really enjoy the small and big tricks to push the tissue, let it grow, to move and displace it, to close the wounds and fill defects with autogenous tissue, achieving nice results and not doing any harm.
Is it a woman-in-dentistry habit?
Maybe being that girl nurse in the boy’s world paid off? And taking a few drops of liquor here and a small piece of bandage there is how a woman saves her man? Maybe stealing some tissue from one side of your mouth to fix the other side is how an oral surgeon saves her patient? Maybe innovation and creativity is a woman-in-dentistry habit!
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- The History of Women in Dentistry Part I: Emeline Roberts Jones