HERINGTON An added perk to Salinan John Rose's periodic teeth-cleaning from hygienist Geneva Will is catching up on Herington happenings while he's in the dentist chair.
"I can't talk much. She's got my mouth full of stuff," Rose said.
But he has plenty to absorb while Will is cleaning and polishing his teeth.
"She's good. I've known her 40-some years," said Rose, a former Herington resident.
Will is used to one-sided conversations. For some, she fills the time with news. Others, especially younger patients, get her "full hygiene sermon" that's been polished to perfection at Dentist Richard Mosier's office.
"When you've got a mirror in their mouth, and a scaler, they pay attention," Will said.
After more than 55 years in the field, she knows hygiene and is lauded in Mosier's office for her attention to detail.
"What I'm really impressed with is she is very thorough. Some patients' mouths are very different, but when she's finished, the teeth are clean," Mosier said.
From 1951 to 1967, she worked for dentist Harry Mosier (Richard's father) in Herington. Will spent the next 23 years as a civilian hygienist at Fort Riley. She returned to Richard Mosier's practice in 1990.
Last fall, she was recognized by the Kansas Dental Board as the longest practicing hygienist in the state.
Sharp at 76
Will pays attention to the details, but she also takes the time to visit with patients, office manager Jewell Swinney said.
"She's very good. People really like her. She educates them on dental care, and she laughs and jokes with them," Swinney said.
With everyone at the practice longtime employees, going to work is like being with family, dental assistant Marilyn Peterson said, and Will is seeing the third generation in some families.
"She's a good gal. She puts patients at ease," Peterson said.
Will, 76, takes dental care very seriously. She sees patients to go over their oral hygiene cleaning and teeth examination and gives instruction on brushing and flossing.
While regular dental appointments are important, what bothers Will most is "pure neglect" of teeth.
She recalled a teenage patient who refused to look in the mirror at his stained teeth.
"I polished every other one and showed him. He said "I can't go home like that.' I said, 'Well, are you going to brush?"' she asked.
The boy opted to improve his dental hygiene.
"I get angry. Then I get their attention," she said.
Will's interest in the field was sparked when a local dental hygienist visited her Hiawatha High School senior class in 1949.
That fall she entered the University of Minnesota dental hygiene school. After graduating two years later, Will went to work for Harry Mosier.
"A small town was what I wanted," Will said.
Two years later, she married Ralph Will, a meat cutter at a local grocery store.
While rearing their three children, Geneva Will worked part time. When their youngest started school, a search for full-time employment led her to Fort Riley.
"It was eye-opening in some ways. We did see some terrible mouths. They came from all walks of life, but they were pretty good kids," Will said.
Improved dental health
Through her decades on the job, Will said dental health has improved through education on television and in schools. "I'd say it's better teeth. We have fluoride, and people are just more conscious of their dental health," she said.
While her three children practice good habits, they needed some encouragement, as most children do.
With her being in the business, the family obtained one of the first electric toothbrushes in the late 1950s. They helped, she said, if they were used properly.
When her youngest son, Jeff, was 6, he found another use for the vibrating brushes.
"I walked by the bathroom and thought, 'Boy he's brushing a lot.' I went in and he was cleaning the sink," she said.
Since her husband died in 1996, Will has scaled back some, but she still works three mornings a week.
"It gives you an excuse to set the alarm and see people," Will said. "I've always liked my work.
"This is a little town, and you know most of your patients."