One of the things a dental hygienist must do in order to establish a good rapport with her patients is to be able to relate to them and engage them in conversation that conveys that they aren't just a mouth. They are a real person that you care about in a professional way, but also are interested in as a human being.
I've had the pleasure over the past 30 years of getting to know many, many patients and their families and I love it that I am now treating the children of patients that were children themselves when I first started working in the office where I am currently employed. It doesn't even make me feel old saying that!
There are a few standard questions I ask when getting to know someone for the first time and on occasion in the last few years, one of them has been "Do you garden?" There are actually a few ways to ask this question and depending on which one you choose, you might get different answers. Whether you live in the city or the country might determine how the question gets answered, too.
If I asked, "Do you garden?" I might hear back, "Just vegetables," or "Just flowers." The same response might be gotten by asking, "Are you a gardener?" Around here, people are more likely to assume that gardening means growing vegetables, and if you ask, "Do you put out a garden?" it definitely means vegetables.
While I'm sensitive to these nuances in meaning, if you asked me if I'm a gardener, I would answer, "Oh yes," and then be sure to tell you that I grow both vegetables and flowers. This doesn't mean that someone who does one or the other but not both is any less of a gardener, it's just an indication that we should never assume what the answer to our question really means.
And since this question begs further exploration and conversation once it's asked, one other thing I have learned over the years is to only ask it when the appointment is finished and my patient is free to answer properly. Although I really can understand "gauze talk."
gauze talk - noun. The language spoken by dental patients when they have the dentist's, assistant's, or hygienist's hands in their mouth and they are unable to speak clearly. So named for the garbled speech a patient has while biting on gauze after a tooth extraction.