2002/12/14
 
07:43

Dental Anguish

I went to the dentist this week, and I've come to the conclusion that dental hygenists are never, ever happy with your dental care regimen.

When I sat down, I figured I'd save time by stating right at the outset, "I brush my teeth twice a day; my teeth don't bleed when I brush; my teeth are slightly stained because of coffee and cigarettes; I floss three times a week; and yes, I'll try to do it more often."

I thought she was impressed by my efficiency, but in fact, she was only momentarily caught off-balance by this unexpected onslaught of information. Perhaps, too, she was disappointed that I'd shortened the visit by a few minutes, since they charge by the 15-minute block of time.

Let me explain that last bit in more detail. I've learned that if they ask you what you do for a living, it's more than an effort to put you at your ease. At $130 per hour, the dentist or hygenist have good reason to keep you chattering.

For example, on my first visit to my new dentist, he seemed impressed when I told him of my vocation ("Computer Bohemian"). He asked me if I knew of a way to save keystrokes while entering data into their medical tracking program. Always the proselytizer for Macro Express, I told him all about that product. Only later did I realize that I was being billed for the honour of giving him free technical support!

Let's get back to the dental hygenist. She had nothing left to ask me, so she started scritching, scratching and poking at my teeth in an effort to restore their pristine beauty. About fifteen minutes later (that's $32.50 – ka-ching!), she put aside her stainless steel hook for a moment and remarked, conversationally, "You know why your gums don't bleed?"

Like a fool, I thought I was about to be complimented on the fine state of my chomping implements. I replied, "Well, I recently purchased an ultrasonic toothbrush..."

"No," she responded. "It's because you smoke. You see, the nicotine dliates the blood vessels and –" blah blah blah.

Gosh. Here I was, thinking I'd finally aced a dental exam, but apparently I'd once again failed to delight my tooth-care specialist.

What would I have to say to impress this person?

"I can bite iron nails in two!"

"You shouldn't bite your nails."

I think they must be trained to never, under any circumstances, say anything to encourage the patient.

I suppose that if I told her, "I floss first thing in the morning, before and after each meal, and before bed", she'd respond, "Okay. Say, do you ever happen to wake up in the middle of the night?"

Don't get me wrong. I firmly believe that dentistry is one of the greatest perks of living at this time in history. I can't imagine what it would have been like to die of a abscess. The mere thought makes me shudder. But I do think they could work a bit on their couch-side manner.

It's rumoured that dentists have an extremely high rate of suicide. I don't know if dentists really are perenially despondant. However, when I consider how they work to convince you that everything you do is wrong, I'm surprised that they're not occasionally punched in the mouth. "Is that good for the teeth!?"

Gee, that was a mean thing to write, even in jest. But just once I'd like the dentist to check me out, smile, and say, "Nothin' to do here. Everything's fine. Bye."

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