I made my decennial visit to the dentist today. It didn’t go well. They rarely do, which is why I go so often.
Dentists don’t understand why people hate to go there. It’s not the oral pain. I can’t remember the last time a dentist actually hurt me. It’s because dentists—and their hygienists—are pains in the ass. First the hygienist harangues you about proper dental practices while she’s flossing your teeth, leaving you no opportunity to engage except to bite her, which is stupid when dealing with a person who has access to sharp instruments and the inside of your mouth simultaneously. So you suck it up and let her treat you like a ten-year-old.
The dentist I saw today—we’ll call him Dr. M______--requires six pages of paperwork before the initial appointment. I didn’t need that much for cataract surgery.
New patients to Dr. M______'s practice get a tour of the entire facility, including a chance to meet the other dentist while he has his hands in someone’s mouth. “These are Operative Rooms One and Two. This is Dr. M______’s office. Here are the restrooms.” And on and on. I wanted to tell her I was just here for a cleaning, not to buy the place.
With that we reach the crux of the issue: Dr. M_____ doesn’t do cleanings on first visits. He needs to check you out “to see what kind of cleaning you need.” (Honest to God.) I copped to being the source of the confusion, assuming I probably didn’t specifically ask for a cleaning because they automatically came with the checkup in every other dentist’s office I’ve ever been to.
What happens at Dr. M______’s practice before he actually comes in is a gauntlet of new dental technology. First I stood strapped to a gadget with rests for my forehead and chin while a machine rotated slowly around me. The technician told me several times to stand as still as possible. A sign in my line of sight read DO NOT MOVE. This was their way to make up for the hygienist nagging I missed because I failed to specify a cleaning.
Then came the X-rays. At least seven. Whatever she did last may or may not have been an actual X-ray, though the gadgetry was similar. The peace of mind gained from confirming I have no cavities was somewhat offset by new fears of radiation poisoning. Storms are due to pass through the area tonight, but should the power go out I’m pretty sure I can just open my mouth and have all the reading light I need.
After that came the intraoral camera. The technician apologized in advance for this. “It’s a new piece of equipment and it displays the image backward. I’m having a little trouble getting used to that.” Well, then, hold it in the other hand until the company devises software that can flip the image. Jeez. Must I think of everything?
The jovial Dr. M______ came next. He spent five minutes with his hands in my mouth talking dentist while the tech took notes and I closed my eyes and thought of England. He said my teeth are in excellent condition, though there’s a bunch of stuff that’s going to happen unless I drop $1300 on him and another who knows how much on another dentist for a root canal on a tooth that A.) doesn’t hurt, and 2.) already had a rootie twenty years ago.
That was my day at the dentist. I went in for a cleaning and came out with a clean bill of health, $2000-plus in preventive dental work, and no cleaning.
And dentists wonder why people don’t like them.