Dentists Are People, Too

As a dentist, I’m well aware of the stereotypes that are out there about us.  We are not popular people.  Dentists are mean, cold, sadistic, and chronically running behind schedule, right?  I get where some of that comes from.  I mean, we stick people with needles and do things that hurt.  And some dentists truly are just a–holes.

Example: a dramatization of a true story, told to one of my friends:

SCENE: dark smoky cigar bar with plush couches and cleavagey waitresses.  A group of old men dentists are kicking back after their grueling 3-day work week, drinking pricey bourbon.  The leader of the pack adjusts his cravat, which I think is like a tie for rich people, or is at least French for tie.  He takes a drag off his expensive cigar.  ”You know who’s not doing this right now?” he asks his companions.  ”Poor people.”  They all laugh.

(What the what?!)

But we’re not all like that!  Dentists are people too.  And you should treat us as such.  Just sayin’.

I mean, it gets pretty old when several people per day walk into your office and tell you “I hate the dentist.”  In what other profession is it okay to walk into the room, meet someone, shake their hand, and then tell them you hate them?

Or say you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks what you do for a living.  You say, “I’m a dentist.”  Basically it is completely socially acceptable for someone at the table to say “You are?  I hate you!”  And everyone else can totally laugh because it’s hilarious and they all hate you too.  It’s okay if you go home and cry yourself to sleep because no one likes you.  You deserve it.  Because you’re a dentist.

And talk about unrealistic expectations.  People will come in for an initial visit with me, and demand that I take this tooth out OMGRIGHTNOW because it’s been killing them for months and they can’t wait one more day.  Well listen here, your tooth didn’t get that way overnight so maybe you should have come in a little sooner and I can’t push back the rest of my schedule because then everyone in the waiting room will be grumping about dentists and their “sundial schedules” and you wouldn’t like it if I did that to you, now would you?  (Of course I’m a pushover and can’t stand to see people in pain, so I take the tooth out anyway.  Usually.)

Or they’ll come in with a list of things they want done, but don’t want to hear about what they actually need to have done.  Example:

Patient: I want my teeth whitened.

Me: You have ten thousand cavities.  Let’s take care of those first.

Patient: I want my teeth to be at least 47 shades whiter than they are right now.  Do you do Zoom whitening?

Me: Let’s focus on this giant abscess that is giving you a fever right now.

Patient: I want my teeth to be so white that they blind people permanently as they walk by me.  Like, unnaturally white.  Picket fence.  Chiclets.

Me: This infection is really bad.  You are most likely going to die.

Patient: You must not have heard me when I said I wanted whitening.

Me: You must not have heard me when I said your face is going to fall off.

Patient: Do you do Zoom whitening?

We want to help you, people.  Well, maybe the bourbon guys I told you about earlier don’t care too much about helping you.  But I do.  I promise.  So next time you go to the dentist, remember: we are people too.

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  1. by Kallie

    On October 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Hilarious… yet so true. I’m in my 4th year of dental school and often wonder why people think can tell you they hate you. And agree- it took months for your tooth to start hurting. Your emergency can not always be my emergency. Happy Saturday!

  2. by candy

    On October 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    You hit the nail on the head with the whitening!!! and of course let’s not forget “I’d like the have all my teeth re-done but my insurance will cover everything and I don’t want to pay more than $50.”

  3. by candy

    On October 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    or another personal favorite….”with all the money I’m spending at your office, I can pay for your kids college education”. Um, no, you’re actually paying for us to keep up with the latest technology, unless you’d like us to use the old belt driven drill and rusty old instruments, and allowing us to purchase supplies such as gloves, unless you’d like us to reuse them from patient to patient, which I’d surely be happy to do! :)

  4. by nyscof

    On October 2, 2011 at 4:24 am

    I’ll remember that but only if dentists would realize that people who oppose fluoridation are people too.

    I have been called many nasty names by dentists, in person, online and in the media, simply because I say “no, thank you,” to fluoride. I have never ever been in your face or rude about it.

    I’ve read sophomoric discussions in dentist groups based on name-calling their patients who don’t want toxic fluoride chemicals placed into their mouths.

    I’ve been told many stories by mothers whose dentists turn into ogres when they dare to tell them little Johnny isn’t allowed fluoride.

    Some even suggest that to do so is child abuse.

    Dentists who would like to be treated like people need to act like people themselves. They reap what they sow.

  5. by bella

    On October 2, 2011 at 4:40 am

    LMAO this is fantastic!
    Nobody hates the actual dentist….it’s the totally painful and evil things that you do, combined with the ABSOLUTE necessity that you do them.
    I mean, do you really need to drill into my teeth? For real? Seriously? Shit. Okay, by all means. But after sitting around with my mouth wide open for FOREVER (looking and feeling terribly unattractive), my gratitude is somewhat deterred by the fact that my face feels like it’s twice it’s normal size and I won’t be able to taste the damn nachos that I am inexplicably craving.
    No, I’m serious. I want some nachos and now I can’t have them.
    Hatred of going to the dentist is widespread for a reason. Just sayin.

  6. by Julia

    On October 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Bella, one of the most hilarious comments on my blog ever, hands down. HAHAHA! I keep rereading it and laughing out loud.

    And Candy those are definitely good additions!

  7. by Rene

    On October 2, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    If it makes you feel any better, I love the dentist (well, and especially the hygienists). People who have strong (not prone to cavity) teeth or haven’t needed anything but one wisdom tooth removed, we love dentists. They tell us how great our teeth are and make us feel clean all day long.

  8. by Shelly

    On October 3, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I just had to comment. I’ve been following your blog since I got pregnant two years ago. I work full time in a demanding field and can relate to a lot of your posts. Not all, but a lot. But I have to tell you that I love my dentist, I really do. And I’ve had like $10k in dental work over the past 5 years.

  9. by SingleMama

    On October 3, 2011 at 8:23 am

    My dad is a dentist…so I grew up with everyone telling me how much they hate my dad. And I always laugh when people say how rich dentists are…my dad is one of the cheapest people I have ever met (I love him, but seriously!) Great post!

  10. by Jen @ a little barefoot blog

    On October 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    ha. tell me about it. I’m a government bureaucrat. And you know what? I’m a person. funny how that works. :) Keep on keepin’ on.

  11. by megan

    On October 3, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    I am a dental assistant and your post made me just die laughing! have you seen the “average patient” video on youtube? you should check it out!

  12. by Melissa

    On October 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I actually don’t mind going to the dentist. And I’ve had thousands of dollars worth of work done in my mouth. I brush, floss, mouthwash, but I’m just prone to expensive teeth issues. :) Now, I’m not saying if I had nothing to do I would go to the dentist, but I don’t dread it like some people. And I can’t imagine having someone tell me what they do and it’s okay for me to tell them I hate them! People are weird. I have mad respect for professionals that work in my mouth and on my feet, because I couldn’t do either of those jobs. So, Thanks!

  13. by Devon

    On October 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    This CRACKS ME UP! As a dentist’s kid and a former dental office manager, I used to b*tch about this same stuff all the time…and most people didn’t have any clue what I was talking about. Why do you hate the dentist? They hurt me. They hurt you because you haven’t been to one in 15 years and haven’t brushed your teeth since that last visit and now need so much more work that if you’d just made your regular appointments….ugh. I once had a girl who’s mom said she wanted to get the daughter veneers “just for my son’s wedding”…demanded it…but wasn’t willing to pay for the crazy amount of treatment needed because the daughter had HORRIBLE perio (and the breath to go with it) and 5 years worth of I-don’t-believe-in-toothbrushes decay. Ugh.

    Seriously, I could write a book. Thanks for the laugh!

  14. by Jackie

    On March 2, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I just came across your blog. I love your blog and want to commend your strength! I also want to show you this video about the “average patient.” (Megan mentioned it in her comment.) It is hilarious and exactly what you are talking about here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oC8zfqsxu30

    P.S. I’m a dental student, so I’m laughing and crying (about the sheer stupidity) with you. I’m going to have to get used to the public perception of dentists…