Do You Mind? My Mouth is Full

Andrea Freedman

Nothing makes me revert from adulthood back to feeling like a scolded child quite like when I go to the dentist.
I really do like my dentist and sometimes share a few laughs with him. Nevertheless, as a grown woman, there are certain things I do not feel that I need from my dentist or, for that matter, his staff, and that includes the gratuitous lecture about flossing that goes along with each and every one of my dental appointments.
It is usually the hygienist, rather than the dentist himself, who makes me feel worse than anyone. It never fails that while my mouth is full of dental instruments that is inevitably the time she chooses to give me a talking-to about the merits of flossing and the potential dangers of not doing so diligently. I am beginning to think this is done purposely; she strikes when her victim is at his or her most vulnerable.
It is not that I do not appreciate that hygienists and dentists have a duty to inform patients on proper oral care; what bothers me is that while they are providing this information, it is usually said in an accusatory way. I had one hygienist who would shake her head and make a sound effect and comment with each individual tooth she was working on. “Oh, wow, look at the size of this piece of tarter.” “This tartar really gets under the gum line,” shaking her head “You’ve got to look after it, you have to stick to your flossing routine every single day or this plaque just grabs onto your teeth and stays there.” “I don’t know how many times I have to emphasize how important it is to really get that floss in between those teeth.”
They try to instil fear into the patient, sharing horror stories of neglected gums leading to heart attacks and other potential health problems, not to mention loss of teeth, while you are forced as a temporary prisoner in that chair, to sit back and listen, helpless to defend yourself. I don’t know what is worse, having my teeth and gums scraped and poked or being subjected to this perpetual annoying reprimand.
It is also stressful to hear that even though I do in fact practice good oral hygiene and I do show up for each and every one of my dental appointments, I could still have trouble with my teeth and gums in the future. I wonder what they expect the patient to do or say while they are being forced to listen to that.
I have tried to just close my eyes and tune out the hygienist but if I open them for even a split second I see her looking at me up close from behind her mask. I cannot see her lips moving but I know it is she who is speaking and I wish for silence. Unfortunately the only time I was permitted to listen to music under my headphones while at the dentist was when I had a root canal. It was almost worth it just so I could drown out any words of reproach.
Dentists wonder why people hesitate to make appointments with them or why once they do, the appointments are often cancelled. The anticipation of going to the dentist in the first place is bad enough. Combine that with being held hostage by the hygienist and her nagging; rather than being helpful, it is downright irritating.
Despite sometimes being made, when visiting the dentist, to feel like someone who does not practice proper oral hygiene because I am prone to excess plaque build-up, I actually do take caring for my teeth very seriously and quite frankly, I do not appreciate the implications to the contrary.
Not to mention, I am actually paying for this. It sticks in my proverbial craw worse than an unfilled cavity. “Why do you think I’m here anyway?” I would say if I my mouth was not full of instruments and I was able to speak clearly. I would think they would be happy that I have all this tartar so they can keep charging me for more frequent appointments, rather than give me a hard time about it.
While I do appreciate and understand that good oral hygiene and especially flossing are important, being made to suffer through constant reproaches every time one is at the dentist may actually be a deterrent for some people to go to the dentist at all.
I think it goes without saying that most of us do want to keep our teeth in good condition as we get older. Nevertheless, personally, I would like to have my teeth cleaned professionally without being verbally badgered in the process; that just might be the one thing that prevents me from rescheduling my next dental appointment.♦

Copyright © Andrea Freedman 2012

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About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on November 28, 2012, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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