We have touched on this before. I know they mean well, but good intentions can no longer mask the truth. After thirty-plus years of being subjected to their ways, I must once again be honest and come forward.
My dentist is out of control.
First off, let us discuss the overly demanding nature of teeth. No other part of our body has the gall or the audacity to require as much attention as teeth do. They require constant maintenance. Cleaning is expected multiple times a day. If one gets chipped or knocked out, society assumes that we replace it. Bleaching is encouraged. During photographic moments, many will goad us into showing those pearly whites. And if your teeth are not straight, you are mocked as being imperfect and/or British. (I am a smirker, only the slightest smile with no teeth required.)
Fingernails can be trimmed every week or two. Stretching every day is recommended, but the body still functions without it. You do not hear the liver or the spleen asking to be cleaned whenever you have a sandwich.
Eyes are self-cleaning. You are actually discouraged from touching them. Putting chemicals in your eyes is likely to do more harm than good. They sit in pools of water and take care of themselves. But teeth? Teeth are constantly surrounded by water. Saliva is produced by the bucket. Yet we still need to brush them?
All the other body parts we have mentioned move. They roll around, they send signals, they flex and abduct. But teeth? They sit there. They never go this way or that. All that is required of them is to sit in the same place all their lives and rub up against each other. Do not bump your neighbor out of their spot, and make contact with your partner below or above you. Sit there and look pretty. Teeth have, without a doubt, the lowest mobility requirements of any section of the body. And still, they get all high-maintenance about it. The whole thing drives me nuts.
I think that my teeth have brainwashed the dental industry. “We’re special! Tell your clients how special we are!” Then they do. They get all caught up in it; more and more every year.
When I was a kid, I was told to brush and floss after every meal. Since we were kids that had exciting things to do, such as roll down grassy hills and take our stuffed animals on adventures, we were often allowed to put off all that cleaning until the end of the day. So long as we brushed our teeth before bed, all was forgiven.
Then at some point we had the braces talk. By “talk”, I mean that parents usually conscripted the children into that service. You wore your metal, you talked funny, and you had no caramels. Myself, I skipped the braces part. I regret it.
I was caught up in my Battle of the Headgear which was my own personal Vietnam. It lasted longer than it should of, I was not truly behind the effort, there were frustrations on both sides, and while some areas may have improved, it was never fully fixed. A slight overbite is one more quirk that I accept. After all of that struggling, I was not up for the War of the Braces.
Around the time that the braces are off, the world starts to sell us on mouthwash. Put a stinging chemical into your mouth and maintain control for one minute. Do not swallow or consequences will be unpleasant. Do not spit out too soon, or the effects of the wonder-product will be diminished. In the great wait-out-the-clock test of wills, one swishes and gurgles their way to victory. Why? Because it helps clean, “those spots that a brush cannot reach”. We bought into it because it also cleaned our breath and we had hormones. One must be minty-fresh when walking the lunchroom of high school with acne is in full swing.
Next were the electric toothbrushes. Which were followed by bleach at home kits. Whitening toothpastes. Electric water picks. Tongue scrubbers. Those are just the products that I, a layman, am aware of. I am sure there are more.
Again, when I was young I was told to brush and floss. I could accept that. The mouthwash has never been appealing to me. New products kept appearing in the bag. First off it was little pills that would produce a dye on the teeth and show where you were missing when you brushed. Next up was fluoride toothpaste. My dentist tried to push numbing medicine for canker sores on me. That was followed by the mouth guard. She suggested a water pick. Later she would give me one for my birthday. Now it is being suggested that I use one kind of toothpaste in the morning for my gums and a different kind in the afternoon for my teeth.
There must be some mystery checklist that they slowly work down. It gets constantly updated and we are none the wiser.
Yesterday it was suggested that I buy probiotics. The reason I was given, which I still cannot state this phrase without rolling my eyes, is that I have sticky saliva.
Sticky saliva? It is made of vast quantities of water! How can it possible be construed as sticky? If she had described it as viscous I would have given her some credit, but I’m not producing adhesives here. Good grief, now they are making stuff up.
“Oh, sure, your toothpaste works fine. But with this refraction enhancer, they will shine brighter than ever!”
“You have the longest roots we’ve ever seen (true fact), but with this custom gel and tray set we can make sure that those teeth are resting comfortably every night!”
“Here is tuna-flavored toothpaste. Brush your teeth with it. Then open your mouth, detach your jaw, and let your cat lick it extra-clean to give it that extra attention it deserves!”
I would not put it past them. We go with it. Why? I will tell you why.
Why Going to the Dentist is Like an Abusive Relationship
-We are constantly striving to get their approval.
-We are forced into submission. “Sit here.” “Lie down.” “Open your mouth.” “Stick out your tongue.” “Turn towards me.” “Spit.” “Rinse.” “Put these over your eyes.” “Come back in six months.”
-We pay for everything.
-We constantly live in fear of what they will say.
-We constantly live in fear of their tools weapons. We all know how sharp those metal things are. We know how much they hurt when they jab us “just so”. They know it too.
-They mask their true feelings (though in the days of Covid, we are evening the score a little here).
-The overhead music. Come on. That is a power play. We all know it. Who else would listen to that music? Relaxing? I think not.
-The check-in desk is a purposeful barrier to separate the commoner from the professional.
-With offerings like Highlights and People, we are being talked down to. (Though, with the thick atmosphere of fear that surrounds their offices, we could hardly be expected to focus on Tolstoy.)
-We are made to lie down. Then, in a sick power move, they adjust the height up or down at their choosing. This, when paired with the height adjustment of their own chairs, is an obvious power play.
-They use us as a shelf. They place the little paper blanket on our chests. We think it is to catch any extra moisture. They want us to believe that they want us to stay presentable. But no. We are a work table. Got an extra pick? Set it on their chest. Need to have that drill nearby? There is room on the chest. Where can they put that suction tube? It can join the others; you guessed it, on the chest. I have had four instruments taking up valuable real estate on my chest.
-They alone decide when they see us. If they feel like it, they may make an excuse to see us soon. The dentist usually only makes time for us twice a year.
-They make no effort to hide the fact that they are constantly seeing other people. Those others are also knocking at their door, calling them, and begging for their attention.
Abusive, I tell you. My dentist is nice. Over thirty years with this gal. Huggably soft. We both know who holds the power. However, I do have one advantage over her that I delight in.
When I started seeing her as a child, I was the tiny one. The dentist-patient conflict is an unending one. I have learned patience. And now, years later, I am almost two feet taller than she is. Oh, the sweet victory. The potential for emotional victory! The delicious victory that I relish.
What was that? You cannot adjust my height when I am standing up? You are stuck down there looking up at me? Who is in control now, missy?
Huh. I got a little loopy there. I blame the nitrous oxide.
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