You may think you’re coming in “just for a clean” but it’s my job to check your oral cavity for lesions, your teeth for caries and your gums for periodontal disease, and to provide advice to get you to full oral health. Many a joke is made about relaxing in the chair. I call it the comfy chair; it breaks the tension. I know it’s not the most pleasant experience, so I try to alleviate the worry by explaining the emotions people feel as they lie back. After all, I am “exposing” your vulnerable, soft places – your belly and chest – and instinct prompts the nervous patient to cross their arms. Then, as I start the treatment, I am right there in your personal space, wearing a mask and glasses – another uncomfortable feeling for you.
I like my job and people mostly leave feeling better, wiser and – yes – cleaner. I don’t mind how bad your teeth are, it’s bloody satisfying getting a load of tartar off, leaving smooth enamel to rub your tongue around instead of rough rock. But I have feelings too; I can’t help looking at your blackheads and up your nose at your nasal hair (or worse). You can’t blame me: I have excellent lighting.
I find it rather creepy when your tongue follows my instruments and irritating when it nudges them out of the way, and when you look me in the eye as I move into your vision. And why, all of a sudden, can’t you swallow your own saliva? But the worst thing is the disrespect some people show by not cleaning their teeth or by eating just before seeing me. I’d never say it, but I so want to ask: “Would you leave another bodily cavity in the same condition if you were visiting your gynaecologist for a smear test or a urologist for a prostate exam?” I don’t think so.