23 Sep TEETH
My wife and I signed up to be guinea pigs for the local dental school. First we had to get past a screening to make sure our teeth were messed up enough to qualify. They need people that have some issues or the students are just cleaning your teeth. We both had fillings that were slightly compromised, so we both squeaked into the program.
Last week we had our first exam. On the plus side, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than going to the dentist. On the minus side, it takes longer, and the people messing in your mouth don’t have that much experience yet. However, we both had nice, thoughtful students, and it was a pleasure to sit and let them learn how to use the computer system.
The faculty member overseeing them last week was tremendous. He was thoughtful and present with us, and he treated the students with respect as well. The exam took a couple of hours, but it only cost about $50. Today we went back for the cleaning and it wasn’t quite as nice.
I don’t go to the dentist a lot, but I do brush and floss with the best sonic toothbrush, so my teeth are in good shape. As soon as I leaned back in the chair I remembered why I don’t go to the dentist so much. Being in that chair, unable to really move, made me feel trapped. I took a deep breath and became very conscious of how I was tensing my body. I focused on breathing and relaxing but had to keep reminding myself to do so. It wasn’t an intense anxiety, but it was definitely there. Meditating helped.
Again, it took a couple of hours, which was fine. However, this time the adviser wasn’t so good. The students were thoughtful and gave me the suction device so that I could take out the excess water on my own. When the adviser came in, she took it out of my hand without even acknowledgin me, bent it, and stuck it in the corner of my mouth, which made me gag. Then she dug her fingernails into my gums as she tried to get leverage to scrape away at something behind my teeth. She then chastised the student for not getting enough of the staining removed, and then left without even a nod in my direction. I asked the students if she also taught bedside manner. As I lay there with trying to meditate, I thought about how important the doctor patient relationship is. If the dentist sees you as teeth, then it’s clear to me that you’ll be a lot less comfortable in the chair. If the doctor sees you as a patient rather than a person, they are much less likely to get the information they need from you. It’s so simple really.
Again, the procedure was cheap, and my teeth are now clean. I actually enjoyed the process of dealing with the new students. They’re still young and thoughtful and not jaded by years of looking at teeth. I hope they can hold onto seeing the patients as people. I think I’ll suggest that they start teaching their patients to meditate while they work.