I have the best dentist in the world.  I do!  She is kind and compassionate and funny (and her entire staff is exactly like her).  She is an artist when it comes to rebuilding the teeth I have abused.  And, most importantly, she NEVER questions my pain.  NEVER.

I don’t know about you, but, in the past, I have had dentists and dental assistants and hygienists say, when something they were doing to me was painful, “that shouldn’t hurt,” or “if you’d floss, this wouldn’t hurt so much.” I can assure you that it did not make me feel better to hear that.  Nothing like that has ever happened with the dentist I have now.  In fact, MY dentist almost cries when I do–truth is, one time I’m pretty sure she did start crying, but I couldn’t see her face at the time so I’m not sure.  Anytime I even wince, she apologizes immediately.  And every time she does, I know she means it.

When I first started seeing her, she told me that being a dentist was an emotional challenge because dentists get such bad “press” (not her words).  Think about it, how often do you hear dentists and the work they do used as a way to make some other unpleasant experience seem better–people often say, “it’s better than a root canal.”  And yet, it seems to me that dentists do everything in their power to make the experience as painless and pleasant as possible.  They offer us music and movies and numb our mouths.  They invest in quieter, cooler drills.  My hygienist paints most of the inside of my mouth with a topical gel so I won’t feel it when she has to work a little harder to dislodge that pesky tartar.  And, in my case, if we’re doing anything that involves needles, they slap the nitrous mask on my nose and away I go! (Can’t believe it took me thirty years to discover that!)

Besides, we don’t talk with such blatant disrespect about other medical people, do we? Well, maybe a little about the gynecologist when we go for a pap smear (and, if you’re over forty, that other thing that shall not be named), but many gynecologists are also obstetricians.  They get to deliver babies–a happy, rewarding, heroic task.  

Dentists rarely get credit for their heroics, but my dentist is certainly one of my heroes. After all, if it weren’t for her, I would be taking my teeth out at night to clean them.  Without her artistry (with veneers), my smile would be okay, but because of her work, it is really sensational (the teeth part, at least–we won’t get into the wrinkled lip part today.  Please).  Without her patience and the kind patience of her staff, every dental appointment would be cause for anxiety and dread. Instead I go in there feeling confident that I will be cared for with sensitivity and kindness.

So, here’s the thing, next time you make an appointment with your dentist, consider how much she or he does for you and where you would be without them (more precisely where your teeth would be).  And if you still have more dread and anxiety than appreciation, for goodness sakes, find a new dentist.  If you live near Houston, let me know and I’ll give you the name of mine! Whatever you do, just remember that without that dental work, in a few years, you may not have to worry about flossing.