Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Open Wide

I've been thinking a lot lately about being a dentist. It is hard to believe that I have been "Dr. Sheffield" for just over a year. In some ways it has gone so fast, others it seems like ages ago since I was in dental school.

When I was growing up I never thought I would be a dentist. All of the dentists I knew were old men. All of the dentists on TV or in the media are huge nerds (think Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer), jerks (think Seinfeld), or pyschopaths (Little Shop of Horrors and the list goes on and on). Needless to say, I had no aspirations to be an old man dentist.

As a dentist now I have somehow decided that I am not any of these above stereotypes, including nerd. Dentists may be nerdy, but female dentists are defying stereotypes and must be cool, right? I hope so. But, I recently came to the realization that I think there is probably an internal reaction others have when I respond to the, "What do you do" question. Maybe being a dentist isn't as cool as I hope.

For example, ever notice that you can't log on to Facebook without reading some horror story about dentists. Something like, "The illegal percocet I took from my friend is the only thing getting me through the night. Tomorrow I must bite the bullet and see the dreaded dentist," only to have 25 replies like, "Oh you poor thing!" and "I HATE the dentist," and my personal fave, "I'd rather have a leg amputated than go to the dentist." No one thinks to say, "Wow, you're lucky they could get you in, I think you'll feel much better!"

Another thought...everyone HATES the dentist, and people aren't shy to say so. I can't go more than a few hours each day before hearing "I hate dentists" from one of my patients. It makes me laugh to myself. Would you tell a barber you hate all people who cut hair before your cut and expect a good job? Do you really think your waiter wont spit in your food if you tell him how much you loathe all food service workers? People have no qualms about telling you as a dentist they HATE you, right before you put sharp instruments in their mouths. I also have friends, neighbors, acquaintances tell me they hate dentists quite frequently before they ask for my expert opinion.

Finally, my interactions with physicians lead me to think that dentistry isn't the most highly revered profession. I can't think of how many times I have heard, "Oh, I don't know how you could look (or put your hands) in other people's mouths all day!" from someone who does digital rectal exams, or even from gynecologists or GI surgeons.

So what do you think? Am I wrong? Think back, honestly, when you first met me or found out I was a dentist, what was your first thought? I'm curious.

And I wont feel bad, it comes with the territory!


catroller83 said...

I will be honest I was wondering what made you decide a dentist..... but it fits you... I didnt mind dentist until the last few visits I had... the last one they gave me canker sores all around where the crown was supposed to go it killed lol all good now though, for me actually I think it is more of the drill sound..... it is like fingernails on a chalk board to me. I personally do know how you can stick your hand in peoples mouths all day but I dont know how anyone can do any of those dr things.... I will stick to changing my kids bumbs and bossing people around at UPS :) luv ya

Jessica Sorensen said...

I don't hate you personally or my husband for that matter, but I would rather give birth than go to the dentist. Sorry!

Abby said...

I don't remember what I thought at first, probably just that you are ambitious, which is a good thing.

I don't hate the dentist. I would rather go to the dentist any day of the week than the doctor (and I went to the doctor today actually--ugh).

I think people don't mind telling you they hate dentists though it's merely their way of expressing their fear (of pain) or justifying why it has been too long since they last visited the dentist. I think they know you'll realize that they don't hate YOU, but that they hate going to the dentist because it scares THEM, so they're trying to give you warning/get some sympathy.

Anyway, I think being a dentist is great! We'd all have gross teeth without you:)

Amber W. said...

My first thought was "I wish we lived closer so that I could go to a dentist I actually like!" and that's coming after having my bro-in-law as my dentist. I don't know if it was because he felt he needed to pay more attention to his paying patients, but everything he did for me always took way too long (thus exacerbating my jaw issues), and his assistants always did more work than he did.

Oriens said...

Your post made me laugh. And uh... I love going to the dentist. The feeling of having super clean teeth is the best!
It is all about perspective. Maybe people who say they hate going to the dentist because they don't take care of their teeth and are afraid of cavities? Maybe I love going to the dentist b/c as a child I got to get out of school for it?

Diana said...


I remember the first time we met at institute, and our shared experience to a pathetic class conversation was about breaking through stereotypes and closed-mindedness within the church. When you first moved here, I was so elated to find a friend I had so much in common with. I loved that you were seeking a professional degree and that you were so normal (actually, I'd say extraordinary rather than normal). Ever wonder why I was so insistent that you date Abe, who I considered a dear friend and impeccable catch? I knew there could never be a better match (excluding Mark and me, of course), and I am glad that my hunch was right!

Keep breaking those sterotypes, my amazing friend!

brenna said...

I personally love the dentist and love you, so it's a good match ;)

nathan n rachel said...

I love going to the dentist! But that is because I take care of my teeth and enjoy it when they are cleaner than I can get them.

shawn said...

OK- HONEST... My first thought was WAY COOL... OK, I am a hygienist.. I know.. but still WAY COOL.. and I get the same thing.. I joke around a bit, and say something like, "Oh- you hate the Dentist.. but not me personally, right??" always a laugh.. but to be honest.. I don't like going to the dentist either...come on... they poke you with sharp things, make your gums bleed, give you a shot in the mouth... tell you bad news.. who wants that??? And I don't like going to the doctor (general, OB-GYN, etc) either... I just don't like to be told bad news.. but that is just me..
OH wait.. I am suppose to be supporting the dentist and saying how cool they are... ooops....

Jennifer said...

I actually love going to the dentist. It is refreshing. I do get weird looks from people when I tell them that, though. I tried to convince Jared to go into dentistry, but he choose med school instead.

Rachel said...

I personally have always loved my dentists! I really like my current guy.
people are pansies and dont like pain! me included. Instead of doing general maintenance they only go when something is wrong, so really, it's their own dang faults.