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!