Saturday, March 3, 2012

My own personal torture chamber


I think I’ve been a little cranky lately.We have been quite busy at the clinic the last few weeks (or months—I mean this year!). This past month I extracted 550 teeth (I usually do about 300 per month plus other procedures). I was up a lot in the middle of the night on call so maybe that is partially why. I’ve talked in the past about the borderline rude comments patients make about dentists (usually based out of fear). Normally I just smile and brush it off but this past week it seemed like everyone had something to say.

Patient #1: “You know, I’ve only had one dentist ever give me shots without hurting me.”

Me: “Oh, I’m guessing you don’t mean me?” (Come on, it’s a shot! And it’s given so I don’t have to hurt you on the next step. Believe me, you want the shot.)

Patient #1: “Oh no! Definitely not!” He laughs.

Me: “Well, I guess we are just a bunch of meanies here!” In a friendly tone.

Patient #1: “No, just you!” Pointing to my assistant,”She hasn’t hurt me yet.”

Me: I just didn’t feel like putting up with it. He was acting like I was purposefully hurting him when he had come to me for relief of his pain and we had nicely worked him into our schedule. He was extra work (and paperwork) for me on a busy day that I had been up since 3 am (which unfortunately is my life this month! ha ha). “It’s probably not a good idea to insult the person who has all of the sharp tools before she starts working on you.” In as friendly a tone as I could muster. Maybe not the best thing to say but I was so frustrated.

And on to patient#2, another add-on patient. She was very anxious. She was crying and wimpering when I walked into the room (before I ever “came at her with my sharp tools.”). I asked her what was wrong, if she was in pain or scared. She said both. She gave me a big spiel about how she hates dentists more than anything/anyone else in the world, how the whole experience is the worst, was I going to shove a needle up in her tooth (because that is the worst)?, etc.  I’m used to this sort of thing but this is was what made me angry:

Patient #2: “I think you are all a bunch of sadists.”

Me: (Thank you! You saying that gives me so much extra pleasure, to know that you really are suffering!) “I’m sorry you feel that way. We are just trying to help you and I think the real sadistic thing to do would be to send you away without helping you feel better.” (Considering how much pain you were having before I even came in here.)

She of course cried throughout the whole thing, but we luckily were able to easily remove the tooth. I hope she feels better.

These experiences are so interesting. My few days of Neurosurgery have reminded me of a new perspective. We are lucky in oral surgery that our patients rarely have serious problems or complications. A hole in the sinus (that heals spontaneously), a broken tooth, a little numbness pales in comparison to the complications that can (and very often do) occur in these brain surgery patients who often can’t talk, move, or be themselves anymore (if they live). Yet, people don’t come in and tell us that Neurosurgeons are the worst and scariest people on Earth. These people have a lot more opportunity to inflict suffering, but they are admired and appreciated. I find it ironic.

The life of a dentist! To be feared and hated (and I think as an oral surgeon, we are THE most feared and hated). I guess I am lucky. Most sadists have to lure their patients in. They either have to find masochists who will enjoy the torture or kidnap or trick people into it. But, I am lucky. People willingly come to me for their torture. And in fact, they pay money. Or their insurance pays. And I have multiple rooms and devices dedicated solely to inflicting pain and misery. I have assistants who help me maximize the torture and fulfill my every bidding to ensure the maximum amount of fear and discomfort. Sometimes I even drug my patients so I can do my best torturing without having to worry about their cooperation!

(In case you aren’t familiar with oral surgery, here are some of my torture devices. Frightening, I know!)

--I hope you can tell I’m only joking. Or am I? (evil laugh)


Susan said...

Oh my!

GuitarCR said...

I think all of the anti-dentism out there is just a running gag gone awry. In fact, there was probably some dude at a party 50 years ago who made a sarcastic comment about his kind, loving dentist (something to the effect of "Oh, Pat? Yeah, he's a REAL sadist...") right as one of the guests was coming back with an overly full plate of snacks. When the guest asked what he/she had missed, someone explained that the dude was just telling everyone about how cruel their dentist is.

And so the rumor began...

Anonymous said...

Hang in there, Erin. Not only can you pull my rotten teeth and drain my pus anyday, you can stitch up the gashes on my face, fix my smashed face, and put me back together again. Anytime.

Rachel Culmer said...


I remember some of the first questions I received from several new patients were "am I going to get a shot?"

That was the plus side of orthodontics (except now most of them have needles in the office for TADs).