November 28, 2012

Why Are Dentists Mean?

Do you want the long version or the short version?

Short version: Dentist = Stressed.

Long version: Dentist = small business owner + dealing with patients who think they know better + dealing with insurance companies who think they know better + trying to balance home life + trying ot have A life = Stressed.
Got it?

With some patients, even I want to be rude. Most times this is when a patient decides that because they researched their pain on the internet that morning, they know what they need better than the dentist. Sadly, forms of the following conversation happen every day in the dental chair:


Mean Dentist: Your mouth is in bad shape. You need a deep cleaning. This will take at least two appointments now, and then you will need to come for cleanings every three months so we can monitor any progress you may or may not make.

Offended Patient: Well, how much would that cost [Dentist shows the four digit number, comma included]. Gasp! The last dentist I went to said my gums were fine and finished my cleaning that day. Then he told me to come back every SIX months.

Mean Dentist: When was the last time you went to that dentist?

Offended Patient: Uh, err, six years ago. [which probably means 10 years]

Mean Dentist: Well, a lot changes in your mouth in six years. You don't brush properly. You don't floss. You smoke. These things will all effect your mouth. Also, you complained of having pain in that broken tooth. You will need a root canal and crown to fix that.

Offended Patient: There's no way I'm getting a root canal. My friend had one and he could feel everything the entire time, and then the dentist didn't even do it right. The internet says root canals are bad for you. I only want the crown. How much will that cost?

Mean Dentist: Your insurance pays part of it. You must get both the root canal and crown. It will cost [insert a three digit number].



If YOU had to deal with that every day, how would you feel after a while? Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not making excuses for anyone to be rude to anyone else. But like they say, Walk a mile in his shoes. Try to understand what could possibly make a dentist become rude after years of being in the industry.

It's true that most dentists aren't very nice. Now, I'm aware that I am making a HUGE generalization here. My point is that I have the credibility to make that generalization. Why? Because after 8 years of being in the dental industry, I have only met a handful, just a handful, of dentists (gender aside) who were decent people and who treated others well. I also know enough about the world to know that this doesn't just pertain to dentistry. I'm sure it can be true for your job as well.

We are trapped in a vicious cycle. The patient never wants to be at the dentist. Which, after years, makes the dentist rude to them and his employees. Which makes his employees unhappy and start bickering and stop working as hard. Which eventually slows business down. Which puts more stress on the dentist. Which the patients take as him being even more rude. Which makes it an unhappy place for all!!

Dentistry is the cursed branch of the medical field. For example, you would never think about second-guessing your surgeon when he says you need surgery to fix your broken arm, solely because your friend had a bad experience in surgery. You wouldn't dare debate with your physician when he suggests an xray of a possible tumor, solely because the news told you xrays are bad. Those are life and death, critical decisions. Dentistry is cursed because noone thinks what happens in their mouth is a life or death decision. To the patient, dentistry seems to never be necessary, but always optional. Sadly, it is the one branch in the medical field that has no respect from the patient.

Another point: In dentistry, the customer is not right. What? Says who? What year is this? Many patients walk in to the office expecting to be coddled and pleased. What they don't realize is that dentistry is NOT in the hospitality industry. We are NOT a restaurant, a hotel, a cell phone company, trying to get you to buy things you do not need. Dentists and dental hygienists are professionals who went to school for years and years and years to try to help you live a healthier life. Please, if you learn nothing else from this, respect the professionals.

What you, the patient, don't realize, is that most things that happen in your mouth are totally preventable by you. Its not the dentist's fault that the patient in the above scenario didn't have a cleaning in six years and now needs extensive work. Its not the dentist's fault that you haven't brushed properly, and now need a root canal. It's not the dentist's fault that you have never flossed, and now could possibly lose teeth from it. Wake up, people. Your mother didn't give you soft teeth. YOUR teeth are YOUR own. They respond to how YOU treat them.

Soapbox... sorry. I digress.

There's always a 'funny' rumor going around about dentists that's mostly stated as fact. Noone truly knows where it came from or if it is, indeed, truth. However, it sums up my point exactly:
Out of all the professions in America,
dentists are known to have the highest suicide rate.
One of the first things many patients truthfully jokingly say when they walk into the dentist office is "I hate the dentist."
My immediate truthful joking reply is always "Imagine working for one."
Let's save the trees dentists, people. Next time you see one, smile. Tell a joke. Thank him. Ask him about his kids. Trust him. Give him a little respect.
Working FOR a rude and unhappy dentist is not a happy thing. So maybe my reason for writing all this today is for the trickle effect. Maybe if you do smile at that dentist, or joke with him, then he will smile and joke with his employees... then they will smile and joke back at him... and then maybe, eventually the dentist office will be a happy place for dentist, dental hygienist, and patient alike.
Please, go save a dentist.
Your friendly dental hygienist, (m)

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