No Rinsing Out For Half An Hour


I went to the dentist today. A pretty routine sort of a statement but there are twists and turns…

I used to be a dentist. 40 years in the game here and overseas. I sold my practice in 2007 and went off to another sort of job, but of course I still retain pretty much all the knowledge I garnered in 40 years:

  1. Some people’s tongues have a mind of their own and some people’s minds have a tongue of their own. When they start running away with the situation you can either jam three impression trays into the patient or tip them off the chair and make a run for it.
  2. Scaling is only fun for the receptionist. Everyone else concerned with it has a struggle – either with pain, water, noise, vibration or hornets. I once had a hornet fly into the treatment room while we were scaling a patient and all three of the humans in there vacated the place.
  3. Surgery magazines need to be chosen with care. I was grateful for the car mag as I waited but I noticed it was one that concentrated on luxury high-performance sports cars. Was this a signal about the fees…?
  4. We used to joke about an apocryphal dentist in the US who was known as “One Spit Smith”. His technique seems to have been taken up by the profession out here. For Goodness Sake, let me rinse out some of the wood shavings and broken drill bearings before we commence the next bit of the treatment…
  5. Xray machines are a vast disappointment these days – at least they are to the patient. I can remember working in a surgery in London in the 1970’s that had a glass-tubed machine from the 1920’s. I am not sure if it had Rutherford’s fingerprints on the glass tube or not – I refused to plug it in and see what would happen. The principal of the practice knew the jig was up when I stormed into his office and a brand new Philips Oralix arrived later the same day. But here’s the kicker. Up until that time another dentist – an adventurer from Queensland – had used it to make radiographs – possibly of everything in a radius of a quarter mile. It probably lit up like something from Lawrence Livermore. I wonder if the nurses ever had babies?

Today’s Belmont made a tiny “peep” for about 1/40 of a second and the whole picture whacked up on a computer screen. No more broom closet darkroom.

6. Over the patient delivery systems look cool in the catalogue but learn how to steer them. Kid, those are my feet down at the end of the chair.

It all went well – we agreed that I did not need 4 more gold crowns unless the cooking gets worse at home. The chipped cusp was repaired with composite resin. At least I think it was composite – from the price on the bill at the end it may actually have been liquid sapphires and gold dust. My tongue does not fall into the gap – possibly because it is in awe of the cost.

I must not complain – the surgery is run right. It is spotlessly clean*. The practitioner is smart and skilled. The nurse is not a maniac. This is a comforting when she is armed with a sucker. I do not fear hypodermics or high-speed drills but I have seen what a sucker in the hands of the deranged can do.

I noted that the names on the signboard are largely changed since last time and that very few of them are Anglo Saxon. ( Well, mine isn’t but then I’m retired…) I am not at all prejudiced about that…as long as they have BDSc ( WA) after the name they can can jump in and thrash around – I know how they have been trained. More importantly I know who’s running the Dental Board, so we aren’t going to hurt each other…are we…?

Note: It seems to be the fashion to send the patient out foaming at the mouth from a flouride treatment with the admonition not to eat or drink for half an hour. All very well but I think my practice of slopping a last-minute coating of chocolate syrup on the teeth was received better by the patients and it seemed to be good for business too…

  • Hey, we had clean spots too. Not a lot of them but they were nice to look at.

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