Humor by Mark Bazer

I'm feeling lightheaded and numb, but this column is urgent, so here goes: Stop thinking such evil thoughts about dentistry!

We all complain about visiting our dentists. Pop culture paints them as sadists ("I'd find a pussycat and bash in its head ..."). And their supposed unhappiness is cocktail-party fodder. "Dentists have the highest suicide rate!" "Cool! Pass the dip."

But the truth is: The dentist -- indeed, the entire dental experience -- is wonderful*. Hear me out:

- Who else scolds you? Your boss may chew you out, you may fight with your spouse, but, after you graduate middle school, the only one who can old-fashioned scold you is your dentist. Somehow, it's oddly comforting: You get scolded for never flossing, you nod your head and say "I know, I know," you leave and never floss, six months later you get scolded again, and the process repeats itself until you turn 55 and use your 401(k) to pay for gum surgery.

- Dentists love to talk. You'd think a relationship in which one person always has six things in his mouth would be light on conversation. But some of the best talks you'll ever have are with your dentist -- made even more impressive by their uncanny ability to understand the subtleties of your grunts.

- Dentists always have new equipment. Other than the light (which was made in 1976), the dentist pulls out new gadgets -- little cameras, monitors to display your teeth in front of you -- every time you see him. Still, dental offices honor their profession's past by spending most of their time scraping your teeth with a sharp piece of metal.

- You won't find a comfier chair. OK, maybe I'm stretching here, but when the light is on and there are so many things in your mouth that you can't breathe, it's easy to believe you're catching a glimpse of heaven. Downtown dentists struggling to fill their schedules should rent their chairs out for people to use during lunch breaks.

- The dentist is all-powerful in his office -- and when he visits you, you feel empowered as well. The hygienist scrapes your teeth, sees your saliva at its worst, spends 55 minutes of the hourlong appointment with you, but it's all build-up for when the dentist strides in. He confidently shakes your hand and then, without tools (or sometimes gloves!), pokes around your mouth for 30 seconds, says exceedingly kind things about your teeth (or schedules a root canal) and returns from whence he came (sleeping in a spare dental chair is my guess).

- Dentists improve you. When you go to the doctor for a check-up, he may check, say, your reflexes, but he doesn't make your knees any better. If anything, tapping on your knees with that old, uninspiring tool only hastens their inevitable decline. Every six months, you go to the dentist and he makes your teeth cleaner, stronger, better.

- Dentists still use a tooth with a human face as their logo.

* I've never had a root canal.

Humor & Satire

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