May 25, 2012

I Am Not a Shelf

Some of you may remember that I had a very bad, no good experience with my last dentist.  The worst of it was his hygiene. He visited patients in other rooms while wearing the same plastic gloves on his hands that, upon his return, he inserted directly in my mouth. I was very, very suspicious about where those gloves had been.

But glory hallelujah, I have found a new dentist who puts the gloves on in front of me and never leaves my sight.  She's gentle and sweet and has already found a tooth problem my old dentist never did. Oh, the relief: at every pause in a procedure, like when she enters data on her computer, she puts on new gloves before sticking her hands back in my mouth.

But I'm finding that one aggravating practice is universal with dentists: they all use your chest as an extension of their work area. There you lie on the dentist-office equivalent of a chaise longue, parallel with the floor and somewhat flat.  The dental assistant clips a plastic-backed, square blue bib about the thickness of a piece of cheesecloth around your neck, and the dentist gets to work.  Soon the dentist and the assistant are chatting to each other across your face, setting tools on your chest and picking them back up, and occasionally wiping schmutz on the bib.  They act like your chest is a handy-dandy shelf and the bib a tea towel.  And since I'm female, by 'chest' I mean breasts.

My internist doesn't hang her stethoscope around my neck while she gets out her prescription pad. Nurses doesn't set the blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and heart rate monitor on my lap and ask me to keep them from rolling off.  My ob-gyn doesn't perch the speculum on my knee like a little mountain top observation tower before she rolls back her stool.

So what is it about dentists and their penchant for turning chests into work surfaces?  If you have any idea, please let me know. In the meantime, here is my Dental Patient Manifesto: We are patients, not tables or shelves; get a bigger tray. Bibs are for our protection, not general clean up.  Eliminating those extra long scary needles would be nice, too, but let's start with taking us off the list of office equipment.

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