I’m hanging out in the dentist’s office waiting for my daughter who is having wisdom teeth removed (we can all cringe and whimper now) and I’m looking around the room. It’s deceptive. Bottled water, cookies and coffee are laid out. Flower pictures and a small bouquet of football flags and balloons perk up a corner. There is no scary chemical smell.
What is wrong here? A dentist’s office should be set up as the way station for sad souls on the fast track to purgatory.
I mean, I remember my childhood dentist – revered in the neighborhood for adopting twelve children. His big old house had an addition that looked like a bunker of bedrooms, with the last two serving as his office. His receptionist glowered, his hygienist jumped to obey, and I cowered in my chair. He didn’t believe in numbing teeth for drilling. And those were the good old days when the drills were clunky and slow. I learned a lot about endurance and that this too shall end.
So, back here in my current dentist’s office. First of all, the receptionist greets everyone and smiles – a real smile that radiates she’s happy to see them…weird. She assures the patients that she’ll let the dentist know they’re here. Her voice makes it sound like the patients are about to be ushered into the coolest party.
The hygienist who usually works on me hurries by the glass windows and waves enthusiastically. Yeah, I know we’ve had some amazing talks with some serious giggling, but happy in a dentist’s office? And she remembers me after three months? Very suspicious.
A young woman with obvious impairments and a service dog comes in and folds herself into a chair, arms and legs crossed protectively. Another hygienist comes in and greets her by name…and the dog by name too. She ruffles the dog’s ears as his tail wags frenetically. The patient unfolds, smiles and willingly follows her into the exam rooms. Behind her, the fish swirl peacefully in the aquarium.
I wait. Voices are calm. There is a distant ripple of laughter. I remember how my dentist pauses every couple of minutes to make sure nothing hurts. Somewhere between Steve Martin’s Little Shop of Horrors rendition and now, this dental office has become…dare I say it? A pleasant place to be.
It’s all wrong…