By: Alison Jones, DDS
Yesterday, I was doing a crown preparation on a patient. As usual, my patient and I were chatting in between steps and my patient asked me, "So what do you enjoy most about doing dentistry? Do you have a favorite procedure?" I had to stop and think....nobody has really ever asked me that before. And, like most of you, I'm inclined to be a "professional" and give a nice, neutral answer that sounds good. Like when someone says "how are you today?" and you say "fine, thanks" but really you're having a terrible day but it's not appropriate to lay that on the poor innocent Trader Joe's cashier. So, I said, "oh, I love working on front teeth...veneers, crowns, bonding...procedures that make a smile look beautiful and make a noticable difference." But then I got back into working and I was thinking, "I do love that, but what I really love is the people." So, I stopped and told him that too. I said, "You know, it's really the people I like, more than the actual physical procedures. I mean, I do like working with my hands and the satisfaction of restoring teeth and making people feel better. That is challenging and rewarding and enjoyable. I couldn't sit in front of a computer all day because I like to do physical work. But, it's not so much that, as it is the person that I am working on that I like so much about dentistry." So, then it was awkward silence for a moment...and my assistant and my patient and I just smiled and then I just kept on doing my crown prep.
So, let me tell you more about that...because don't you really want to know what I think about you all? No? Not really? Oh well. I write this blog and you're already reading it so you might as well find out.
You guys don't know it when I'm working on your filling or crown prep or just tyring to figure out why you have a toothache, but I LOVE listening to what you have to say and connecting to what's going on with you. In between impressions and anesthetic injections and xrays, I get to know you. I LOVE hearing about your lives. I had no idea I would learn this much by being your dentist and get a chance to relate on a personal level so often. And I'm not sure I would get that in any other profession or setting. It's really a unique situation here. I get to see people of all ages and all backgrounds. I see you at least a couple times a year, and often times more than that. My patients and I often spend at least an hour or two together and you can really get to know people when you're sitting less than 6 inches away for a couple hours. And dentistry sometimes makes people anxious and nervous and their personal lives start to creep into what we are doing in the dental chair. And I love that part. People are out there doing really neat things and going cool places. I get to hear about people's careers, relationships, travels, adventures, babies being born, heartbreaking losses, funny stories about your hard/annoying/busy/crazy day. And there are people that are struggling from time to time and I hear about that too. You all make me feel normal when you tell me the hard thing that's happening in your life. Sometimes, people get a little embrarassed how emotional they get and how much they share - but you have no idea how much I appreciate that and connect with that. And you inspire me when you tell me the cool stuff you or your kids or grandkids are doing. We talk about sports, music, tv shows, movies, concerts, books, and news stories. You guys are good listeners and ask a lot about me and my family too. And some of you - you frustrate the heck out of me, but I'm going to stick with you anyway. And also, we laugh and laugh and laugh. Sometimes, its hard to do my work because we are laughing so hard. So, we are a lot like a real family, right?
To my "honorary grandparents" - A lot of you are....ahem...very "experienced" (read OLD) and, WOW. All of you with all that life experience - you've got the good stuff to tell me about. It' s like I get to have a whole bunch of wisdom right at my fingertips. And you hug me or put your arm around me and call me "kiddo" or "hun" and I love that. (I mean, c'mon...I'm about to turn 38 in a couple weeks so who doesn't like to feel younger and warm and fuzzy all at the same time?!) Sometimes you are grumpy grandparents, but that's ok. You've earned that. That makes me want to sneak a laugh or a smile out of you at least once by the time you leave my office. Some of you, I know not to mess with though. So, don't worry, I will just check your teeth and let you go on your not-merry way. But most of you are so funny and have such an amazing perspective that I just want to soak it all up and hold on to your lessons really tightly.
Ok, you "sandwich generation" people - listen up. You rock. Seriously, how do you do it? You're taking care of your aging parents and helping with your kids or grandkids, all while working in the latter years of a long career and keeping up with your own lives and to-do's and relationships. You take time off of work and bring in your parents from their senior living centers in their wheelchairs and keep track of their ever changing list of meds and health considerations. You ask me what you can do or what you can get so your aging parents can do a better job of brushing and be more comfortable eating as they struggle with partials or dentures and dry mouth. After you take your Mom back to the nursing home, you need to go pick up grandkids from school and keep them until their Mom or Dad get home from work. Somewhere in there, you sneak in dream vacations and cool hobbies. So much love and passion for everything and everyone in your life is awesome.
Hello to my peeps that are in the weeds every day with me. We have kids that need everything all the time, jobs that are stressful and consuming, homes to maintain, errands to run, bills to pay, retirement to save for, committments to keep, 10 pounds to lose, facebook status updates to post....it's a busy time, I hear you. Fist bump for being at your dentist appointment on time. I know, you'll work harder on flossing. See you in 6 months. Peace out to your next errand and appointment. You don't even have time to read this blog. We are all a multi-tasking miracle so I'm cheering for us.
Do I even need to say anything to my kids, tweens, teens and collegiates? You guys will see someday what all of the aforementioned stuff was about...if you even read it. But thanks for being here because I know you have better things to do, but Mom and Dad made you come. And don't forget to check your phone like every 5 seconds so you don't miss anything during the hour you are getting your teeth cleaned and checked. Should we take a selfie? #mydentistisawesome?
Little ones, I know you aren't reading this but you're parents might be. The itty-bitties make my day. They are adorable and sometimes spunky, sometimes shy - with the cutest smiles! I won't tell you the embarassing story they told me while you were reading a magazine in the waiting room. If you know me at all...you know I love everything about babies and kids and I light up when I see their names on my schedule.
So, there you have it. That's what I like about dentistry...I like YOU and your cool, funny, amazing, interesting, wise, heartbreaking and heartwarming, unique stories. Maybe it's a good thing I kept my answer short and "professional" yesterday when my patient asked!
Ali Jones, D.D.S. - Dentist