Now what?

Monday, January 05, 2009


So while I know that this job is a first step towards a more prestigious career, I now realize that every single dental office ever would probably fall down and then explode with an unexplained fire ball that also inexplicably didn't harm any other business surrounding said office without dental assistants. The dentist does not know where anything is kept, obviously that would inhibit him or her from actually performing any dental procedures, so we assistants provide the tools. We also help prevent the patients from drowning. Most people probably know that there tends to be a lot of water involved in dentistry; there are also those people who happen to produce a lot of spit. So in order to stop the patients from having the indignity of dying by drowning on their own saliva, there is a dental assistant.
We also have to deal with people. Some are terrified of dentists, some are terrified of needles, some may be normal humans, but really; how often will one of those people actually grace the dentist's chair? Those people are normally pretty good about maintaining dental hygiene, and if they do need something done are perfectly polite about it. Those appointments tend to be finished early. Now that leaves all the paranoid people and the ones that are, shall we say, a little strange. There are those that are so petrified of dentists that they haven't been in awhile. If it's a new patient this tends to mean thousands of dollars worth of dental work and a person who is even more paranoid of dentists. People who are scared of needles are a little easier to deal with. If you hold their hand and give them a lot of topical they tend to be ok. If not, giving them nitrous tends to help, so we just have to get them through that one part of the procedure that scares them, which is easy. Finally there are the "crazies" that you can never be prepared for and yet have to talk to them and relate to them as if they were on the same playing field as you.
On a plus note, many of these people can ramble on about nothing for awhile, so all you have to do is listen, unless you're trying to actually do something in their mouths, in which case you really wish they could shut up for two seconds.
When I was interning we saw an emergency patient who needed a partial root canal right then. Having to sit alone for awhile, I sat there too so she could have someone to talk to. She basically told me all about how horrible her previous 11 dentists were, and since I actually engaged her in conversation she told the dentist that she was really upset that I would not be there in the future, to which the dentist said, "Don't be too sure; I like her." Obviously so since I got the job. Referring back to the patients you want to shut up, we had a drunk lady come in last week. At least she was a jovial drunk. Honestly, when I was cleaning her teeth, all I could smell was the tobacco because that smoky smell is one of the most offensive odors in the world to me, but both the dentist and the other assistant smelled the alcohol. She also happened to laugh at everything anyone said, which definitely made me raise my eyebrows since she thought it was funny that I lived in a house. Not really, but you can see my point. She definitely almost fell asleep a few times, which made applying fluoride difficult, and she would do the exact opposite of what I asked her to do. "Turn your head towards me" somehow indicated "Open your mouth wider." I'm not sure how. She also kept stopping me when I was trying to polish her teeth just to say something; at least it was in the same vein of what we had been talking about.
We'll see what next week brings, it was the end of the year after all. However, that does not totally negate the existence of interesting people in the office. After having a good experience at our office some of these stranger people tend to say that they're going to bring in their whole families to get a cleaning. Sometimes this declaration is then followed by, "By the way, my husband never brushed his teeth when he was growing up, so he might be a challenge," or, "I'm glad that I didn't have anything seriously wrong because my parents had bad teeth and my Uncle Frank only has two left." What do you say to that? I suppose after I've been working for awhile I will actually be able to come up with a response, but until then, I guess I will just have to smile and nod.


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