Good Oral Hygene And The Art of Salemanship

Confession: I have always had an uneasy relationship with dentists and the dental profession. There’s just something about someone poking in your mouth and causing you pain whilst trying hard not to look up your nose that just doesn’t have me wringing my hands in delight at upcoming dental appointments. Apologies to any dentists or dental hygienists. As the Donald would say, it’s not personal it’s my oral pain threshold.

This week was one of those biannual dental check up weeks.  I’ve concluded that dentists are great sales people. How clever is it that they convince you to make the next appointment just moments after you have escaped from THAT chair and are basking in post dental after-glow?  Seriously, if I smoked, I would reach for a cigarette then and there! And having made the appointment for six months time (because the dental gods have been known to shine on occasion), you insert it in your diary and happily forget until about two weeks beforehand when your stomach reminds you that your trip to the torture chamber looms.

I have had the same dental hygienist for more than a decade. She’s great despite my forgivings about a trip to her torture chamber.  Leaving aside her plaque removal techniques (which of course are second to none), we have some great conversations. No, really..we do, despite the immobilization of my implement filled mouth and the taste of fluoride. You can say a lot with a simple, well-timed “ahamurf”.

My dental reluctance/phobia.. whatever you want to call it… had its genesis in my formative years when I became VERY well acquainted with my first dentist at the age of six. We had to drive over three bridges and an hour and half each way for each apointment and I had to take a friend. This was so because it was the only way my mother knew how to deal with my catatonic fear. My poor wit-ended mother had found the only dentist within cooee who was a child specialist.  I suppose I would have felt really special had I not always had the feeling like I was about to toss my lunch every time. This dentist was a rather formidable, orange haired lady who countered her sternness by wearing a dental coat covered in cartoon characters and the promise of a balloon after treatment. How’s that for high tech distraction? This relationship lasted until I was 13 when I was told that I had to move on.  As a graduation gift I got the opportunity to become acquainted with the BIG adult dentist.

Visions of Ms Sterntist and BIG adult dentist have stayed with me all of these years. They are not fond memories and I am happy to say I am replacing them with memories of Good Conversationalist Hygienist.  GCH always does an initial thorough exam… there’s some poking, then some prodding…the mirror swish and that blast of cold water. Treatment then ensues culminating in the absolutely AWFUL taste of fluoride. How is it that we live in the twenty-first century and have not come up with better tasting fluoride that one can rinse?

But just before the fluoride hit, GCH always delivers her pronouncement on my quality of oral care over the last six months. This always makes me nervous… yes, ma’am I really do floss every day, really. How ridiculous is it that a simple “you’ve been doing well lately, your mouth looks really good” makes me feel ten feet tall? But it does and I pass with honours. Let the angels sing, I have impressed my hygienist!

So contemplating my new found oral care goddess status, I arise from the chair and happily make my next appointment. Walking on air and notionally smoking my cigarette, I even pay for the privilege to be tortured. I have made my dental hygienist happy!

Photo from

Seriously, how good ARE these people?

Do you ever worry about impressing a health care professional?