Archive for the ‘Everyday Psychology’ Category

Everyday Psychology: The Dentists Office

21 Nov

Every now and again I wax psychological about everyday events considered to be ordinary, but have any semblance of normalcy stripped away when analyzed for longer than 10 seconds. Much like how repeating a single word for a minute can render it into a virtually meaningless hodpodge of mouth sounds that (when assembled properly) have the amazing power to make a pizza appear at your door.

I recently had the pleasure(?) of visiting the dentists office for my semi-annual tune up. Normally, this is a relatively low-stress experience, I don’t tend to have any problems, so it equates to me lying back in a comfortable chair and having no responsibilities to attend to for a half an hour. However, this particular visit found me in an odd mood, resulting in this realization: The dentists office is a social minefield.

Social Pitfall #1 – Looking. Where am I supposed to look? While lying down in this comfy chair, I have a limited number of options for where I’m supposed to look? Do I stare into the dental technicians eyes? (as they’re leaning right over my head and talking to me..) Do I stare at the ceiling? Probably, as our dentist has a couple of cloud decals stuck over their fluorescent light fixtures. There were three dead bugs in the left fixture, and one bug in the right one that would only walk in counterclockwise circles, probably soon to be following the fate of the occupants of the other fixture. Really, should I care where to look? No, but the sheer fact that I actually have to put energy into thinking about where to plant my gaze simply feels wrong.

Social Pitfall #2 – Talking. How do you carry on a conversation with someone who has their hand in your mouth? Do they really want you to carry on small talk while they’re scraping away at tartar buildup? Perhaps dentists and dental hygenists have developed some form of mutated conversation skills allowing them to break conversations into bite sized pieces that are staccatoed across time. It just leaves me wondering if I should laugh at the joke they told several minutes ago once they’ve removed their sharp instruments and saliva sucking tools from my mouth? Or if they’re just going to think I’ve gone batty..

Social Pitfall #3 – Imbalance of Power. OK, this one irks me in particular. Why is it when my dentist is cleaning off my teeth and stabs me directly in the gums do they make the comment “Oh, you have sensitive gums” (as I can taste that iron/tangy blood in my mouth). Actually, I didn’t have a problem with sensitive gums until you plunged that pointy tool directly into a soft portion, well removed from any tooth you should be scraping. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever hear my dentist say “Whoops, sorry about that, I missed a bit..” Perhaps it’s a Doc/Dentist pride thing.. Oddly enough, I didn’t call her on it, perhaps because she was only halfway through and I wasn’t sure how that would effect the rest of the experience.

Social Pitfall #4 – Pain. After receiving my positive report on mouth health, the dentist escapes and the B team comes in to do the cleaning and flossing. I’m a fan of the former and now a despiser of the latter. This was the first visit I’ve had someone attempt to floss my gums instead of my teeth. Seriously, this person would cram the floss between my teeth, pull straight down into the gums and saw back and forth vociferously. I swear this was the first time I’ve ever white-knuckle-gripped a dentist chair and just thinking about it now results in shivers running down my spine in a way normally reserved for chalkboard+fingernail situations.

I get it now, the dentists office isn’t a pleasant place. I don’t know where to look, I don’t know how to talk, I’m not in control of my own reactions and there’s the possibility of unexpected pain despite a healthy report.

On the bright side, I did get a new toothbrush..