Wednesday, May 06, 2015

No Cavities

Every six months Allie and Julia show up at their dentist. The role of their dentist has been played by three people (that I’m aware of) – the handsome, young newbie, the beautiful, all-business partner and the patriarch of the entire operation. Most of the time, the old guy is the one who flies in at the end of a cleaning to take a quick glance into my kids’ mouths and then provide Deb or me with a lightning-round consult.

He’s kind of creepy. But we’ll get to that.

His office has a movie theme. At the entrance there’s a ticket booth. It's occupied by what looks like one of those puppets law enforcement uses to convince second graders to stay off meth and avoid men in vans who ask for help looking for lost puppies. There are movie theater seats and a large-screen TV playing the latest Pixar release. Off to the side, there’s a PG-13 waiting area that screens more intense films like “Batman Begins” or “Marathon Man”. . .  Okay, maybe not “Marathon Man”. But I’d love to see a kid walk to his/her exam chair after seeing Laurence Olivier repeatedly ask Dustin Hoffman, “Is it safe?”

The top dentist has a staff of at least five people working in reception and four hygienists and three other people who seem to help out the hygienists. They all wear matching scrubs. I asked someone behind the reception counter what the color rotation was. He told me, “Tuesday is red, Wednesday is blue, kind of like this pen cap.” He turned to the woman sitting next to him to get confirmation that he properly characterized the color. She gave him an approving nod. “Thursday is black and Friday is true blue which is kind of like the end of this pen.” The woman next to him repeated the nod.

When they’re ready, they lead you back to a row of six exam chairs. Each has its own monitor on the ceiling so patients can watch the same Pixar movie that was playing in the reception area. That’s the part that really makes me jealous when I compare my experience at the dentist. I want to watch “Big Hero 6” while my gums are poked, prodded and scraped.

You hear the hygienists ask the parents the same questions. “Have there been any health changes? Is she on any medications? Has she committed any felonies since her last visit?” When you give them the answers they want to hear they go to work on your kid. This last visit I watched Julia’s feet. She was slowly waving them back and forth while she waited for the first dental tool to make contact. It was clear when things got uncomfortable because the waving would get faster and faster until the hygienist would notice and ask if Julia was okay.

Allie has three years of dental experience on Julia. I listen to her ask the hygienist questions that wouldn't occur to me to ask about her dental health. I’m sure soon I hear Allie ask, “Are you sure you want to use a C-1 scalar for this? I’d go with a G-11.”

Next, from out of nowhere, comes the dentist. He spends around five minutes stirring a mirror and dental probe inside my kids’ mouths while speaking code to the hygienist. The hygienists strike a balance between chit chat and complete reverence during these five minutes. I’m almost surprised when the dentist doesn't pat them on the head when he’s finished. 

It’s never as if I believe he doesn't care about my kids’ teeth, but I can’t help but sense the vibrations of commerce when I’m around him. It’s clear I’m getting a carefully timed two minute follow-up after the exam that maximizes his turn over. I can’t help but see him in a captain’s hat, laughing hysterically behind the wheel of his yacht as he steers it around some crystal-clear Caribbean bay. It’s all just kind of creepy. It’s as if he sticks a straw in my neck and sucks out a little bit of my soul - like I’m a juice box with a dental plan.

I’m not complaining too much. The girls like going to the dentist, or at least they don’t seem to mind it. The free dental gear and a prize at the end of their visit helps. I noticed this time Allie skipped the prize. She used to always get a huge ring or a fake bug.

Julia picked out a parachuting alien.


Mom said...

Since I can't comment on the blog you addressed to me. I have to say it is my privilege to call you my son and to have given you an education that you have used to raise your are a kind ,gentle, loving man. What else could a parent ask for. And so it will go!!
Love you, Mom

Isabel Phelps said...
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