witches and warlocks

Let’s face it. Dentists are as popular as a cloud of blowflies at an Aussie barbecue. And, it seems that this view is unlikely to change, at least until the sun runs out of hydrogen gas, plunging the earth into oblivion.

For instance, how many TV series or movies have you watched lately (or ever, come to think of it) with dreamy looking actors like George Clooney (this one’s for the girls) playing the role of the hero dentist, rushing into the dental surgery during the early hours in response to an emergency call to cure a blinding toothache? Can you imagine the scenario?

Dental Nurse (hastening through the surgery corridor whilst speaking in anxious tones): “Doctor Clooney, we’ve got a complicated crown fracture in surgery one; I don’t know how much longer the patient will last without a root canal!”

George Clooney (looking fab in batman – oops! I mean dental – garb) “Stay calm, Gladys and hand me that barbed broach; stat!”  

Or, how many Mills and Boon titles have you read (another one for the girls, I’m afraid) where the innocent lass gazes adoringly into the blood splattered spectacles of a Quasimodo, while he jabs a 31mm long needle into the dark recesses of her mouth and then proceeds to strip off her gum and drill away into the cavernous depths of her jawbone, to finally extract a non-regenerating part of her body?

I’m afraid that dentistry is perceived as a necessary evil.  It’s no secret that on entering the dental torture chamber, the atmosphere is thick with fear and the waft of secret, vile concoctions mixed by a young apprentice in a hidden corner. (In fact, studies have been carried out in the dental surgery using various scent masking agents, such as lavender, in the hope of easing patient anxiety.) The witch suddenly appears before you, masked, gloved, draped, and rubbing her hands together, impatiently awaiting her next victim. Medieval looking instruments are lined up on a stainless steel tray ready to probe and prod into the secret corners of your mouth. You are made to lie flat on your back, while uncomfortable and sometimes painful procedures are performed on the most sensitive part of your body. You are oftentimes numb, with fat fingers obstructing your only means of screaming for help…

Medical health professionals have “on occasion”, lightheartedly accused dentists of performing witchcraft rather than practising a science. This is based on the perception that a traditional, anecdotal approach is taken in treating patients rather than applying evidence based methods.  Interestingly, I came across a snippet  in the daily edition of the Goulburn Evening Penny Post ( published in 1936), reporting that a dentist from Tufts College indicated that the colour of a patient’s teeth acted as a warning to dentists in regard to that person’s nature. Bluish teeth were a sign of a temperamental patient as opposed to yellow teeth, which indicated a happy go lucky one. I can imagine the dentists at the time covertly examining the hue of their patients’ smiles during the initial checkup and blacklisting them accordingly!

Such an approach seems to be increasingly a thing of the past, as today’s dental graduates are trained to sift through the available evidence prior to deciding on the best treatment plan for their patients. However, unlike Medicine, where in simplistic terms, a pill can be proven to be effective or otherwise, dental treatment is fundamentally technical in nature. Therefore, it can be challenging to provide comparable strengths of evidence…


Fellow dental explorers

What do you think? Is today’s dentistry progressive? Is visiting your dentist a pleasant experience? And more importantly, does your dentist look like George Clooney?