Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting Your Teeth Drilled

Getting Your Teeth Drilled

How often have you heard someone say “I’d rather go to the Dentist and get my teeth drilled”?  Fact is, nobody would ever choose to get their teeth drilled in lieu of some other unpleasant event or experience. Frankly, I’m not sure if that’s a knock on dentists or the fact that many of us areoverly sensitive. And let's face it, even though Novocain is always an option, it’s rarely offered.  That’s what was going through my head as I prepared for my visit to a new dentist last week.

Being away from home, I was also away from my regular dentist who I’d gotten used to.  The thought of going to and getting used to a new dentist caused me enough anxiety to put it off; and the more I put it off the more I needed to find a new dentist, which caused more anxiety. And it’s always the unknown that scares me the most.

 A colleague at one of my clients here suggested I go to the NYU Dental School – there the students work under the supervision of faculty dentists, and they practice on patients like me as part of their senior year studies.  How’s that for a real dental ‘practice’. It seemed like a good idea right up until the ‘student dentist’ called my name in the waiting area. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting old, but that kid looked awfully young!  I mean, how much could they know, and how much have they experienced, and how many patients have they really had???  It wasn’t easy to release my white-knuckled grip on the waiting room chair and I walked behind that student into the examination area like a man going to… you know, get their teeth drilled.

But then an amazing thing happened. This “kid” was great.  She examined my head and neck, under my tongue and around every tooth, and was genuinely interested in learning about me.  Every part of this experience - the X-rays, the deep cleaning, the needle and the Novocain, her overall manner – was so un-dentist like.  The faculty was around to answer questions and reassure the patients, the student dentists were cheerful and smart, and the visit was over before I knew it.  It was anything but the feared trip into the unknown.

And then it hit me: they’d been studying all the latest techniques, and they’re doing this for grades - so why shouldn’t they be good?  I’ve done lots of college recruitment and been so impressed with all the students I’ve met and recruited over the years, so why should these students be any different? I guess it’s because we have this jaundiced view of dentists as well as the fear of the unknown.  But that’s unfair.  Just as unfair as all the other snap judgments we make about any number of things we don’t generally like or understand.

There are some lessons here: don’t be so afraid of the unknown, don’t make snap-but-uniformed judgments, don’t be afraid to try something new, have faith in the recommendations of friends, and don’t judge a book by its cover. Society is slowly turning over every aspect of the world in which we live to the next generation, and if we’ve done a good job preparing them then they just might surprise us by doing things differently and better.  If you get the chance to work with, train or mentor a student, do your best to prepare them for the real world that awaits them. From my experience with these next-generation dentists and hygienists, soon the trip to the dentist may not be like getting your teeth drilled.

My message this week is about always being prepared for and positive about the things that await us in life:                                                                                                                                        

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” -Maria Robinson

Mary Therese Winifred Robinson (born 21 May 1944) served as the seventh (and first female) President of Ireland, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner and member of the Irish Senate.

How often have you felt badly about something you’ve done?  When that happens, you feel badly immediately – right?  And then you’d like to take it back, and do it over.  But getting to do things over is generally not how life works.  That’s why it’s usually better to stop and think before acting – not unlike a carpenter who measures twice and cuts once.  But hey – we all make mistakes, so when that happens, it’s best to own up, fess up and apologize immediately. That’s why it’s usually best to approach everything as if it’s leading to a new ending. To do that, you have to think about what you want the ending to be, even before you get started, and then work thoughtfully and carefully towards it.  That’s the best way to avoid having to think about starting over, because you can’t go back and start over – you can only start right and work towards a good ending.

Stay well!

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