By Craig Funston
In my clever column about careers last week, I forgot to mention perhaps the actual worst job out there. This particular vocation isn’t based on emergencies or blood (read: ambulance attendant)–at least in the main—nor does it involve being hung out to dry in the wind of popular opinion (read: public official).
No, believe it or not, this nightmare job is steady, lucrative, necessary, and convenient. The career, of course, is that of a dentist. I thought I would spill the beans before the usual revelation at one-third down the column, just in case you couldn’t wait.
The job is steady, because everyone has teeth—or at least they start life with teeth at some point. I know they literally don’t start life with teeth (thanks, but I’ve been through the whole teething trauma nine times), but ivories generally show up within the first eighteen months.
The job is lucrative, because there are a lot of dental plans that pay for very expensive procedures; and if you don’t have a dental plan, you feel the pinch even more (even though it’s cheaper), as the cash comes out of your wallet directly. Just wondering if that’s why the professionals wear masks: When charging that much to clients, would that be considered a hold-up?
The job is necessary, because those good teeth at age two become riddled with cavities, abscesses, and other breakdowns by the time the kids are teenagers. Filling, pulling, flossing, and cleaning them are an unfortunate consequence of poor dietary habits.
And lastly, the job is convenient, because it is the most logical reason for a kid to skip school all day– for a half-hour appointment. I have never quite grasped why moms often makes mid-morning appointments, then allows the child to take off the whole day. For the patient in question, it’s small-time pain (the appointment) for big-time gain (missing school).
Dentists, like gravediggers, will always be around, even in tough times, it seems. Dentists and medical doctors represent the health component of our society, and there will always be a need to be healthy—or at least attempt to be so.
It’s one of life’s delicious ironies: We care so much about our health that we don’t actually care that much about our health. (Maurice, let me expand: If we actually cared about our health—you know, what we ate and didn’t eat, including what passed through our mouths—we wouldn’t need to see the medical professionals as much as we do.)
But despite the steady, lucrative, necessary, and convenient aspect of being a dentist, you wouldn’t catch me dead being a “Dr. Funstunned, DMD.” You might say that I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it.
Can you imagine the following? Every day is consumed with looking into peoples’ mouths, smelling their rancid breath, working within a confined space of the width of one’s hand (unless it was my Aunt Bob’s mouth—then there would be room for lots of fun).
Can you imagine the monotony of doing the same thing every day—drilling and filling, freezing and wheezing—eight hours a day? There really is no opportunity for even small talk; and forget the big stuff. All responses would have to be monosyllabic grunts, with jumpy eyebrows.
My local DMD guy tried to talk to me earlier today about one of his favourite subjects: the Calgary Flames. I think he misunderstood my groaning, gulping, and gagging for affirmative answers. Or maybe he thought I was a Flames fan, what with those monosyllabic grunts and jumpy eyebrows.
I was ready to “bring up” another subject (my breakfast), but that would have been really messy.
I am always impressed with the support staff that these guys (and gals) surround themselves with. In fact, in many cases, they do most of the preliminary work, sometimes even more. Like doctors with well-trained veteran nurses, dentists would be severely hobbled without their hygienists and assistants.
They’re usually better looking, too, and that helps relieve some of the pain.
However, the art of dentistry has come a long way since the ’60s, I must say. I don’t know the costs, of course, because my parents paid for everything back then. All I know is that so much has changed, from room decor to techniques to reading materials—even to what each professional is wearing.
Mind you, pain is still pain, no matter how sweet the surroundings.
For me, I think I will stick with what I’m doing, and that includes teaching in a classroom. After all, it’s very steady, fairly lucrative, and certainly necessary. And oh, it’s also absolutely convenient: Just need to encourage more moms to make appointments for their darlings, just to give me a break.
Their pain would be my gain.