An Environmental Plea to Dentists Everywhere

I visit my dentist several times a year, and each time, some member of his staff insists that I leave with a plastic bag which contains a plastic toothbrush in its plastic packaging, along with a plastic container of floss and a toothpaste sample. They simply will not take no for an answer.

Here’s the thing. I use a Sonicare toothbrush, and my dentist knows this, so I have no need for these toothbrushes. And I now have enough toothpaste samples in my linen closet to last the rest of my natural life. Okay, yeah, the floss I can use. But the rest? A heaping helping of plastic that the planet could do without.

I try to mitigate this. Recently my husband and I donated a gigantic pile of toothbrushes to a shelter, and will also probably do the same thing with 90 percent of the toothpaste samples eventually. But the product manufacturers could just as easily do this themselves and produce the same amount of good will.

Given the number of dentists in the world who give out samples, I have no doubt that somewhere, floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is an island of dental samples the size of the state of Vermont. And it’s all so unnecessary! Seriously, I’ve lost sleep over this. So here’s my plea to dentists everywhere:

  • Don’t have your hygienists force samples upon your patients that they don’t want or need.

  • If you insist on giving out said samples, do so in a paper bag, at the very least.

  • Even better: have your samples on display in the waiting room, and urge your patients to help themselves to what they need.

  • Prevail upon your dental product manufacturers to reduce their plastic packaging.

Please spread the word about this. It’s not a difficult change to make, but it would make such a difference.

Dental samples

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

The Dental Arts

I may be a bridgetender, but like an onion, I have many layers. I also have a degree in Dental Laboratory Technology and Management. I am fascinated with dental appliances and their fabrication. I graduated with honors. I had big dreams.

Not that those dreams went anywhere. After applying to 200 different labs with no viable offers, and after seeing that dental appliance technology is outpacing the little mom and pop labs that I hoped to be a part of, and after having a wrist surgery that would have made it extremely painful to do the fine motor movements required on a day to day basis, I wised up and went back to bridgetending.

But the fascination remains. So when I needed a crown replaced, I was delighted to see it’s entire design and creation chairside. We’ve certainly come a long way from the days when you had to get a gloopy, bad-tasting mold taken of your teeth, then come back weeks later to have a crown fitted that had been fabricated in an offsite lab.

Instead, they popped off my old crown, and took photographs of my teeth from every possible angle, and then, voila! A three-dimensional image of my teeth appeared on the computer screen. It was fascinating.

From there, Mary, the technologist, created a crown for me on screen. Make no mistake, this was no flimsy endeavor. This takes skill in both science and art. She has to have knowledge of oral anatomy and how various teeth interact with one another. And she also must create a final product that will not only be functional but also aesthetically pleasing. That’s an admirable talent.

I watched her create this tooth and enjoyed imagining her thought process. It was like digital sculpting. Leonardo da Vinci would have been intrigued. And proud.

She consulted with my dentist (a big shout out to Dr. Steven Lockett in Renton, Washington, and his entire amazing staff!) and did a few tweaks based on his suggestions, and then sent the data off to the machine for fabrication. I wish I could have seen that. I know that the machine carves the crown out of little blocks of some mysterious substance that is probably trademarked by the company that created CEREC, the CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) system that my dentist uses.

I could be wrong, but I think of it kind of like 3d printing in reverse. Instead of creating things from a bead-like substance, this machine carves it down from a cube. I mean, seriously, how cool is that?

In no time flat, my crown was hot off the presses, so to speak, and ready to go into my mouth. In it went, and off I went. Just another thing checked off my to-do list. And yet, when I think of the science and artistry that went into the whole endeavor, I still am filled with awe.

By the way, one of my favorite blog posts is the one I wrote entitled Cool Stuff You Never Knew about your Teeth.  Check it out! If you don’t learn at least one thing from it, I’ll eat my hat. With my brand new crown.

https _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_d_d0_CEREC-kronprep

Like this quirky little blog? Then You’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Rankin Bass’ Rudolph

I just watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, one of my favorite Christmas shows, for what’s probably the 40th annual time. I wanted to do something festive because I’ll be working Christmas day.

But being in a cynical mood, I’m noticing this year that this is actually a pretty cruel flick. It starts off with Rudolph’s father, Donner, criticizing him for something over which he has no control. And then Santa, who is the obvious leader and ought to know better, does the same thing. Then Donner tries to turn Rudolph into something he’s not by hiding his nose, and his wife goes along with it.

And then we meet Hermey, an elf who wants to be a dentist, while he’s being ridiculed by his boss, who not only belittles him for being different, but encourages all the other elves to join in. He even punishes him and threatens to fire him. It’s ironic, because Hermey is the only male elf that doesn’t have a nose like a light bulb. His boss tells him he’ll never fit in.

Then Rudolph’s team stands around calling him names, Santa berates his coach, Comet, even though Rudolph was the best flyer, and Comet, again the leading adult, encourages everyone not to let Rudolph join in any reindeer games. Clarice, Rudolph’s love interest, seems to be the only open minded one in the whole show. (Unless you count the rabbits, raccoons and birds who sing along with her). Clarice’s dad acts like a jerk, too.

No wonder they felt like misfits. We know that children’s contemporaries can be cruel, but even the adults are horrible. I would have run away, too. Thank goodness they found each other. The narrator said they didn’t know what they were in for, but if you ask me, home seems like it was infinitely worse than the cruel world outside, in spite of the Abominable Snowmonster and the crazy Yukon Cornelius.

And the Island of Misfit Toys is depressing as hell. There are all these perfectly delightful toys, and none of them want to be where they are. And I never could figure out what was supposed to be wrong with the doll.

In spite of all his horrible treatment, Rudolph does the noble thing. He sets off on his own so as not to endanger his friends. Heaven knows where he found that nobility. He certainly wasn’t shown any examples of it.

I always thought that the most distressing part was when Yukon fell over the cliff after Hermey removed Abominable’s teeth, because his dogs take the plunge with him. I mean, what did they do to deserve that? Animal cruelty at its worst.

Even after everyone apologizes to Rudolph, it seems that the only reason everyone is now accepted is that they have utility value. Hermey will be the North Pole’s Dentist, Abominable will be the tree decorator, and Rudolph is now Santa’s spotlight.

If I were to make a sequel to this story, I’d say that Rudolph and Hermey hit their teens and rebel like nobody’s business. They’re surrounded by basically rude and inhospitable “people” whom I don’t think can really tamp down their vicious streaks based on just one glowing Christmas run. This story may seem as if it had a happily ever after ending, but not to my jaundiced eye.

Ah, the messages we send to our children. Don’t even get me started on the Brothers Grimm. Bah humbug.

rudolph

More than Just a Case

Back in 1999 I had to have major surgery. I’d never even spent the night in a hospital, so I was terrified. So terrified, in fact, that for three weeks prior to the event I was clenching my teeth in my sleep with such intensity that my dentist told me that I had caused hairline fractures in every tooth in my head. The day before the surgery I had to go in and get a routine EKG and have a chat with the anesthesiologist. While I was waiting I could hear the staff talking about this case or that case, and I thought, “I don’t want to be considered just a case. My very life is going to be in these people’s hands.”

When it was finally my turn, the anesthesiologist came in and we talked about allergies and medical history and all the usual doctor stuff. He was quite professional and polite, and extremely efficient. These are all qualities you want in a person who is going to knock you out. But I wanted something else. As he was about to leave, I said, “Wait! One more thing.” He came back in and he looked up from my chart for the first time. I said, “Hi. My name is Barb. I have people that love me. Okay? And I have bad habits and I get impatient and people don’t always get my sense of humor and…Oh, hell, I don’t know. I just want you to know I’m a person.” He got really quiet. He sat down. He looked me in the eyes, shook my hand and said, “Nice to meet you, Barb. I’m Mike.”

That night, I didn’t grind my teeth. And the next morning, the surgery went off without a hitch. So to all doctors out there: I know you’re busy. But it doesn’t take much. Just a little humanity.

Female patient and male doctor(8)

(Image credit: blog.medicalcenterarlington.com)