Essay Non-Fiction posted January 28, 2019

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A strange but true dentist

So You Think You Have It Bad

by beencounter

One day at work while eating licorice, a dental filling fell out. The problem was, my family didn't have a regular dentist even three years after moving. Let's just agree it wasn't a high priority. Looking online to find a dentist near our home, I saw AAA Dental Services. Envisioning that we could use this new doctor as our family dentist, I called and surprisingly an appointment was available right away. In hindsight, this should have been my first clue.

At the dentist's office, the waiting room was empty. I was given a clipboard of forms to fill out. The first page was for dental insurance. Completing that, I flipped to the next page, which was bright orange. In bold, black letters, a notice said that Dr. Smith suffered from a medical condition called Tourette's Syndrome. So what, I thought. We all have our problems. In a hurry to complete the forms, I paged to the next one about dental history.

When I handed my clipboard back to the receptionist, she said, "The doctor will see you now." This really should have been another hint at what was to come, but I was in a hurry and wanted to get back to work.

In the exam room, I shook hands with Dr. Smith as his assistant clipped a paper bib into place. Dr. Smith was in his thirties, medium-sized, with short black hair. He had pictures of his family on the walls. I noted one of the pictures was of two dogs. Great, I thought, Dr. Smith is a dog person. Our family loves dogs.

As Dr. Smith poked the dental ice pick around my tooth, he said one word in a shout. At first I thought maybe I heard wrong, because Dr. Smith's assistant stood on the other side and appeared as if she hadn't heard anything. And Dr. Smith acted like he wasn't saying anything, either. I eyeballed the exam room and no one else was there. Was I nuts? Surely I was imagining things.

But there it was again loud and clear, the f-word. Yes, that four-letter word starting with the letter "f." As Dr. Smith worked, he now repeated that word over and over again, like a chant.

At this point, my strategy was to keep Dr. Smith talking, because when he spoke in conversation everything was normal. My strategy was short-lived once Dr. Smith began working. I discovered a new truth: it's difficult to maintain a conversation when dental instruments are in your mouth.

Well, so much for Dr. Smith being our family dentist, especially since our son was 4 years old. I quickly envisioned Sam repeating the word at daycare. That could not happen. I was already in the Dutch with the daycare director, but that's another story.

Dr. Smith finished his work and as I exited the lobby, the f-word was heard faintly coming from down the hall.

I had a little curiosity about Dr. Smith. Did he just have a word of the day and I happened upon f-word day? So I returned for a cleaning. I found that Dr. Smith had only one word to chant. Mystery solved there.

I got to thinking about Dr. Smith's life. He wouldn't be able to ever see a movie in public. I could just envision the problem of him at the grocery store. Church didn't make much sense, either. I wondered how he made it through high school without getting beaten up. I pondered how Dr. Smith made it through exams in dental school.

Researching about Tourette's Syndrome, I found that many have to be heavily medicated to minimize outbursts. I was truly being callous in my reference to Dr. Smith. That man has a hard life, indeed.



This story is true; the names were changed to protect the innocent.

Thank you to Mr. Jones for the artwork.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Mr Jones at

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