Color Code My Pain

I’m always amused by a dentist’s ability — and my dentist, in particular — to translate human language around any amount of cotton guaze, metal instruments or suction devices. It doesn’t matter how gutteral my answer, my dentist can translate it with 100% accuracy. But what I didn’t realize was that if I listened closely — and left my “drilling happy place” for a moment or two — I could do some of my own translations. And trust me. Your dentist is communicating about you, for you, and sometimes in spite of you, all while masked, goggled, and robed within inches over your face. It’s all there for the observant mind and attentive ear.

Case in point…

Courtesy eStore

First of all, know that I love my dentist. She’s smart, funny, gets to the point, and let’s me show her all my new iPhone apps when I come in. But during my last visit — while in the chair — I observed my dentist and her assistant in discussion about whether or not to use “blue” or ” yellow”  for the injection procedure (blue or yellow “what” was left up to my imagination). “Blue” was the answer. Hmmm… she’s going to be injecting my gums with novocaine, so I’m assuming they must be talking needle size. BINGO. Score one for Alan. Engaging her in garbled conversation, she acknowledged that that was exactly what was going on.

“A patient doesn’t really want to know what guage needle is going into their body, so we color code and can talk right in front of them.”

“Your cover’s blown.”

“It was bound to happen. Open, please.” (Note the sense of humor I appreciate)

Next observation.


“Thz dztf taztz luh bpen golahd”

“Yes, the numbing agent is supposed to taste like Pina Colada. It’s to remind you of beaches and summer so that you don’t focus on the injection point or the prick.”

First, she gets points for translation. Second, she loses points for mentioning injection and prick in the same sentence.

“Bpen golahd? Weh-eh?”

“Yes, Pina Coloda. Really.”

“Itdth nah woh-ng bah weh.”

“It will. The novocaine’s on it’s way.”

“Bluh, wah?”

“Yes, blue, smart alec. Now quit talking and open up.”

More observations…

Courtesy cocktailsattiffanys

While my dentist was out on maternity leave (story of my life in recent years at the office… subject of another post), her associate had made a recommendation for a procedure on a few of my teeth. Every time we revisited the proposed process after she returned to work, my dentist would call out that the recommendation had come from her associate. I finally asked her if she was truly in favor of the procedure minutes before she was ready to begin. I was ready to bail.

“Of course I am.”

“Every time you speak to it, you refer to the fact that your associate made the recommendation, so I’m getting the sense that you don’t agree with it and don’t want to proceed. Do you really feel this is the right procedure?”

“I’m so sorry. I absolutely feel this is the right procedure and would have recommended it myself.”

“Thank you. Based on how you kept acknowledging your associate, I was getting the impression you were not on board.”

“Not the case at all. I’m really sorry.”

Then, while a mold was setting up in my mouth in preparation for the procedure, she engaged her assistant in a conversation about how they should be very careful in how they are communicating to their patients to avoid any misunderstandings or lack of confidence.

“Ah ih dah wuh.”

“Oh, sorry about that. Occupational hazard. Didn’t meant to talk about like you weren’t here. I just wanted to make sure we took this as a learning moment right while it was happening.”

“Gah ah kuh hep.”

“You’ll help more if you quit talking and let the mold set.”

That actually got a laugh from me, complete with a bit of a choke on everything in my mouth. From her? I’m pretty sure there was a smile behind the mask, because there was definitely a sparkle behind the goggles… at least in my translation.


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