I just want to make one thing clear:  I don’t have anything against dentists per se.  The only thing I have against dentists is that whenever I write about what I don’t like about dentists, they write in all offended.  Like they’re worried that my column is going to cause people to stop going.  It won’t.  People will only ever go to dentists when they need to and that’s it.  No one’s going voluntarily.  The dentists must know that. 

But that’s it.  Everything else I don’t like about dentists is not personal. 

For example, I actually like my current dentist as a person.  He’s a nice guy, and he knows what he’s doing.  Before I came in last week, I was in pain, and after I left – well, I was also in pain.  But then I took Tylenol, and a few hours later I felt better.  And I’m somehow attributing that to him.  Though he was the one who suggested the Tylenol.

But here’s why I don’t want to be there:

  1. Every time I go, I need a root canal.

I go for my semiannual checkup about once every three years. And the reason it’s so sporadic is that every time I go, I get a root canal.  How many root canals do I want?   

Okay, so I don’t actually intend to come in so sporadically.  Basically, I keep pushing it off because I don’t have time, and then we pass a point of, “It’s been so long that there is no way it will not be a root canal and this is not a good month to pay for that so I might as well push it off, because it’s not like it can really get any worse,” until I push it off to the point where it’s two root canals.  That’s how it can get worse. 

What happened to me this time was that a filling fell out, which you think means the dentist didn’t use a good enough adhesive, but according to the dentist it actually means that I have a cavity too close to where an older cavity was, and now I need a root canal.  What’s he going to do?  Drill this tooth again?  He already drilled this tooth. 

At least I think it was a filling that fell out.  It might have been part of a tooth.  I don’t know, because I lost it. 

  1. It’s a huge time sink.

The dentist wants me to come every 6 months, but this is a massive time sink, because it’s not like I can get away with writing 2 dentist articles a year.

My dentist actually lives just a few blocks away from me, but his office is 25 minutes away.  He’s like, “Why don’t you come in more often?”  And I say, “I don’t have time to drive 25 minutes each way and ALSO spend time in the chair.”  And he says, “Why not?  I do this every day!”  He’s getting all offended…  So I say, “You get paid!”  And he says, “If you’d come more often, you’d save money.”  And I say, “You have yet to prove that.”

Yes, I can occasionally write a column about it, which is more than most people can say, but a lot of that is lost when I’m in the chair, thinking of funny ideas, and I can’t write them down, and I can’t say them into my voice recorder because they’re going to sound like, “Arar ar a rara,” and he’s going to say, “What?” because he’s right there, in the way of my voice recorder, and I’m going to say something to the effect of, “I’m not talking to you,” and he’s going to say, “Why?”

Also, as a parent, I feel like I’m already at the dentist all the time.  My wife takes the kids to the doctor, and I take them to the dentist.  That’s the deal.  That way, she can write down their heights and weights and shots and new information, and I can come home and say things like, “He has 3 cavities, but I have no idea where.  Don’t worry; the dentist knows.”

  1. Dentists are a whole separate thing from doctors, for some reason.

And I’m not just saying it should be one guy because my wife does the doctor visits.  I wonder when in history it was decided that dentist was going to be a separate profession.  Like with most other maladies, your PCP will at least take a look at it, and if it looks like it will be a big demand on his time, he’ll maybe say, “Go to a specialist.”  He won’t even look at your tooth problems.

Not that I like going to the doctor any better, but in a way it’s not as bad.  I don’t go to the doctor and walk out paying $2,000 unexpectedly. 

“I didn’t even know I was sick!” 

Like they decide, “We’re going to have to operate on your arm right now!” and they give you a shot, and you can’t feel your arm for the rest of the day. 

What other specialist tells literally everyone to come in twice a year?  Imagine the foot doctor says everybody in the world has to come in twice a year.  And that you have to floss your toes twice a day.  I would say that sounds like a scam. 

  1. Dentists have their own vocabulary.

Dentists try to use terminology to make you panic less, but it just makes them less trustworthy.  Like they say you’re going to feel some “pressure”, which is just another way of saying, “stabbing”.  By the 4th or 5th shot, you’re not believing them anymore.  I know there’s a needle involved.  Stop calling it pressure.

“I don’t want to cause you any discomfort,” my dentist says. Yeah, this is how I sit sometimes at home when I want to relax.  I just cram an umbrella into my mouth, and a wet-dry vac, and a full-length mirror, and some Medieval torture implements, and I have two people sit unbelievably close to me while I keep my mouth open for extended periods and try not to swallow. 

They’re so close, I feel like I should help. 

“You want me to hold something for you?” 

  1. The constant X-rays.

Outside of the dentist’s office, I’ve had maybe five X-rays in my life.  I mean, obviously, X-rays are a necessary evil, because the dentist needs to know what’s going on. He can’t just pop the hood and have a look.

Also, I guess this one isn’t totally on dentists.  Usually, the hygienist is the one who does X-rays.  The dentist has them do that because hygienists are easier to replace.

  1. I can never get enough Novocain.

For me, the biggest pain is the drugs. I’m never numb enough. The dentist always has to give me like 4-5 shots, minimum. 

Regular doctors don’t do this.  They have an anesthesiologist standing by and doing math to figure out how much tranquilizer it takes for a person your size, but a dentist relies on a combination of guesswork and leaving it up to you. 

So usually, at some point you just have enough of the needle, and you figure you’re going to get through what’s left by clutching the armrest.  That’s why there are armrests at the dentist.  Those were introduced before Novocain.  There are no armrests in the hospital operating room.  They put in armrests in situations when there’s going to be stress, like in airplanes, cars, and the barber for some reason.

  1. You can’t see what’s happening.

Some of the stress is that you have no idea what he’s doing in there.  The whole thing is numb.  They could be taking out all our teeth and putting them back in in a different order; we don’t know.  It’s not like they have mirrors on the ceiling.  And it’s not like you can ask too many questions.  You can just sit there and think, “Is something burning?  It smells like something’s burning.”

  1. Dentists split their focus.

You think he’s working on you exclusively, but he’s not.  He has several exam rooms going at once, so he can examine one patient while he’s waiting for another to come in and put on his bib and sit in the chair and adjust his yarmulke so it won’t fall off and in a third room he has a hygienist refilling the mouthwash and putting out the dental tools so the patient won’t think they’re the same ones he used on the previous patients, and in a fourth room he’s waiting for someone’s cement to dry, which could take several days, and in a fifth he’s waiting for someone to decide if he’s had enough Novocain.  So you’re lucky if he remembers where he’s holding with you. 

That’s why he checks the computer every time he comes back into the room.

  1. They see you at your worst.

You think the doctor has seen you at your worst?  I think the dentist has.

Firstly, your dentist is going to take one look into your mouth and tell you that no matter how you’re brushing, you’re doing it wrong.  He’s like, “Do you even own a toothbrush?  Here, take one of mine.”  Then he leans over you for an hour, not saying one word about how much you’re dribbling on your chin.  And then on the way out, you ask, “So how long do I have to wait before eating?” which always sounds like that’s all you were thinking about the whole time in the chair with your mouth open:  “When can I eat?”  And the dentist is like, “No wonder his teeth are so bad.”

It’s a good thing dentists don’t write columns about us.


Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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