Distribute some Christmas Cheer - Ideas for Dental Christmas Gifts
I’m not a fan of Christmas.
As far as I’m concerned, Scrooge had it right up until point the interfering Ghost of Christmas Past stuck his nose into where it wasn’t wanted. (And yes, I’m aware that I just sounded like a scriptwriter on Scooby-Doo).
I would have liked to have seen Derek Acorah’s version of A Christmas Carol, where Del is possessed by three different Christmas spirits, but who all strangely speak with the same angry Liverpudlian accent, accompanied by a voluminous rain of spittle. There would have been no happy ending – merely a commercial for over-50’s funeral insurance.
I can’t quite finger the moment at which I suddenly became a seasonally affected misanthrope, but overwhelming Yuletide cheer makes me nauseous and I can never wait until the whole business, and I include the New Year celebrations, are over. Having said that, I definitely think I became an enthusiast and devoted purveyor of ‘humbug’ when I was a dentist. I always found the run up to Christmas pretty exhausting, trying to fit in all those last-minute dentures and emergencies, temporising broken bits and packing oozing root-canals till I could figure out how to wriggle out of doing root-canals in the new year. In the middle of writing that sentence, my son spookily rang to ask my advice on fees he had been quoted by his new dentist to fix a molar he has macerated. He’s been temporised till the new year.
From the dread of the Christmas ‘do’ to the antlers and elf’s hat one corporate practice manager tried to make us wear in the run-up to the 25th, I was spilling over with overwhelming apathy by the time I had to inevitably cover the emergency sessions on the 24th. I say inevitably. It does get like that when you volunteer for it. It meant I didn’t have to get involved with putting the Christmas lights up (yes, I do insist on leaving it till that late to do that). And don’t get me started on Secret Santa.
My dread of ‘Crimbo’ as some people toe-curlingly insist on calling it, drove me to desperation one year. I really didn’t want to go through a re-enactment of the previous Christmas ‘do’ where I inadvertently insulted a chiropodist’s wife during a joint ‘celebration,’ so instead I suggested that as a practice we forgot all about a drunken Christmas meal and the embarrassing unsynchronised disco convulsions afterwards, and instead, went into Europe for a long weekend break, with partners. Amazingly, that went down quite well, and until I sold the practice, we’d try and drink Europe dry for three days per year, instead of attacking craft beers in some soulless hotel in the rural Cotswolds.
Having said all that, I quite like giving presents. I’m not that keen on receiving them. Like the comedian Sean Lock once remarked about himself, out of my mouth, gratitude just sounds sarcastic, no matter how sincerely I think I’m expressing it. “Ooh! Windscreen washer. Wow. Thank you.”
Similarly, I was probably not exactly effusive when receiving bits of dental kit from principals at various practices I worked at as an associate. This was most likely due to the fact that most of the items of merchandise I took delivery of were pretty basic – like a temporary crown kit or a couple of ultrasonic scaler tips. Yes, it was nice to have them but felt I shouldn’t have been short of them in the first place. Now if someone had bought me an apex locator or an electrocautery unit, I’d have oozed appreciation.
As a practice owner, I tried to be generous to associates and I do remember the smiles of gratitude when I equipped one associate to provide full orthodontic services and another when I first bought an early digital radiography system. Fair enough, it was pretty basic stuff by today’s standards, but at the time, it stretched the practice’s NHS pockets quite considerably.
But frankly, the gadgets weren’t likely to produce wild excitement, particularly in me. So, what WOULD have given me a dental thrill at Christmas time, in terms of gifts? If I had a limitless budget, what would I have liked to have given to colleagues to produce gurgles of delight?
This is my fantasy list of gifts I would have loved to have distributed to colleagues at Christmas time.
This will only mean something to clinicians of a certain age, but do you remember Dr Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy? He was the chief medical officer of the starship USS Enterprise in the original series of Star Trek. He had something called a medical Tricorder, which was a scanning device that he was able to use on patients to pick up physiological malfunctions, pathologies and harmful organisms just by hovering it over the body accompanied by a 1960’s spacey noise. Well as fantastic as it sounds, the race is on to produce a real Tricorder by a number of manufacturers and a prize was offered of $10million by Qualcomm for the Tricorder X Prize and the X Price foundation will support development in order to bring a Tricorder to market.
The Tricorder that I would like to give would be dentally specific and would be capable of investigating and diagnosing pulpitis or infection and non-vitality without actual pulp testing. The Tricorder would pick up buried roots or unerupted teeth and identify pick up early dysplasia’s and periodontal pockets. It would also do a perio charting for you with the twist of a dial. On the mere the flick of a switch, the Badd Dental Tricorder would go into anti-litigation mode. It would home in on patient brainwaves and would alert the dentist if the patient was likely to sue or be a total pain in the bum.
Space Age Gift
And while we’re on space-age stuff in dentistry, a cheap, very portable laser that replaces the drill completely would be the perfect gift for the associate who has nothing, apart from a second-hand Audi.
This laser could even be operated by dimwit Republican Congressman and would work on soft tissues, eliminating pathogens in pockets, it would perform gingival electrosurgery and remove caries, with no need for local anaesthesia or taking out a loan from the International Monetary Fund. The laser would also take an occlusal slice off a tooth in 0.5 seconds flat and would do a crown prep in 9-10 seconds.
You could also get big laughs by popping your head into a colleague’s surgery and use it to melt her wax try-in while her back is turned.
Be Nice To Your Nurse
Another present which I’m sure would be gratefully received, if not by the dentist, then certainly by his or her nurse, is some sort of 100% effective splash baffle. I was thinking of something as effective as a Parisian Policeman’s riot shield, but a tad more clinical looking.
Being scientists, you will all know this, but you know that thing you showed your kids, when you combed your hair, ran the tap very slowly and then bent the water stream with your comb? Well why wouldn’t that work with a turbine aerosol or an incompetent rinser?
You would have a series of floor or ceiling mounted cones that emitted strong magnetic pulses, invisibly protecting the dentist and nurse from the patient’s spitting, with a wall of repulsive electromagnetism. Again, for a laugh, you could up the current so it splashed straight back in the patient’s face, like a ceramic urinal.
New Approach To Endo
Now yes, his vacuum cleaners work ok and his Airblade hand driers are pretty good, but why isn’t Sir James Dyson doing something useful, like sorting out bloody root-canals?
I mean, here we are in the 21st century and we’re plunging into root-canals like we’re trying to unblock Donald Trump’s toilet (he flushes 10-15 times a go, you know) and surely that is making work harder for ourselves even if we are fastidiously irrigating the canals with the dental equivalent of Toilet Duck.
What I would REALLY like to give to a dentist for Christmas is a mini-vacuum with the power of a Dyson. You seal it over your access cavity and it just sucks every bit of necrotic pulp and munge out of a non-vital canal system as well as eradicate any bugs hiding in the dentinal tubules. Much easier. That would be job done on a four-canal molar in about a minute. How the Hell you fill it then is anybody’s guess. I haven’t thought it through obviously, so you have to regard this present as a last-minute gift bought from the local Tesco garage at 11.00pm on a Christmas Eve. But someone ought to get to work on it.
One of the biggest causes of conflicts leading to complaints and litigation is poor communication and, in this day, and age, with all the warnings ad advice we get from our indemnity organisations, that is amazing.
The problem lies in the way we talk to patients. We think we’re giving a straightforward explanation to patients about treatment and procedures, but we don’t appear to be speaking the same language. I have a very close Spanish friend but can’t speak a word of English. The other day, I offered to pick up her parents from the airport. They can’t speak English and although I have met them many times, it promised to be a difficult couple of hours. So, I bought a rapid Spanish audiobook course from the iBooks store and after an intense three-days of ceaseless immersion in the course, all I could say with any confidence was, “I have been to Madrid.” I also found out the reason why my Spanish dentist friend says “bineers” instead of “veneers,” but that’s by the by.
In the end, I found an App on the App store which allows you to speak into your phone and within a few seconds it translates your speech into whichever language you choose. That way you can hold a reasonable conversation in a robotic voice.
I wouldn’t feel comfortable just giving an App for Christmas, but if the software was put into a handy little pocketable box, that would be a godsend to the dentist keen on keeping his indemnity subscriptions at current levels.
The sort of thing I’m thinking of is:
“Implants can be affected by periodontal breakdown in a similar way to the natural dentition and should be maintained with scrupulous home care and subgingival plaque removal.”
This translates as:
“If you don’t look after them, they’ll drop out and it won’t be my fault.”
Other Fabulous Gifts
I believe another gift that would be well received is an automatic alginate dispenser and mixer. It gives exactly the right dose of powder and water and then whips it up just as you like it. That would eliminate inconsistency in mixes and would reduce in-surgery conflict. I mean, even a dentist could use it. Why is that not a thing?
Other insane ideas I’ve had are for a machine that loads viruses into patient’s phones so that you can track them when they come for their next appointments. On Google maps, you would be able to see where they are and whether they’re going to be on time. If they’re not, you can direct them past the traffic.
Another gift idea is for a course in OVERNIGHT orthodontics, a ‘no-touch’ scaler, driven by air (and probably willpower) to avoid jumpy patients.
My favourite is a robotic dentist. You just wind the latter up (it doesn’t need batteries) and you go and have a coffee and a cake. When you get back into the surgery, it’s all done apart from giving the postoperative instructions and administering a sedative to the patient.
I bet all I get for Christmas is socks.