The Dentist & The Unacknowledged Impact

It had been a great visit to the dentist.

Yes, I got a filling. Yes, my insurance covered about 11 percent of it.

But wait.

What, the dentist asked at the top of the appointment, did the endodontist say about your thirty-second molar? I answered and the dentist, who had a five o’clock shadow and sharp Adidas sneaks, listened like I was sharing A-one gossip.

When I was in the chair, we talked about how green tea stains teeth, how he’s a Rooibos drinker himself. A parade of vicious looking tools went into my mouth and with each, he explained what he was doing, what I would feel. I wondered if he taught; he was caring the way good teachers are.

At the end of the appointment, the dentist stood up, pulled his mask down to his neck. “You’re a great patient, “ he said. And for some reason - bashfulness? wanting to seem modest? chatting with the dental hygienist? - I didn’t acknowledge it.

It wasn’t that it didn’t mean anything to me. It did. I even called my mother after I left the office to tell her that she had birthed a great patient. At a party that evening, I told a few friends and a few strangers what the dentist had said.

I flossed with special vigor before bed. I felt sad that I didn’t thank the dentist. And I became aware that our kind words, even if unacknowledged, can still have an important impact.

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