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I had a dental appointment with a dentist this morning. This semi-annual visit mostly consists of cleaning the teeth. Occasionally, the dentist would tell me some work should be done to prevent possible problems, which I dread. As usual, a dental hygienist invited me into a compartment where she could clean my teeth. This time, I had a new hygienist perhaps because I had to change the time of the appointment three days ago. Like most hygienists I know, she was quite chatty, talking about her Thanksgiving Day and holiday shopping plans while occasionally asking me about my plans. Although I went along with the flow of conversation describing my plans, I thought it a little weird that I had to say something while keeping my mouth open. I do this mostly because for the sake of being social.

I believe dentists and dental hygienists are the most chatty health-care personnel. I wonder why this is the case. If they want to strike up real conversations with patients so that they might feel a sense of community, they should do so when they are placed in equal positions. Talking to person sitting on the reclining chair while his/her mouth wide open is not really conducive to real conversation. So, the real reason for them to be chatty is not to have a conversation. Rather, it seems the reason for their talkativeness is to avoid awkwardness of the situation, or to escape boredom of cleaning somebody’s teeth. I wonder if most patients are more or less fine with this situation. But, I realize some patients might feel that they were taken advantage of in a somewhat powerless situation. Some people who feel power from talking a lot might feel a little dissatisfied with the fact that they were talked at for 40 minutes rather than talked with. For instance, I saw such a patient this morning. While I was waiting my turn at the dentist’s office I overheard a conversation between the departing patient and the receptionist in which the patient kept on talking and talking about her first husband’s mother’s “special” lasagna. The talk was repetitive and rather meaningless. She did not even answer when the receptionist wanted to know in what way the lasagna was special. She was the talker this time. I wonder if she was in the mood for revenge albeit subconsciously.

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