Some people feel very anxious about going to the dentist.

I'm not one of those people who feels inherently bothered by having a dentist poking around in my mouth. Most of the anxiety I feel there stems from the perfectionist nature of dental hygiene.

When I go to the doctor, it feels like there are many, many factors that influence the various things the doctor looks at. Additionally, there's always some chance that my condition may have improved since the last visit. I might have eaten more vegetables or gotten some more exercise. I may have lost some excess weight. Some medicine prescribed last time may have decreased an ache or itch. An injury may have healed. If some bad news were to be delivered, there's a fair chance that my risk for that condition was highly influenced by genetics and thus not entirely "my fault".

By the time anyone is old enough to be fully responsible for their own health, no one is perfect, and there's always room to be healthier. There's always room for good news.

Teeth are different, though. Teeth start out perfect, and can only get worse because they cannot heal. Therefore there is no room for truly good news at the dentist: only neutral news ("keep doing what you're doing") or bad news ("you'll need to have this filled"). A patient at the dentist is like a straight-A student getting handed their next report card and wondering if this is the quarter they've ruined their 4.0. On top of this, dental hygiene is very closely tied to one specific habit, practiced alone from a very young age, so one cannot take solace in being able to blame one's genes.

It's not a kind system.

I suppose that as I get older, I may encounter a point at which normal doctor's visits become sources of neutral-at-best news, until at last the bad news cannot even be given directly to me anymore. It's just bad timing for the dentists, then, that their discipline gets this harshness as soon as grownup teeth come in.

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