I hate the dentist, MY dentist rocks, but I still hate the dentist.

I am a big baby. I can take the worst of muscle pain but the dentist plain freaks me out. So, I usually wait to go until there’s something REALLY wrong. Like this last time. For the first time in my life, I had five cavities. I’ve never had a cavity or anything before, but my chronic avoidance of the dentist cost me this time.

As I sat in the waiting room, nervously chattering my teeth, I picked up a copy of US News & World Report and looked at the cover; it was the “phobias” issue. Flipping through it, I came upon a very disturbing picture of Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man under the dentist’s knife. (I’m also an OCCASIONAL country music listener and had heard Blake Shelton’s “Some Beach” on the way; it talks about the dentist drilling before the Novocain kicks in.)

Suffice it to say that by the time the dentist got to me, I was reduced to a quivering blob of primal fear. (Let me also say at this point that of ALL doctors I’ve ever visited, Dr. Geb is the most professional and respectful by far of his patient’s time. He ALWAYS starts on time.) As he adjusted the mask for my shot of Nitrous Oxide, he told me about his dental assistant. She was a dentist in her home country, but upon immigrating to the US discovered that her license would not be valid. So she is paying her way through school while working as a dental assistant.

As the procedure progressed (a tooth coring in preparation for a crown), I was struck by something amazing. The dentist never questioned his assistant. He would ask for something and it would appear in his hand. Every time, exactly correct. Their chairside manner impressed me with both its professionalism and compassion. Here I am, a 300 lb baby, I would probably even laugh at myself if I saw me, and they were awesome.

There’s nothing that can substitute for or replace professionalism. The number one quality and characteristic that anyone can ask for in the people that work for them is the ability to be able to hand off a task and know that it will be done right; the first time. That’s the lesson that I’m taking away, my observation from the dentist’s chair.

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