I have a regular Dentist, and a Periodontist. So twice a year I go for a cleaning at my regular dentist, and twice a year I go for a cleaning at my Periodontist’s office. The difference is that at the Periodontist’s, it’s not called a cleaning, it’s called periodontal maintenance, which for me means I get my dental insurance to pay for 4 cleanings a year instead of 2. So when it comes to regular dental hygiene, I’m a frequent flyer.
But I’m still capable of being shocked, as I was today while sitting in the waiting room waiting for my periodontal maintenance, I was called into the treatment room…
…by a man.
Yes, my dental hygienist was a dude. I don’t, in all my years, ever recall seeing a male dental hygienist. There is obviously no practical reason why there shouldn’t be male hygienists and in fact they apparently have been out there for a while. According to the New York Times, 90% of dental hygienists are women so while women are the overwhelming majority; men are making an impact in the field.
You go guys, keep breaking that glass ceiling.
Now, my hygienist, or maybe I should say, mangienist, was a total professional and as far as I could tell from a patient perspective, did a great job. However I admit being uncomfortable with the fact that he was a guy, and I say that with the total awareness that any uncomfortable feelings are totally irrational. It shouldn’t matter if my dental hygienist is male or female; I should just be interested in a quality cleaning by a well training professional who makes me comfortable with the process.
But I wasn’t comfortable.
I’m not the only one. A recent survey of dentists showed that 30% would not hire a male dental hygienist, even if he was the most qualified. That does sound unfair but they’re probably worried about patients being uncomfortable with one. I’m used to my dental hygienist being a female so I fall in that category.
Interestingly, the fact that a woman is a dental hygienist seems to make her hotter than what her normal sexual market value would be. It’s an occupation that’s worth at least a 1 to 1.5 bump on the standard 10 point hotness scale. I’m guessing because the actual practice of teeth cleaning seems intimate. She’s in your mouth; she’s leaning over you and invading your personal space in a major way. Your hand, innocently holding onto the arm of the chair, brushes against her as she moves around. You didn’t move; she did. Did she brush against you on purpose?
Often after a dental cleaning you’re ready for a cigarette.
With a guy hygienist, that entire experience is thrown off, and reduced to merely a transactional dental service, like buying toothpaste only more time consuming and inconvenient. Actually it’s worse, because your entire typical expectations of having your teeth cleaned by a woman are inverted. Suddenly intimacy becomes intrusion. And where do I put my hands? Not on the arms of the patient’s chair. In fact, I was originally going to name this post, “Help! There’s a Man in my Mouth!” However thinking about the possible Google searches that would be misdirected towards me, I decided against it.
Now I know this is ridiculous. My dentists and dental specialists for the last 20 years or so have all been men, and I’ve never felt any awkwardness or discomfort based on that. So there is no logical reason I shouldn’t be able to adapt to a simple cleaning being done by a man. But it is an end of an era; an era in which I could be titillated by regular oral maintenance.
And yes, I flossed.