A million dollar smile

clatterI went to see my dentist last week as my teeth were feeling rather sensitive.

I must say, the practice I go to is extremely professional and friendly. As soon as I’m through the door, I’m treated like a king. “How are you Mr Goh, haven’t seen you in ages.” “Would you like a cup of coffee?” “How’s the family?” I’m also wowed by the latest magazines and multi-media presentation devises in the room.  After a short but pleasant conversation in reception, I was soon in the dentist’s chair.

Dentist: Two of your teeth are decaying from within and they’ll have to come out. Let’s make an appointment for the treatment.

Me: Through suction tube.. “Ooorgaaa”. Translation: “Okay”.

Dentist: But hmmm… you’re old fillings look at though they all need replacing. It’s not good to have mercury filings. Research show that there is a link to Alzheimer’s. I could do it with cheaper material but porcelain fillings are the best. They cost about £6oo per tooth and there’s about eight that need doing.

Me: I haven’t got that kind of money at the moment. It’s tough having two kids at Uni and one on the way there.

Dentist: Just for today, I can give you a two for one deal!

Me: Tempting but I’m afraid I need to do the sums first.

Dentist: We have a loan scheme.

Me: Hmmm I rather not. What if I just go with what’s covered by my insurance?

Dentist: It won’t be as nice but let’s talk about a plan later. (Looking back in my mouth) Wow, your teeth are not straight. You know, we also do adult braces now. We can have those fitted for you but they are not under your insurance plan either.

Me: I might consider this once, my kids are out of my hands!

Dentist: Okay but you deserve a great smile.

Me: Later… may be…

Dentist: Once I’ve exacted both these teeth, its best to have implants done. This will stop your other teeth from spreading out and leaning. Unfortunately, this not covered by your insurance either.

Me: Well, I guess, this will have to wait too.

Dentist: Don’t deny yourself a nice smile. You deserve it.

As I drove home that day, I felt rather deflated. While I was royally treated, I didn’t get the feeling that my dental practice had my best interest (dental health) at heart. Yes, I have to admit that they are great practitioners, but it felt more like I’ve just been to a time share presentation than a health-care professional. The experience left a sour taste in my mouth (no pun intended!).

The following words I read sometime ago came to mind:

“As commercial practices and the language of market transactions spread into education, medicine, religion, politics, art, sport, leisure, the family and into our constructions of love, affection and personal identity, so commerce and culture become inextricably combined”. J Deeks, 1997*

Am I the only one who’s uneasy about living in a society where the motivation for civil relationships is based purely on commercial gain, rather than a spiritual or humanitarian vision?  Deeks’ words seem prophetic now. More than ever human relationships are being commoditised. In todays’s world, it seems that the answer to building good/better relationships is “customer service”.

Is too late?


*Deeks, J, 1997, Another Brick in the wall: Business metaphor and educational practice, Seminar paper at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, on language, values and the global market

3 thoughts on “A million dollar smile

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