Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Molar Pattern Baldness

I am losing my hair. In fact, I've done a survey of the dentists in this country (mostly just by looking at them at conventions and meetings) and found that the rate of hair loss among dentists are much higher than the national average. A few reasons have been suggested for this phenomenon, including prolonged exposure to high temperatures caused by the patient-overhead lamp, inhaling mercury fumes from the amalgam filling mixtures and the usual bogeyman, stress.

Well, I am not too convinced about the lamps and (non-existant) mercury fumes theories, but one thing I do know is that it is indeed very stressful to be a dentist. Our workspace is an extremely small enclosed area which tends to be smelly and full of bacteria. The people we deal with generally hate us and if possible never ever want to see us. Even when we are in a social setting, the moment we reveal our profession, people's usual response would be to discretely cover their mouths and try not to maintain eye (to mouth) contact. Is it any wonder that the only other profession to generate such negative responses is rubbish collection? Even the trash man gets Raya and CNY Angpows as a token of appreciation for what he does. And what do I get? A lifelong prescription for Propecia.

It's a thankless job that not many young people consider as a preferred career path, and is often the 'Plan B' should one fail to get into medical school. A medical student once asked me why we "need to study up to 5 years to learn about 32 teeth. What, 6.4 teeth a year?" Yes, I realise that medical doctors save lives. And get featured in tons of movies and drama series on tv. And are usually portrayed in a very positive light, heroic even. Whereas us dentists are more often than not the bad guys; the one who is having a torrid, murderous affair with the receptionist. Or the psychopath whose masochistic tendencies cause his patients to literally die of fear. Either that or all of us look like Mr. Bean!! The Dental Council ought to make Rowan Atkinson pay for that comic farce he made.

And to top it all off, kids are terrified of us. You have no idea how sad it makes me feel whenever a child of four or five enters my office with that look of utter fear on his face even though he has never met me or stepped into a dentist's office before. No matter how hard I try to be friendly and try my best to assuage his anxiety, I can't help but feel the negative vibes from him and that really affects me. It also doesn't help that after an hour of coaxing, bribing, and persuading the kid to open his mouth and make my life just a teeny bit easier, his mother complains that the bill of RM25 is too high to justify the treatment of extracting "a tooth so loose I could have done it at home myself".

Unappreciated, unrespected, feared and oftentimes loathed. Even my own hair doesn't want to be around me. Sigh.


Anonymous said...

Erm given a choice I wanna be a dentist .... :)

When can do u check my teeth ? Hehe

AG said...

hmmm... the chair lamp can really cause you too lose hair ah? See, that's why i don't do it fulltime:) Well, there were a few shows about good dentists, one was 'A whole 9 yard' and the other one was where the dentist inherits a bunch of alaskan dogs? Hmm...OK, OK, I got the point. But i do notice that man dentists get the bad light, female dentists in shows are either 'kelefe' or nice and sexy;)-mei mei

Shah said...

Don't fret bro, I'm sure people who are perfectly happy with their choice of a profession are a minority in this world. To be honest I wished that I was doing something else too. Maybe I'm getting a little too old for working all night long 6 to 8 times a month. But it's a bit too late to make a drastic career change now, so the best thing to do is to make the best of what we're doing at present, and be the best that we can be at what we're doing for our own sake and for our patients.

Amazonman said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I just read your On-call posts, made me feel a bit ashamed of myself....compared to your ordeal, mine's like a walk in the park. Chin up bro. Better days will come.