More often than they're lied to, dentists feel like priests working a confessional. Patients break down and admit their sins, asking forgiveness and promising to floss every night and never even look at a Milk Dud again.
I didn't grovel to my dentist like a child this time, but I do carry some baggage from a brace-faced middle-class adolescence. I still think of a dentist as an enforcer of habits, a test to be passed, a guardian of my fragile chompers. But the next thing my dentist told me changed that.
She said that she's not my Mom.
Of course she thinks I should floss every day, cares about the well-being of all of her patients' oral ecosystems, and is proud that my employer offers a dental plan, but at the end of the day it's not personally consequential to her if I'm flossing. She doesn't lie awake with her presumably plaque-free gum line and perfect-toothed husband passing quiet judgement on my habits while thumbing through the pages of Dentist Monthly.