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Does the very thought of a dentist set your teeth on edge? Is pudding too challenging to chew? This contract should help mitigate your pain.

AGREEMENT entered into this ____ day of ________, 20__ by anxious Patient and drill wielding Dentist.

WHEREAS, Patient views dentistry as legalized S & M; and

WHEREAS, Dentist enjoys pillaging mouths almost as much as yachting and golf;

NOW, THEREFORE, Dentist and Patient hereby agree as follows:

1. Dentist shall instruct his receptionist not to ask, "How are we today?" If we were well, we would not be here.

2. Dentist acknowledges that Patient's time has a modicum of value. Accordingly, for every minute Dentist keeps Patient waiting, one dollar shall be subtracted from Patient's bill. Double, if the waiting room is filled with kids.

3. Dentist shall not try to persuade Patient that X-rays are safe. Such assurances lack credibility when piped in by a Dentist who's encased in protective gear and cowering next door.

4. Dentist shall not say "You have so many fillings, I can't read the X-rays." Otherwise Patient shall say, "Your invoice has so many dollars, I can't pay the bill."

5. Dentist shall not do any work until Patient's mouth approaches actual numbness. Dentist concedes that a dinner engagement eight hours after dental excavation isn't the best time for the Novocain to kick in.

6. Patient apologizes for not noticing that last week's filling isn't flush. Next time, Patient shall work harder at distinguishing bad occlusion from excruciating pain.

7. Dentist agrees that a mouth crammed with blood-soaked cotton and dental weaponry isn't capable of a clear "Yes" to the question "Does it hurt?" To improve communications, the following definitions are agreed on:

a. "Urghh." -- "It hurts a little, but I think I can stand it."

b. "Uuurrggh!" -- "Maybe you should give me another shot."

c. "UUUURRRGGGH!!" -- "If you don't drop that drill, I will kill you."

8. Dentist promises to avoid the phrase "This may sting a bit," prior to inflicting serious pain. Violations of same shall be reciprocated.

9. Dentist shall refrain from pacing while Patient spits out blood globules, filling scraps, and miscellaneous digestive organs into what looks suspiciously like a urinal.

10. Dentist shall improve his drool-mopping skills and buy a saliva-sucking machine that actually sucks saliva.

11. Dentist hereby banishes the words root canal, caps, and periodontist from his speech. Additionally, Dentist's examination of Patient's X-rays shall not be accompanied by head shakes, dental lingo such as "tch...tch...tch," and/or giggles.

12. Patient shall not be required to gaze at X-rays and/or pretend to see the cracks, craters, and crevices which Dentist proudly points out. Patient doesn't understand the X-rays, doesn't want to understand the X-rays, and thinks they look like ink blot tests. In any event, if Dentist is happy, Patient isn't.

13. Dentist shall not grin while discussing abscessed teeth and/or extraction. Moreover, Dentist shall contain his glee while figuring his fee.

14. In the interest of good taste and an improved IQ, Dentist shall switch from Muzak to Mozart. Dentist shall also upgrade the office artwork by ditching the happy-tooth cartoons his kids drew right before they left for Yale.

15. Dentist shall stop instructing Patient to floss. Everyone knows about the plot to boost dental business by flossing out flawless fillings -- The Oliver Stone film is up for an Oscar.

16. Dentist will stop trying to impress Patient with glossy, high-class magazines. Patient doesn't want to read "Town & Country." Patient wants to get the hell out of here.

17. Dentist shall not prescribe aspirin for post-visit pain. Dentist shall prescribe something that works.

18. Dentist shall not attempt to pacify Patient with parting gifts. In lieu of "free" floss and a toothbrush, Patient will accept a ten percent discount off the bill.

19. This agreement shall be deemed effective for all future dental work that Patient may be desperate enough to seek.

WHEREFORE, We affix our signatures.

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
1st Published Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine

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