Dateline: TORONTO—Mock Your Dentist Day has come around again and millions of North Americans are celebrating by standing outside their dentist’s office, hurling insults through loudspeakers, and holding up signs accusing dentists of highway robbery.
This day honours the audacity of dentists for charging an additional thirty dollars, on average, just for tapping a set of healthy teeth a few times for under a minute—after the hygienist has already done all the work, scraping and polishing the teeth.
“I remember the first time I was truly appalled by my dentist,” says one man camped outside his dentist’s office. “Sure, my dentist used to rip me off like the rest of them, but he always had a smile on his face. My teeth are healthy; I mean I have no cavities or anything like that. So after the hygienist was done cleaning my teeth the dentist didn’t really have any work to do.
“But he pretended like he did and that, of course, was his crime. He’d take a metal instrument and tap my teeth with it absentmindedly, peering inside my mouth for an abnormality he knew he wouldn’t find. I used to mentally count how long that part of the dental check-up lasted. It was usually no more than half a minute or so. As I said, though, at least he wore a smile on his face and kept it light by making some amusing remarks—while he effectively reached into my pocket and stole thirty dollars from my wallet.
“You see, on top of the charge for the cleaning, my dentist charged thirty dollars for what he called the Dental Examination. I moved houses a few times, saw different dentists, and they all did the same. For those of us with healthy teeth, it’s organized crime and there’s nothing we can do about it if we want our teeth professionally cleaned, because they won’t let the hygienists work on you unless you consent to letting his holiness the dentist perform his bogus exam.
“Anyway, my funny little thieving dentist was on vacation during one of my checkups, so after the cleaning another dentist walked in while I lay back. Without saying a word, he sat down, tapped my teeth a total of four times, and after exactly sixteen seconds he stood up, pronounced my teeth healthy, and hurried out like he was oh so busy.
“‘Surely he’s not going to charge extra for that so-called exam,’ I thought. ‘Surely he couldn’t live with himself if he did so, couldn’t drive around in his BMW without puking if he happened to catch a glimpse of his pudgy rat face in the rearview mirror.’
“But no, as sure as the sun rises every morning, there was the thirty dollar charge printed on the bill. That dentist didn’t even do me the courtesy of telling a joke or two to distract me from the brazenness of his scam. And that’s when I’d had enough. So you’ll find me out here every Mock Your Dentist Day, telling them in the immortal words of the singer Sam Roberts, ‘You can take what you want from me, but you better believe that I can see you.’”
On the annual Mock Your Dentist Day, infuriated patrons throw eggs and tomatoes at the brick exteriors, pound on the windows, demanding there be no charge for needless exams, and shout slogans such as “We pay for work! Do more than smirk!” “Your job is funny! Return our money!” and “Hey, you dentist, we’ve been menaced!”
For their part, dentists are bewildered by the uproar. One asks, “Don’t they know how much we sacrificed to get through dentistry school? I had to memorize a lot of stuff and everything. No one would go through that hassle without knowing they’d be above the law afterward. So we extort a few extra dollars from our healthy patients. I have bills to pay. My third luxury car needs fancy new hubcaps.”