Crossroads and crosswords
When we switched from one dental software program to another, there were times when I wished I had “Shazam” for my brain. If you're not familiar, it’s the phone app that immediately recognizes and identifies songs. In my version: “If only I could just press on my nose, and the word I’m looking for would pop up.” … But at least I could take solace in the fact that even those in the office who were familiar with the new program had plenty to learn from an updated version.
While many of my coworkers have turned to Sudoku, Game of Thrones or even Pac-Man for fun and mental agility, my tastes run to traditional crossword puzzles. Beyoncé could walk past me in an airport and I'd probably miss her. Most likely because I was looking down, concentrating on a seven-letter word for Jay Z's wife. In the unlikely event that you find yourself with an older child — minus an electronic device — waiting in your operatory, the ADA has several dental themed crossword puzzles available for free. Just download and print to keep on hand. The ADA also has coloring sheets for the younger crowd, as well as Sesame Street activity sheets. Find these and more at www.mouthhealthykids.org.
Most clinicians groan at the very thought of a dental software update. Truth be known, the changes over the years really have made programs more user friendly. In a nutshell, they've become more intuitive. On a parallel note, when I was told that our Crest + Oral-B rep would be stopping in for a lunch-and-learn, my knee-jerk response was: “My power brush is only two years old, and it even has an app, what could possibly be new?” Just like computer software, dental products are evolving at a very fast rate of speed. The new Oral-B Genius power brush is half the weight of its predecessor. It also has a great nonslip rubberized shank. In the past, I would direct seniors with agility problems toward a child-size power brush, but this device really suits a mature patient. For anyone with the bit of arthritis in their hands, the weight difference is significant. The great appeal for a young patient is its educational value. The brush can sync with a downloadable app to assist patients with their technique. Oral-B includes a suction cup phone holder for your bathroom mirror. While you’re brushing, the areas touched are simulated on model teeth on the phone screen. The app will tell you how long you've brushed and where improvement is needed. The adjunct “fun app” enables you to download your face with hilarious colorful graphics added on. I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud in the bathroom. As a matter of fact, I can't remember ever laughing while I brushed my teeth. The last thing I expected was to see my face transformed into a cheetah with butterflies swarming around my head. If you would like to try the brush out for yourself, there is a dental professional trial promotion at www.dentalcare.com. A state-of-the-art power brush at about half price? You can't beat it.
“Interactive” is the future of technology. You will become your own hologram. Ten years ago, when we added a new panolypse machine to our practice, I was told it sent the image to my operatory computer by Wi-Fi. To be honest, I wasn't even really sure what Wi-Fi was. Now it's a household word. Imagine what multidimensional images will be used for patient education in another 10 years. At the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C., there are bathroom mirrors that look like ordinary mirrors, but they also enable you to watch television. I took a photo of my reflection while CNN was on. It made me look as if I were being interviewed in my bathrobe by Wolf Blitzer. (Check out Séura SMART Mirrors at www.seura.com.) When I think about the Oral-B visual aid, now physically attached to a home mirror, I can see how this could evolve. We will likely have our computer and/or television screens incorporated into home bathrooms. Seniors with multiple medications could switch on the bathroom light, and the mirror will tell them what meds to take at what time. “Herbert, did you take your amoxicillin premed sweetie?” (hashtag slash toothy smiley face slash PattyWYourFavoriteHygienist).
For the sake of health, we can give Big Brother a pass on intrusion issues. (I got a kick out of my laptop sending me a chime and a pop-up reminder that it was Ground Hog Day. Intrusion has its jolly moments.) I envision a day where we can hand a patient a mirror, press a button, and #30 with the broken cusp magically becomes a wonderfully restored crown. Computer images are great, but a hand mirror would eliminate that awkward “let-me-get-my-glasses” moment. And it would allow for patient participation. When patients can hold and control something, turning it as needed for a better view, they don't feel so much like they are being lectured.
I wanted a unique experience for a milestone birthday. In an attempt to refocus and realign my achy body parts, I spent some time visiting a Mayan shaman on a street named “Avenida Hidalgo.” My treatment consisted of an assortment of massages. At only $30 a pop, I can assure you there were several. I even signed on for the sacred mud of the Yucatan to be smeared all over me. This birthday was a biggie, I was leaving no volcanic hot stone unturned. Depending upon how adventurous you are, there are ancient Mayan ceremonies that allow for the rebirth of the soul. The rebirthing is inclusive of an intriguing moment when a singing shaman dances with bells attached to his ankles. I'm pretty sure the herb that was being burned at the edge of my palapa was sage, but I couldn't say for certain (wink wink). The first shiatsu-trigger-point massage nearly brought me to tears. My right shoulder shouted: “Pull that bracket table closer to you, you ninny!” I came back to work as a happier and more enlightened health-care provider. “Temazcal” is an eight-letter word meaning “steam house” — a structure akin to a womb that facilitates rebirth.
Much of the fun from crossword puzzles lies in the awareness of how a human being can go from “I have absolutely no idea” to a small but completed project within a few minutes. The mystery of the brain being completely clueless one moment to educatable the next. The satisfaction is immediate versus the lengthy process of a dental software upgrade. A confection for the brain versus a seven-course meal.
“Sometimes there’s a great joy after a bit of pain.” So reads a sign at Villa La Bella on Isla Mujeres in Quintana Roo, Mexico.