On Jan. 3, Reddit user helloitsme72 asked dentists on the site, "Why do you talk to your patients while your hands are in their mouths?" Dentists provided explanations, while other Redditors chimed in from their perspectives as patients.
"I'm fresh out of dental school. We were taught to engage with patients and build a rapport."
"We talk to you to get your mind off of being in an uncomfortable and vulnerable position. I mostly ask closed-ended questions."
"It depends on the situation. You may not like when we talk, but with other patients, it may be their only form of comfort. Dentists being silent, minus spouting off a bunch of dental jargon can make the experience an unpleasant one. I’ve always felt like dentists should take a couple years’ worth of psychology courses before going into dentistry."
"Sometimes I'll do it when I need to distract a patient; they'll mumble an answer, get frustrated by the garbled sound, and completely forget that I'm doing something that had, up to ten seconds ago, been bothersome. It makes their visit a little easier since they'll recall that I'm a dummy that talks a lot, rather than the dummy that hurt them."
"My patients tend to concentrate on what's going on in their mouths, which doesn't help them relax, so I talk to them and ask questions. Every now and again I pause to let them answer the question, then go back to work. What I find is the patients become distracted from the procedure and instead concentrate on joining in the discussion."
"Open-ended questions asked are purely by mistake...I'm aware you can't answer, but sometimes I slip up and and ask real questions...sorry!"
"I've actually gotten pretty good at interpreting what my patients say with my hands in their mouth! Also, it makes me laugh."
"Our office has headphones and we always ask patients if they'd like to listen to music. If we need to talk to them, we simply pat them on the shoulder. It helps the patient and it doesn't bother us at all. Definitely ask!"
"I understand the yes or no questions, but the open-ended questions always baffle me. Today my hygienist was asking about my holiday, but knew I couldn’t answer. It always seems strange to me."
"I choked once when my dentist asked me an open-ended question. I typed it on my phone and then shoved it in his face because he didn’t notice me gagging."
"One dentist I knew would give you all the small town gossip, and, man, was he up on all the stories. No inputs required from your side, unless maybe you could contribute some story later."
"If I allow myself to even acknowledge what they're doing, I'll faint, so I have to be distracted by small talk."
"My dentist mostly asks yes/no questions. He also has the best and loudest laugh I've ever heard, so it helps put people at ease. Seriously, I can hear him laughing while I'm still outside and I instantly feel better about being there."
"Look, it could be worse. Once, my dentist and hygienist were talking while I had something in my mouth. They said, 'I saw a documentary about a big ship that hit an iceberg and sank.' 'Oh, yeah, I can't remember what it was called, but there was a movie about it in the '90s.' 'Yeah! With Leonardo DiCaprio. What was that even called again? Ugh, I can't remember what it is!'"
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.