The Nod

When I see a patient, they generally need a dental device that fits with a tolerance of microns. “How does that feel?” I’ll ask. To check, they bite down once. After that, two things can happen. If you got it right, they’ll nod. You live for that nod — you spend hours in lab for that nod. I’ve spent entire afternoons separating stone from mould just to get the nod. I’ve redone impressions, asked for third opinions, agonized over silly little things, for the nod. The only thing better is when your instructor comes by and you get to show them you are, in fact, not an idiot and here, look, there’s physical proof of it — see for yourself, they’re nodding.

And then there’s the other result: your patient bites down a second time. A third. And again. They squint their eyes slightly, intensely concentrating on something distant, just above their feet. “It feels, a little weird.” This isn’t always bad; sometimes the fix is a small alteration — after all, the tolerances are small. But in dental school, the fix is frequently complicated and time-consuming. That look your patient just made means your appointment just became a lot longer. A “learning experience” is the colloquial term.

Some days, things go well. You get The Nod. Things fit so beautifully that you forget all the times they didn’t. For me, that was today. I call this a “Mister Rogers Day”. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood wasn’t a utopia, BUT problems were manageable, people were friendly, and things got resolved. Such days are refreshing.

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