Last week I went to the dentist for the first time in nearly a decade.
I was terrified.
But Dr. Baker is no ordinary dentist. He spent an hour and a half talking to me about my teeth, my gums, the irreversible damage of my zealous over-brushing, and why using a toothpick is number one on his list of good hygiene. He complimented my professionally-straightened smile and sniffed the white fuzz, aka plaque, coming off my teeth. 'Wow! Not even a scent! You've got the best-smelling bacteria I've ever encountered!' His laugh is reminiscent of an animal's happy snort at meal-time. When I groaned about flossing, he merrily chimed, 'You don't have to floss. We can pull every other tooth, and then, no flossing necessary!'
After this initial appointment, in which he painstakingly explained my X-rays, the anatomy of the tooth, and why ballroom dancing is an act of spiritual worship, I returned two days later for a cleaning. Again, he was impressed. As he began round one (of three) with the tooth scalpel, he marveled at how little tartar had built up over all these years (the perk of my vigorous brushing which, if continued unabated, would eventually wear the enamel down to the nerve). When he came to those sensitive places, he instructed me to let him know if I felt ANY pain whatsoever; he is so concerned about hurting his patients that he takes a half-hour walk after each appointment, to de-stress.
Dr. Baker sees only three people a day. He has no secretary, and answers all phone calls himself. He refuses to hurry. 'You're the most important thing in my life right now,' he says as he gently brushes my teeth, and he means it. He does not accept insurance, charges the lowest prices in the county, and genuinely loves his practice. His office is cluttered with paperwork, photos of him and his 'sweetie,' and a stereo that plays soothing classical music. Even though he is razor-science-sharp, often referring to the periodic table that hangs on the wall, it is his roomy heart that is most impressive.
After I paid him the discounted $40 (for having easy-to-scrape teeth), he congratulated me on my upcoming wedding to M (whose teeth he knows well).
'I've seen the Grand Canyon,' he said, 'and Yosemite Falls when they are roaring. But nothing compares to the beauty of a bride on her wedding day.'