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Typical Day

Dora Driller gulps down the last of her wake-up coffee, and plunks the cup into a sink filled with last night's dishes. She can't believe she's this wiped out, but yesterday's last appointment was chock full of glitches and gremlins. First the dentist was behind schedule; then the patient twitched and squirmed like a puppy on a grooming table. After they finally got the patient out the door, Dora had to prep the treatment room for today's appointments. By the time she got home, it was well after 7 and her dog was squeezing his legs in desperation.

And now she gets to do it again today. Dora trudges to her closet for another clean scrub top, and then remembers she was supposed to do laundry last night. Hope the smock she wore yesterday isn't too nasty—they're going to see it again today. Finally she's dressed. Dora slaps together her lunch from dinner leftovers, and grabs a breakfast bar as she races out the door. Did she remember to brush her teeth? Hope so. She keeps a toothbrush at the office for mornings like this.

Dora weaves through morning rush-hour traffic, and swings into the tiny employee parking lot with two minutes to spare. She throws her lunch into the fridge, freshens herself in the employee restroom, and logs onto the computer for the day's schedule. Rats—there's an 8am appointment. Dora scrambles the dentist's tools together, hoping she'll beat the patient to the treatment room. No dice—the receptionist has already settled the patient into the chair. Now Dora's playing catch-up.

Good thing that patient was reasonably cooperative, and he didn't gnaw on the dentist's (or Dora's) fingers, either. Dora's not so lucky with Patient #2. That appointment starts off well, as the patient is used to getting cavities filled without getting numbed up first. Not this time. The dentist is well into his work when the patient throws up his hand to get the drilling to stop. Odd way to get someone's attention, but with a mouthful of cotton, what else can he do? He wants some anesthetic before he'll allow the procedure to continue. No problem—except it will turn a quick-and-dirty filling into an ordeal that will last almost an hour. Now Dora and the dentist are behind on the next patient, who of course is already here.

But wait—there's more! The dental supplies deliveryman has arrived with his weekly bounty of sutures and substances. Dora has been asked to check the supplies against the order the practice manager submitted. Assuming the two lists match, Dora must then squirrel away the supplies so the staff can easily find them. Dora can't keep the driver waiting, as he has a full slate of stops today. Of course, she can't keep the patient waiting, either; that will further back up the schedule. Dora somehow manages to get the driver out the door, and makes a mental note to put the supplies away before she leaves for the day.

One more patient before lunch. This one is a squirmy five-year-old who wants a piece of candy before he stops whining. Probably not the right place to try that tactic. Fortunately, the dentist comes to Dora's rescue with a colorful story about how the candy gremlins wreak havoc on little kids' teeth. Whatever. It works. The dentist completes his inspection of the little tyrant's mouth and sends the kid on his way. Finally—lunchtime!

Our fortune says, "You will begin eating indoors."

Dora wolfs down her lunch and checks her email on her smartphone. She had thought about running an errand during her lunch hour, but she just doesn't have the energy today. Finally she can't delay anymore—she must prep the treatment room for the dentist's first afternoon patient. This after-lunch slot is always booked, as patients have learned the dentist runs on schedule for this one. First up is the second half of a crown, which means the dentist pops out the patient's temporary crown and installs the permanent one. He's got to get this first fitting right—no time for a redo after he slathers on the crown adhesive. The procedure goes smoothly, although Dora spends some time removing hardening stray adhesive from the far corners of the patient's mouth.

Next up: a new patient who needs a full set of x-rays. The dental hygienist has already finished cleaning the woman's teeth, so Dora can complete the x-rays before the dentist pops in to inspect them. Dora has recently received her radiology certification, so she can tackle this part of the workup instead of having to call a coworker. First, Dora plops a heavy lead apron onto the patient to minimize the woman's radiation risks. Dora has trouble fitting the x-ray plates into the patient's very small mouth. Finally, she crams them in; however, Dora must redo the images twice because the patient keeps moving her jaw. Dora finally gets some clear images, but this delay has backed up the dentist again. Good thing he only has to inspect the woman's mouth today; any fillings will have to wait.

There'' gold in them thar teeth.

Now to the next patient—actually two more patients, because both have arrived at once. Dora assists with two relatively easy fillings, and the end of her workday looms tantalizingly close. Not so fast. An emergency patient has just dashed in with a filling that broke off at the gum line. He's in a lot of pain, and he heads out of town for business tomorrow. Dora preps him for what could be a long, tedious filling replacement. Today the stars line up in her favor, however, and the emergency filling procedure goes more smoothly than expected. Not too much debris to suck out of the patient's mouth afterward, either.

However, Dora's work is still not finished, as the boxes of dental supplies still stare at her from the hallway. She spends another half-hour unpacking boxes and stacking supplies onto neatly labeled shelves. This uber-organized system is a product of an anal-retentive practice manager with too much time on her hands. Finally, Dora finishes her work and clocks out at 6:30pm.

Now Dora has to scratch together something for dinner. She must also find time to wash her scrubs so she has something to wear to work tomorrow. And she still has to face her dog, who by this time may have let loose on the floor. Maybe a burger from the drive-through—now the source of Dora's dinner—will make him happy. She pulled the same trick the night before, although tonight she might have to bring home a burger with double meat. And there's still the matter of the dirty, smelly scrubs.