And miss out on all the fun?

Editor's note: Jimmy Earll (not his real name) is a practicing dentist in Northern California and a stand-up comic who performs all over North America. His column, Laughing Gas, appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

What is all this talk about eliminating human subjects from the clinical part of state board exams? Getting a dental license is supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would want to join our oral fraternity. Using live patients during the boards is a rite of passage. Membership to our exclusive brotherhood (and sisterhood) should be tough.

Those of us who have been around awhile have watched the evolution of clinical requirements that must be satisfied before graduating from dental school. In my day, we had to do six bridge cases, one ortho case, and one perio case. Most schools don't require anything close to this today.

And now to miss out on the live-patient exam experience during the boards? Sacrilege, I say!

The money alone you spend on the average board is enough to weed out the riffraff. Let's do a tally:

Board fee: $500
Dental assistant extortion fee (comes with sack lunch): $1,500
Class II amalgam patient extortion fee: $100
(later extorted more money with the threat to cancel): $150
Class II backup patient extortion fee: $100
Crown patient extortion fee: $150
Crown backup patient extortion fee: $100
Perio patient extortion fee: $100
Extortion lab fee: $200
Bribe money for clinic floor examiner (optional): ($200)

The day I took my clinical exam, my crown patient was a no-show, and I didn't have a backup. So I called Mr. X, the missing patient. The second he answered the phone I knew I was doomed.

"Did you forget?" I asked. "You're supposed to be here at the school for possibly the most important crown of my life."

"Oh, sorry. Something unexpectedly came up."

I hung up the phone and secretly wished a truck would unexpectedly run him over.

I started to feel dizzy, and that's when my $1,500 assistant pulled out a sack lunch and a can of Sprite and made me take a 10-minute break. I hadn't eaten all day and that $1,500 can of Sprite saved my life. My assistant said she'd seen it before and that's why she always made a sack lunch for all of her dental board candidates.

Fortunately, a classmate had a backup crown patient he didn't need. I gave the patient a share of the extortion money and tied him to the dental chair. In the end, I passed! But I swear I lost 10 years of my life that day.

So I ask you: Why would we do away with this system and miss out on all this fun?

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2009

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