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Humor in the Dental Clinic

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             “Establishing rapport” has become one of those phrases that you hear over and over in dental school. The patient provider relationship is built on trust and communication, and the first step is to build a rapport with your patient to make them feel comfortable. So many patients have anxiety coming to the dentist. At this point who wouldn’t? Despite dentistry ranking as one of the best careers year after year, it is portrayed negatively in the media time and time again. Little Shop of Horrors, Horrible Bosses, The Whole Nine Yards, even kids movies like Finding Nemo do not show the dentist in a positive light. This is part of the reason why establishing rapport with your patient from the initial visit is so crucial. So how do you do it? How do you break down barriers between yourself and your patient? 

            For me, the answer is humor. Making jokes with patients is one way (but not the only way) to make the patient feel at ease. It has been claimed for centuries that laughter has health benefits, however only recently have scientific studies been done to try to prove this. In an article by Dr. Mora-Ripoll, four potential mechanisms of action were used to describe the effects of laughter. First, laughter can lead to direct physiological changes to the muscular, cardiovascular, immune, and neuroendocrine systems which can have short term or long term benefits.  Second, laughter can lead to a more positive emotional state and this may lead to a direct improvement of health or lead to a better perception of health. Third, laughter can optimize one’s strategies for coping with stressful situations. Finally, laughter can increase one’s social abilities which can lead to better stress management and health benefits. Furthermore, Dr. Mora-Ripoll described laughter as having numerous direct effects including: exercises and relaxes muscles, improves respiration, stimulates circulation, decreases stress hormones, increases the immune system’s defenses, elevates pain threshold and tolerance and finally, enhances mental function.

            While the benefits of laughter and humor are vast, in the dental office, a simple joke can ease the tension and make the patient feel more comfortable. That is why for this blog, I asked some of my classmates to see the best jokes and one-liners they use with patients to try to get a giggle, or maybe an eyeroll (we’ll take what we can get…) Here is what I got:


Mike, resident pun maker of Stony Brook D3 class had a few to add:  


After finishing an arch of perio probing, I ask the patient if they like Bon Jovi and then say “Because we’re half way there….”


When I finish their prophy, I say their teeth are clean enough eat off of


When treatment planning, I ask if they want an amalgam, composite or crème filling.

Andrew had one to add as well:

Sorry that lidocaine tastes so bad, but if it tasted good it would be candy cane


Or you can stick with some regular dental jokes:


Q: What did to the tooth say to the dentist?

A: Fill me in when you get back


Q: What do you call a bear with no teeth?

A: A gummy bear


Q: What did the dentist get for an award?

A: A little plaque


Please let me know any jokes you use with your patients that get a laugh! And for more funny dental jokes, check out some of the dental humor boards on pinterest!



Mora-Ripoll, R. (2009). The therapeutic value of laughter in medicine. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 16(6), 56-64. 


Totally agree with humor as anxiety relief & I love the jokes, classic knee slappers like that are so bad that they're good.
dbmack at 2/9/2015 1:23 PM