"I may perform root canals, but at least I'm not a member of Congress!"

In honor of Root Canal Awareness Week, Dr. Alan Goldstein offers his take on how to cope with being the person who performs the highly detested root canal.

Mar 18th, 2013
112th Congress

By Alan Goldstein
March 18, 2013


The 112th Congress (Photo from Wikipedia)

Even though we poll very well in terms of the most respected profession category, up until now, we have yet to be loved when it comes to the actual procedures we perform. The public, it seems, doesn’t like root canal procedures in particular, and this stereotype has been reinforced over the years. Just think of the expression “I’d rather have a root canal than die/go through natural childbirth/have an ingrown toenail treated” and the list of unpleasant things goes on and on. For decades, comedians used this root canal business to get a laugh – or at least a predictable grimace. Personally, I’ve always seen this as cheap shot, but my hurt feelings aside, this dental slur continues to be used. I’ve been working on becoming less sensitive for the past 30 years.

But finally, we have been toppled from the top of list of things the public likes least or finds most unpleasant. And who has saved us? The 112th Congress. I quote from a recently released report from the respected Public Policy Polling firm:

Facing low approval ratings after a historically unproductive 112th session and a series of last-minute showdowns over fiscal matters, Congress is now less popular than root canals, NFL replacement referees, head lice, the rock band Nickelback, colonoscopies, carnies, traffic jams, cockroaches, Donald Trump, France, Genghis Khan, used-car salesmen and Brussel sprouts.

When asked if they have a higher opinion of either Congress or a series of unpleasant or disliked things, voters said they had a higher opinion of root canals (32 for Congress and 56 for the dental procedure), NFL replacement refs (29-56), head lice (19-67), the rock band Nickelback (32-39), colonoscopies (31-58), Washington, D.C. political pundits (34-37), carnies (31-39), traffic jams (34-56), cockroaches (43-45), Donald Trump (42-44), France (37-46), Genghis Khan (37-41), used-car salesmen (32-57), and Brussels sprouts (23-69) than Congress.

So what is our takeaway?

The next time a patient or someone you are chatting with at a meeting or cocktail party says something snarky about you or our profession, you might reply, “At least the public views me and my work more favorably than Congress – and I am whole lot cheaper and more efficient than Congress!”

Either you will be viewed as a nut case or a serious student of Public Polling Policy and then the conversation can move on to more serious matters like the Super Bowl, Reality Shows, or the Oscars.

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