I went to the dentist today for the first time in over ten years. I had some bad dentist experiences as a kid, so I've always been nervous about going. sk has been hounding me to get an exam, so I finally caved and let her make an appointment for me. She kept the date secret so I wouldn't worry about it, and sprung it on me a week or so ago.
I relived many of the nightmarish visions from my childhood today: the cramped rooms, the lead vests, the adjustable machines hovering above, below, and beside. Not to mention the gag-reflex, saliva, latex gloves in the mouth, and all of the metal pointy things with their scraping and poking. I'm sure technology has improved in the past decade, but the experience was very much the same.
The people there were all very nice, I'm not blaming them for my bad experiences. They probably aren't even aware of the environment around them, and the feeling of powerlessness it instills. I think some user experience design is in order for the offices—and probably a movement toward patient-centered design across the industry. It's all too industrial now. Don't they focus-group this stuff? Where's the market research? The psychological studies? They must know their office environment affects their patients.
Luckily I can report that my teeth are in great shape and I don't have any problems. And as an adult the experience isn't nearly as bad as my (probably) exaggerated memory. I'd like to keep my teeth healthy and I suppose that means more trips to the dreaded reclining chair.