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The Rise of Viral Dentist Jokes

You’ve got a couple of minutes before your next patient so you open up Facebook.  While checking out your friends’ status updates, you come across something strange… a joke written by dentists, for dentists.

Last November, Laura a.k.a “Lolabees” penned the now infamous  “10 Reasons Your Dentist Probably Hates You Too.” It’s a rare piece of writing that expertly balances honesty, wit and humor.  Some readers were upset but most just laughed and shared on Facebook.  Actually, I’m pretty sure every single dentist with a Facebook account shared this one.

Perhaps you’ve also seen the “Overworked Dental Student” images popping up over the past month?

Unlike the Lolabees article, it’s difficult to track down exactly where memes and image macros begin and how they spread.  Several sources give credit to The Baylor College of Dentistry for lighting this fire, but the several hundred entries that now exist were generated by an untold number of dental students.

In the past week you may have noticed another viral dental joke that looks like this:

This is part of a much larger web phenomenon called the “What People Think I Do / What I Really Do” meme.  Several versions have popped up and are still coming.

So what’s with all of the inside jokes for dentists lately?

Dentists and dental students have shared laughs and vented about our unique stresses since the dawn of the profession.  But we haven’t really done it openly on the internet.  Perhaps we were afraid our patients would find out and take offense or our colleagues would ostracize us?  Either way, dentists mostly kept their frustrations to themselves in private conversations.

Then something changed.  Sites like Quickmeme and Memegenerator have allowed dentists to easily create image macro jokes and remain anonymous.  We can vent our frustrations, get laughs, and not jeopardize our reputations.  Now consider the viral potential of sharing these jokes in a public forum like Facebook and we can begin to understand the trend.

But there’s more to this than just a quick laugh.  When we see a meme or image macro about ourselves, we get excited.  “Finally,” we think, “someone is saying what I’ve always wanted to say!”  We feel more connected to the thousands of us out there who also hated parts of dental school or had a patient yell at us over a bill.  That sense of community is very powerful.

I want to give a lot of credit to Laura from Lolabees.  She wasn’t anonymous when she wrote her post and that took a lot of guts.  Her honesty is inspiring.  When I present on implant complications, I show some of my own cases that could have been executed better.  It’s not easy, but it is honest and the audience appreciates it.

Honesty is often best shared with a little humor.  So here’s hoping we continue to see viral dentist memes, image macros, and blog posts that are candid.  I still have a couple of minutes before my next patient…


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