I just had a birthday and received greetings by text and email from several friends and family members, as well as my dentist. Some of my close friends do not remember my birthday, but my dentist always does. He must really like me.
I wonder if he remembers the birthdays of any other patients. Perhaps he sends birthday greetings to all his favorite patients, the ones who do not squirm or scream when he extracts a portion of their bank balance.
If your dentist does not greet you on your birthday, you might want to switch to mine. Just to entice you, here’s the text message I received: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY Melvin!!! Dr. Reef is sending you extra special birthday wishes and ‘cheers’ to good health! He hopes this birthday is your best one yet! Reply STOP to unsubscribe.”
My birthday was on a Sunday, which means that my dentist took the trouble to greet me on his day off. That made me feel extra special. I replied immediately: “STOP.”
Actually, I would never just say “STOP” to my dentist, except when he’s pushing a needle into my gums. It would be downright rude to just write, “STOP.” So this is what I wrote: “Stop, you are embarrassing me. You always remember my birthday, but I never remember yours. That’s partly because you never told me your birthday. It’s not fair that patients have to provide their birthdates to you, but you never provide yours to us. You also know our medical history, but we don’t know yours. Anyway, I just want you to know that I am really touched that you remembered my birthday. As I told my wife, ‘My birthday now feels complete.’ Hope to see you again soon, but not too soon. Your favorite patient, Melvin.”
When I told my friend Brian that my dentist had remembered my birthday, he laughed and said that it was just an automated message. “A computer sends it, not the dentist,” he said. “I bet if you ran into your dentist at the grocery store, he would not wish you a happy birthday. He might not even recognize you with your mouth closed.”
I think Brian is just envious because he didn’t receive a birthday greeting from his dentist. Or perhaps he received a greeting, but not “extra special birthday wishes” like I did.
“You have to have a close relationship with your dentist,” I told Brian. “And you have to pick the right dentist. Not every dentist-patient relationship is the same. Some dentists care enough to remember your birthday.”
Brian laughed. “Do you know what the word ‘automated’ means?”
I nodded. “Even if it’s automated, I think he planned to send it. He just wrote it ahead of time, so he wouldn’t have to do it on Sunday.”
Brian shook his head. “I feel really bad for you.”
“Because the message your dentist sent you is so generic. Wait until things get real.”
“Get real? What do you mean?”
“I mean, wait until your dentist starts using AI.”
“No, artificial intimacy. It will be powered by artificial intelligence, of course. But with AI, your dentist will be able to use information from your dental records, as well as the internet, to send you a message like this: ‘Happy Birthday, Melvin. This is Dr. Reef. Just wanted to send you a quick greeting before I go to church. I am glad your birthday is on a Sunday, because you’ll be able to spend more time with your lovely wife, three kids and dog, Lulu. Perhaps you can take Lulu, for a long walk in Happy Hollow Park or spend a quiet evening reading a good book or one of your wife’s Substack posts. I really enjoyed seeing you in early April and filling the cavity in Tooth No. 12. See you in three months for your next cleaning. Until then, keep flossing and brushing, even on weekends, because plaque does not take days off!’”