I was 17 when I had my first adult tooth out. My second-to-back molar on the right hand side. Not one of the easy ones.
I’ve never been the most comfortable in the dentist’s chair, so when I went for my check-up and he said, “you’ll need root canal treatment or extraction”, I was like: “Root what? Yeah tooth out please.”
What monster calls a procedure ‘root canal treatment’?
‘Root’, for the kick-off, made me think of a tree’s massive subterranean network. When you see an old tree being dug up, the root’s normally wider than the branches. And it takes a massive council digger to get rid.
Where would these roots lead to? I had images of the dentist putting his feet on the chair for leverage as he dragged this rotting nerve network from the back of my head.
Then ‘canal’. Jesus. Canals are long, seemingly never-ending. I think of Panama, Suez, and the Manchester Ship. They go for miles.
How far into this dental canal would his metallic tool of pain go? Deep into my jaw’s bone marrow? Or further?
The dentist tried explaining it: “Over two or three appointments, we drill into the base of the tooth and remove the pulp… “
THE PULP. What on Earth is THE PULP?
It was getting worse.
“Nah, mind made up, no point carrying on, sounds horrific, I’ll have it out.”
So the date of extraction was set. A seven day wait.
My mum was reassuring: “I couldn’t do a root canal either love. I had a tooth out when I was your age. Didn’t feel a thing.”
Cool. Easy. Or so I thought.
Fast forward seven days, four failed local anaesthetics into the most torturous experience of my life, the dentist mounted the chair, using his feet for leverage in the very manoeuvre I’d envisaged a week earlier.
It took an hour and a half to get it out.
Every twist agonising.
Every crunch echoing through my bones.
“Was that you screaming up there?” asked the receptionist. I summoned the strength to raise my eyebrows in a way that said: “If you were a man I would punch you square in the face.”
I trudged home to tell my mum about my ordeal. And as I skulked through the door, she could tell I’d been in distress.
“I didn’t want to tell you love, but when I had mine out, the anaesthetic didn’t work on me either,” she said.
I summoned the strength to avoid punching her square in the face.
But I didn’t blame her. I didn’t even blame the dentist. I blamed the dental industry, and I still do.
Because I was put off from undergoing what I now understand to be a relatively pain-free treatment due to what it was called.
Little did I know half a lifetime ago, how that harrowing experience had taught me a valuable marketing lesson: always think of your audience when naming a product or service.
As a naive 17-year-old who hated the dentist’s anyway, I instantly said no to root canal treatment. But I may have thought twice had it been called an ‘inner tooth rebuild’, or a ‘deep filling’.
The dentist lost the sale, simply because of the name.
How many of your customers are being put off by poorly-named products or services? Or even worse – a dodgy brand or company name?