5 molars in a row

Our personal and professional worlds have been turned upside-down due to the new coronavirus pandemic. But continuing education is as important as ever.

As more practices reopen or prepare to reopen, we must emerge from the COVID-19 crisis confident in our ability to provide exceptional patient care. I’ve been pleased to see more dentists tapping resources like Spear Online webinars and multimedia and virtual Spear Study Club to optimize the downtime with their teams.

Early in the crisis, I was stunned by the sense of rising chaos in society. That feeling was perhaps most prominent in the frantic purchasing of toilet paper! I recall watching the panicked buying on the news. Rolls were flying off store shelves. I was not only amused by the TP visuals, but I also thought there must be an underlying light-hearted message here in what has become a dark and murky time.

I figured I would take a closer look at the history of toilet paper and perhaps find enlightenment about the nature of such hysteria – and how dentistry may be related.

I titled this Spear Digest series “Dental Cloacopapyrology.” I didn’t know what that term meant, and I can hardly pronounce the word. But as I investigated, I discovered that “cloacopapyrology” – the study of toilet paper – was a perfect metaphor as we address the recent downturn in our dental practices and move ahead with our clinical and educational pursuits.

This first part of the series of “tear away” knowledge (the first “ply,” if you will) provides a quick overview about this TP-related opportunity for growth and understanding in crisis.

In upcoming releases, I’ll address:

‘Tear-off’ lessons from dental cloacopapyrology

The term cloacopapyrology comes from two words: The Latin “cloaca” (meaning “from the drains” or “sewer”) and “papyrology” (or from papyrus, meaning the study of manuscripts).

Putting these two words together, we understand the true meaning behind cloacopapyrology – the study or understanding of writings, notes, scribbles or drawings on toilet paper! As funny as this may be, there is actual seriousness to this science, and thus, seriousness to the suggestion of TP as a metaphor for learning dentistry.

The study of papyrus rolls is historically significant. Ancient documents contain ideas, thoughts, processes and concepts. Religions, governments and societies have been built on historical references from ancient papyrus rolls. But how does toilet paper fit in?

The reality is that many scientific breakthroughs, artistic inspirations, song lyrics and even best man speeches have been inscribed on a piece of disposable paper.

When that “aha” moment hits, toilet paper can be the only piece of paper at your fingertips! You reach, you write, you tear, and you save the note for future thought, elaboration and integration.

Adjusting to the ‘new normal’ in dentistry

The truth is, cloacopapyrology is the study of “inscribed” toilet paper, versus, toilet paper that “has been inscribed.”

Historical study reveals that inscribed toilet paper, much like the papyrus rolls of ancient civilizations, contained messages and thoughts that were designed not only for hygiene purposes, but for sending messages or inferring suggestion.

In the early 1900s, a company in England printed “Please wash your hands” on each sheet in the roll, which is perhaps more appropriate today than ever! During both world wars, toilet paper was used for propaganda messaging.

Applied to dentistry, such “tear-off” information can introduce fundamental concepts designed to improve and expedite day-to-day patient care.

Rather than discussing full-mouth restorations or analyzing excessive worn dentitions in need of vertical dimension change, these concept snippets – penned in this time of crisis – are designed to be integrated into everyday dentistry right away.

I hope you find the “Dental Cloacopapyrology” series both useful and humorous as your practice adjusts to the “new normal.”

Jeffrey Bonk, D.D.S., is a member of Spear Resident Faculty.


Commenter's Profile Image Doug B.
April 29th, 2020
Well done ... Thank you for this message!
Commenter's Profile Image Gary R.
June 15th, 2020
Thanks Jeff for adding another 8-syllable word to my lexicon! You always have that unique perspective to frame your thoughts. Looking forward to reading more!