Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I called today to make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. It was on the list, along with calling to make an appointment to get my car's oil changed.

The third question asked (after name and address) was married or single?

I really don't get why a dentist needs to know if someone's married or single. I just don't get it.

Nope, this wasn't a lead in to some sort of "who's the next of kin if you die getting your teeth cleaned?" kind of thing.

In general, I don't see why the married or single question get asked in so many contexts. It seems so simplifying. Is the question really about one's legal status or relationship status?

I know married folks who don't co-habitate or much interact. I know folks who can't legally marry but consider themselves married and refer to themselves as spouses. I know folks who grew up with such screwed up examples of marriage that they didn't marry on purpose, even though they've been together forever. I know a couple who are openly a couple though each partner is legally married to someone else. (The partners are both in advanced stages of Alzheimers; the couple met while caring for their spouses. Their relationship consists in part of caring for each others' spouses and in being very good and caring to each other.)

The car guy only cares about my relationship with my car: do I change the oil in a timely manner? Rotate the tires? Those sorts of questions I understand.


  1. I wonder what they would do if you replied "other" or even "happy."

  2. Ha! I love the "next of kin" thing, although they could just ask what your "emergency contact" is. I agree with you about the marital status question - it seems a bit voyeuristic.

  3. They may have a 'salutation' field in their database for something like mailing purposes. When I worked for a doctor's office in high school, that was the case. And this isn't a reflection on what the dentist finds to be relevant. In most cases (especially in a solo practice) these offices use packaged software.

    I'm not saying this is the case with your dentist. But it's something to consider before waving the 'simplifying' flag.

  4. Yes, it could be a software thing, but then wouldn't "Ms." suffice for *all* females? Sigh.

    I can't figure out why my vet, or my dentist, or the day spa (yes, I saw "marital status" on a form there!) need to know this about me.

  5. The question has nothing to do with how nosy we are regarding your marital status -- we just want to know who we can go after if you don't pay your bill. Really, that's all. (At least in my office...)

  6. But if it was only the billing thing, wouldn't there be a follow-up question for someone who marked the "single" box?

  7. Perhaps they are assessing statistical risk of AIDS??