How an ITIL mindset saved 2 of my wisdom teeth

Author Christian Reading time 4 minutes

Photo by Piet Bakker:

No productive change on Friday!

This expression was my first encounter with ITIL at all. Having just started fresh as Junior Linux sysadmin at a major German telecommunications provider. Strictly speaking, the rule was the following: "No standard changes to a production system if the next day isn't a normal workday." This was put in place to ensure that problems in production can be fixed in a timely manner, that all required resources and people are available. A plain, simple logical rule—and a very effective one.

But how do my wisdom teeth come into play? Well, as I am currently learning for my ITIL4 certification, I remembered a story from that time. I was visiting my dentist, and the whole appointment just felt strange. I knew I had some minor pain in one or two teeth a few weeks ago. Which was when I first visited them. But the dentist—a big clinic with several doctors—did not have enough time at that point and gave me a new appointment.

Naive as I was, I didn't note down what would be done at that appointment. Trusting that the doctor will document everything, right? Well.. He didn't. This time I got another doctor, and he did the one thing I remembered and then just left the room. I wasn't told the appointment was over. It didn't feel like it was over. So I just kept sitting in the chair, waiting.

Some 10 minutes later, a doctor's assistant comes into the room to prepare it and is surprised I am still there. I am told that I am free to go, and, well, I do. I had just put my jacket on when another assistant approached me. "Oh, good that I managed to catch you. You need to make an appointment for the removal of two of your wisdom teeth. The doctor spotted caries in them."

I was surprised. He didn't say anything about that. But, ah, well. Doctors can have a bad day too. So off to the reception I went to make an appointment for the removal. Only to learn that these removals are done by an external doctor who solely does wisdom teeth removal. Additionally, all of his appointments for the next 3 months are fully booked. The reason? He is only present on Fridays.

Immediately, the beloved ITIL phrase comes to mind. Realizing full well that if I should have any pain or bigger problems, I will be in minor trouble. Having to go to the emergency on-call dentist in my town for that weekend—or directly to the hospital. I wasn't really keen on that. So the receptionist and I agreed that I would call some days later to schedule an appointment when I had sufficient time to organize my calendars.

Only that.. Well, I never called back. I grew more and more suspicious over the days and said to myself, "Let's wait until I start to feel something in my teeth." The doctor's strange behavior didn't contribute to my inner well-being either.

I waited. And waited. And waited. And when it was time for my next regular dentist visit, I decided to get a second opinion. I asked some colleagues, checked a few "Rate your doctor" websites, and went to another dentist.

There, they did an X-ray of my whole jaw to get a complete overview. The doctor was nice. Explained what he was looking for. What he can and can't see, and I asked fairly simply if there is any caries in some of my wisdom teeth. He looked a bit stunned for a second and said, "No, not from what I see. If there is caries, usually black spots are visible. But there are none, as far as I can see. Do you feel any pain? Especially when they come into contact with something hot or cold?"

So, I explained the whole situation to him, and then he told me a few details (which I won't write down here for legal reasons), which made it obvious to me that changing my dentist was indeed a good decision.

And all of that, just because I followed ITIL procedures from my employer. Ha!