The Mental-Dental Appointment (or, “How to Grin While Bearing It”)

My dentist is great; I love that tiny gal. She measures in at something like four foot five. I have been going to her since I was seven. Every time that I go in she jokes how I used to be shorter than her and now I am so tall. She is delightful, I will go to her as long as she stays in business, and she is the only dentist to get me a sugar-free cake on my birthday.

She is also out to destroy me.

I have friends that can skip their dentist for years. My former coworker spoke of how she had not had an appointment for three years, went in for a check-up, and walked away free and clear. I loathe her. I mean, I love her, she is delightful, and I am happy that her habits have paid off. Still, I wish she would get a cavity or two. Hrrmph.

I have been crowned more times than a checkers champion. I know dentistry better than I care to. Mesial, distal, fluoride, bridges; it is all locked away after decades of experience. I honestly think I have spent more time in a chair than Professor X. (And he gets healed every few years so he can leave the chair. Darn him.)

You decide: Dentist’s office? Or laboratory of an evil genius-scientist out to rule the world?

You decide: Dentist’s office? Or laboratory of an evil genius-scientist out to rule the world?

Perhaps you feel that I exaggerate. The following depicts my appointment from Monday:

  • I show up on time. I get asked if there are any insurance changes. Since I gave them a brand new insurance card when I was there a month ago and I called them back two weeks ago to clarify matters with my new insurance, I tell them no.
  • I walk back to the special chair, with no real walls between me and the other patients, just partial shelving. If the guy next door has his oldest in college or a kid is freaking out, I can hear every word. (Sometimes this is great. If someone is having a truly miserable time, it puts my meager pain in perspective.
  • My tooth is x-rayed even though they x-rayed it a month ago. What mammoth change is going to happen to my keratin creation within the last twenty-eight days? Honestly?
  • They clip a special napkin around my neck using a little alligator clamp. (At the dentist’s office, even the mundane supplies have tiny teeth. “The more sharp edges, the better”, that is their creed.)

That napkin confounds me. As soon as it is over my shirt, it magically gives the dental assistant license to put whatever they want on my chest. Picks, floss, clamps, pliers, tubes; they all end up there, simultaneously crushing my spirit and my ability to flee. I never agreed to rent that space to them. There was no lease signed. Do women let this happen? I would think that their extra curves would make for an inhospitable terrain for these intrusions. Maybe the curves create alcoves for the dental assistants to store their gear. I really do not know, but I fully expect a drill, a set of wind-up teeth, or a parrot to take up residence atop my shirt at any moment.

  • Dentist greets me, asks about work, and then gives me a shot of Novocain. (Now, let us pause here. Novocain has lost its effect on me. She should know this by now. One shot works for most people right? It takes me at least two doses, often three.   She gives me the extra-strength stuff. Regardless, my gums are a tough nut to crack.)
  • I warn her of a canker sore. She insists on putting a little dissolving patch over it.
  • “Are you numb?” “No.” Another shot.
  • They start poking holes rubber dam.
  • They use a pair of pliers to clamp on their metal band to hold on the rubber dam. They give me a bite block, put down the little cotton cloth, and then the actual rubber dam.
  • “Are you numb?” I tell them no. They shoot me again. We wait the three to five minutes.

Now, to clarify, parts of me were numb at this point. There was a dime sized chunk in the middle of my cheek that felt no pain. Great, but they were not operating on my cheek. Nor were they going to fix my heart, which I could already tell had changed its rhythm due to the medication. The gums and tooth were still quite talkative.

  • They start to close up the rubber dam. “Are you numb?” I tell them no. The patch they put on my canker sore is having more of an effect than the Novocain. They undo the rubber dam, give me another shot, sit me up, and wait two or three minutes.
  • They lean me back, put the rubber dam back, and start drilling away at my teeth. “Are you numb?” Unable to speak because my mouth is full of all their gear, I do my best to respond. “Nowah, I anh nawht.”

By now, other parts of me have joined in on the fun. My eyelid was going numb, so it started to twitch and get lazy at the same time. And because my tongue likes to get in on the fun, it had joined the dime-sized cheek celebration and my even more noticeable heart rate. They started having a little kegger in my head. They were all a little fuzzy and incapacitated, but none of them were supposed to be the guest of honor. The gums and tooth still refused to join the party.

  • They give me nitrous. They take off the rubber dam. They shoot me again. They start to drill.
  • “Are you numb?” Speaking has gotten old, plus there’s a small lagoon of saliva forming between my mouth and that darned rubber dam. (Is it possible to choke on one’s own web of spit? If it is, that is probably how I will go. But at least I will not be responsible for the nitrous upcharge later.) Instead of trying to talk, I gesture. I wave my arms, requesting that they change course, similar to the way a grounds crew (complete with those cool flashlight sticks) would redirect a plane.
  • They numb me for the sixth time.

Happily, around this part of the fun-fest, the gas is in full force. Nitrous is the closest I will ever get to taking drugs, and it has been a few years since I caved. Everything that comes to mind starts to sound hilarious. My aspirations of being a stand-up comedian return. The face masks start to make the dental assistants look more attractive and more diabolical at the same time. (Thanks, X-Files, Fringe, and Twilight Zone.)

  • Everything in my mouth is going as well as can be expected. My bladder, however, has gotten quite talkative.

I was not responsible for this delay in the appointment. I went right before. I did not have gallons of juice or a coffee for breakfast. However, they kept rinsing. They drilled and they followed it with a rinse. They used suction, coupled with a rinse. They wanted a better look, so they rinsed. In an attempt to treat me for gangrene, they rinsed. Two hours after this, and yes, my bladder was a little full. It all goes somewhere, folks. Ease off.

Notice how everything is tilted so that the center of gravity is the butt and bladder?  Diabolical!  (From Wikipedia)

Notice how everything is tilted so that the center of gravity is the butt and bladder? Diabolical!
(From Wikipedia)

  • I come back, they put all the gear back on, and they finish. That is to say that they finish the temporary. I get to come back in two weeks so they can put the gold part back on. Oh Joy.

Through all of this time my dentist was pleasant and patient. She really is a nice lady. I know of other dentists, office cohorts of hers, who were less pleasant. Better hygiene through pain was their motto. She had wanted me to feel every little procedure. She did not apply pressure; she crammed and hammered it on. I half expected her to stand up, put her knee on my chest, and push until my skull changed shape. Every gesture inflicted suffering. Part of me wants to find that dentist and buy her some sort of yin-yang balls or some kickboxing gear. I think she needs a healthier way to get out her aggression than on my teeth.

For today, the nice dentist is done with me. There are other ways she can attack my self-confidence and my teeth, but she will save those for some other time. (She’s a long-con kind of operator.) Besides, there is still one more torment to undergo. Paying the bill.

Next time, I am showing up in a pair of purple pants that somehow expand to fit any size creature. I figure if I am going to sit in the chair any longer, and get x-rayed anymore, then the world owes me super powers. I feel like I should give my dentist powers too so that we are evenly matched, but then I remember that she already has an arsenal of sharp weapons to wield against me.

I wonder if the Hulk’s teeth are as indestructible as the rest of him.

hulk

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About anecdotaltales

He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.
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