In my novel Blue Straggler, the main character, Bailey, admits to being truly afraid of two things: lightning and rattlesnakes. That statement could be autobiographical for me, except you’d have to substitute “dentists” for “lightning.”
Yes, I’m one of those crazies who fears going to the dentist. I’d rather go to the ob/gyn than the dentist. I’d rather experience Chinese water torture. I’d rather be forced to eat dung beetles, or just dung. Seriously. Yet, I make myself go once a year (okay, it’s usually more like once every two years, but don’t judge me) because basically I don’t think I’m going to be all that sexy in dentures. Also I like to eat and to eat well, you really should have teeth.
I can trace my dental phobia back to growing up in rural South Texas where we didn’t have fluoride in our water until we got MTV and I left for college. (Exaggeration alert. I was in junior high. Probably – I did not research this. Sue me.) I had cavities back then and a dentist (we didn’t have many choices) filled like 100 cavities in one appointment. Or maybe six, but still. It scarred me, okay?
So, this past week, I stepped into my current dentist’s office for a cleaning and checkup. I say my current dentist because I’m also a “dentist hopper.” I jump around to a lot of different dentists, because once a hygienist or dentist hurts me, I leave them without a note. And since anything having to do with going to the dentists hurts like hell, I love `em and leave `em a lot. This is why I get about 10 different notices from dentists all over Denver saying I’m past due for an exam. (Clean up your mailing lists, people! I’m over you!)
I’d prepped for the appointment with drugs to soothe the soul and ibuprofen to take the edge off the pain. And yes, I was just there for a cleaning.
Let me just say that those drugs did nothing for me as soon as I smelled that gawd-awful dentist office smell. What the hell is that smell, anyway? Burned flesh? Jawbone sawdust? I suggested to the receptionist who took me back to the cleaning cube that they should pump laughing gas in through the air vents. She didn’t laugh.
I took my seat in the chair, and the hygienist promptly tilted my ass so far back I nearly slid off that slippery vinyl chair, head first. Then she attempted a conversation, with me in the yoga pose I like to call “Upside Down Sitting Duck.”
Hygienist: Do you have any concerns?
Me: Not really, other than you’re going to hate me because it’s been two years since I’ve had a cleaning. Ha, ha. Ha?
Hygienist, looking at my chart and frowning: I see that. (She could have humored me with, “I won’t hate you, don’t be silly.”)
Me: I’m sorry. (Also at this point, I have a very good view of her nostril hairs and she could use some maintenance.)
Hygienist, aiming a sharp, archaic tool at me: Let’s get started.
Me: Wait! Can I have a topical anesthetic?
Me, blood pressure rising: Because, byotch, you are about to wound my gums! (I didn’t really say that. I actually said, “Because it helps with soft tissue pain when you scrape my gums; I read it on the Internet.”
Hygienist: I’ll have to check with the doctor.
She leaves and I enjoy the view of a popcorn-style ceiling, which they should really remodel this century. When she returns with the goop, I also bring up another uncomfortable topic.
Me: I also wish to decline x-rays.
Hygienist: <Insert very long speech here about how they are a great and necessary diagnostic tool, and how I am pretty much the stupidest person in America for not getting them.>
Me: I realize all of that. Thank you. I still decline. I don’t like radiation, and why yes I do know how it compares to security devices at the airport. I’ll sign the form, please. And yes, I know that you will not get to bill my insurance company $1,000 for x-rays. I’m truly sorry.
So, as you can tell, the hygienist and I are not on friendly terms, and this is not a great way to shape a relationship with someone who is using barbaric measures to supposedly remove tartar buildup. In short, this woman obviously hated me, and she took it out on my poor innocent, inflamed gums and teeth. Also, she almost sucked my entire tongue up with that little tube one time. I came out of the chair a little.
At this point, I was just praying that the ibuprofen would kick in, because my head was starting to throb. Also, note to readers: Ibuprofen makes you bleed a little more than normal. Enough said. I think I needed more than one of those bib things.
When she finished with me, my cheeks and chin were literally peppered with tartar pieces (and maybe pieces of my teeth, who knows). I could have used protective eyewear. I had been in a battle I could not win, even if the dentist did eventually tell me I had no cavities from what he could see without the x-rays.
That night, I immediately found that having vodka in the house is a good thing. Because y’all, I had to self-medicate. Plus I think vodka is good for killing bacteria in your mouth. I’m going with that.
For two days after, my teeth were so tender that I couldn’t even eat Cheetos without pain. And yes, you haters out there, I KNOW that if I went every six months, I wouldn’t have so much tartar buildup and the hygienist would not have to put her foot on my chest to get the pressure she needs to scrape the crap off.
The moral of this story is that there is no moral. I just hate going to the dentist. As soon as I get rich, I’m going to take advantage of sedation dentistry … for cleanings.
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