I have had a toothache for a month now and I made the mistake of calling my dentist. The receptionist being part of the torture team gladly fit me in right away. It took everything I had to calmly read the newspaper in the reception room. “Brett?” I suddenly considered a name change. “No, I’m Jack you have me mistaken for someone who wants to be here.” Never make a last minute late afternoon appointment. It was an innocent call that was written on the bill as an emergency procedure. I waited a month but the dentist’s mortgage must be due tomorrow.
I recounted my painful moments from the past several weeks to the dentist never expecting them to be amplified. I thought they were concerned about my sperm count as they immobilized me with their lead blanket. As near as I can tell the blanket is a ruse to make you feel like they are concerned about something.
I could see the x-rays on the computer screen but his keen eye or lean wallet seemed to see a cavity below an old filling, AKA ordeal. Regardless, fillings are easier to put in than take out. Trust me.
“I can’t freeze you locally for this” and he said the freezing has to penetrate the marrow. Frozen with fear I wanted to explain I was there for my teeth not my damn jaw bone. “You won’t feel your tongue so be careful not to bite it. Easier said than done, I thought. I had been biting my tongue ever since his beefy hands entered my mouth.
After he froze me he scurried to a female patient in the next cubicle. I could hear him conning her into several procedures and she was foolish enough to mention that she wanted some work done now that she had insurance coverage. That’s like giving him a blank check in return for a prescription for pain. I didn’t think much more about her; I had my own problems. I’m sure she was regretting her words after he returned to me. She must have been terrified listening to a drill for 45 minutes; I surely was! If I heard anyone having half as much work done I would run home and see what I could accomplish with my own pliers and drill.
He mentioned that I should brush and floss more and I held back from mentioning the dust bunnies next to the computer tower on the floor which did nothing to inspire confidence.
“Is the freezing working?” “Ya, I can’t feel my nipples.”
He and the dental assistant had their own language and referred to things with letters and numbers. I now know that C-68 means the big damn needle. I’m not sure if he hooked his two fingers into the side of my mouth to let more light in or to control me if I actually reacted like I should have. It was bearable until he started reaching for implements of torture somewhere I couldn’t see even though my head and half my body followed him to the far away tray. I’m a tradesman and had I fewer fingers in my mouth I would have recommended a tool pouch like a compassionate carpenter might use, but what’s the fun in that. I’m considering giving up fishing as it is in fact traumatizing to be pulled by the mouth in any direction.
I can understand needing an assistant but surely she doesn’t need to get her paws in my mouth as well. I had two sets of hands which is something like 12 fingers, 2 suction tubes, a drill, a makeup mirror, some laser light that beeped and that sharp pointy steel implement he had no compunction about sticking into my tooth and wiggling my whole head with. This was all infused with something that blew dry air and a jet of water, like make up your mind! I think the first thing they teach dentists is that lips will stretch without tearing.
“You can’t close your mouth from here on.” OK, I nodded, oblivious to his perception of time. He mentioned something about acid and my leg started twitching uncontrollably. Is there not a code word you can come up for something like that?
They kindly let me sit up to choke on spit, tooth filings and irrigation. I coughed on and off for 15 minutes in an attempt to signal my distress at things trickling down my windpipe. They really should have a diagram board with images of choking, unbearable pain or loss of consciousness a patient can point to.
“Chomp, chomp on this. No, chomp harder!” By this point I couldn’t feel my ankles so I had no idea what I was doing with my mouth. I could smell some sort of epoxy. My eyes were closed because dentists seem to need more light than a proctologist but for a few brief moments I thought he might be making a model airplane.
The dentist shook my hand twice when he was done. The first I assumed to be for the small fortune he just made torturing me and the second must have been out of respect for not screaming at what I endured for over an hour.
It was my first visit to the dentist where I came out with a diploma. My fiancé said it’s only a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers. I was still proud. It was like one of those ski hill tags people keep attached to their parka zippers. Look where I’ve been! I wanted to bound into the pharmacist but he’d have thought I was drunk as I deliriously smiled with more saliva than recognizable words. I like my pharmacist. He has a better sense of time and he keeps his hands out of my mouth when he picks my pocket. With him I know the value of 15 minutes. My dentist just keeps saying were almost done which really means its 15 minutes until he says it again. I should take the pills that I paid the pharmacist to count and the dentist to spell but I had a wardrobe change with my first sip of water so I will delay further humiliation.
I don’t mean to whine. It’s a confused sort of pain presently. My neck muscles hurt from extending the opposite direction of my jaw for far too long. All I can smell is ground tooth that has permeated my shirt with the rather large armpit stains.
As painful and traumatizing as a trip to the dentist is, it is good for my health. I’ve been trying to smoke a cigarette for an hour now and I’m finding them difficult to ignite when they fall at my feet. I have a slight tingle in my left nostril so there is hope.
Now that I can feel my tongue I have figured out how dentists get repeat business. I may be simple but if I was building a new tooth I would make it flat so black licorice has no place to anchor. I could lose a Chicken McNugget in the crevice he filled then reground out.
There are lessons in all this. Brushing twice a day is a gamble. Eating candy is a risk not worth taking and toothaches are easier to endure than dentists.