Thursday, January 11, 2007

Smile and Show Those Pearly Whites

We all hate it. We all dread it. And even the most testosterone-ridden man will admit to being afraid of going. But I had old cavities that had to be replaced, so I had to go to *pause for dramatic organ music* the dentist.

You almost have to sedate me to get me there. Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but could you? I mean, could someone just knock me the hell out and let me know when it’s over? Dentistry has come a very long way in my lifetime and it is pretty darn close to painless, but I remember the pain. I’m old enough to remember the “I’m sorry but this is just going to hurt a little bit” days. The “root canal takes at least 2 long visits” days. My heart’s beating faster just thinking about it.

I am a professional dental patient. Oh, I brush and I even floss the majority of the time, but I am paying for past sins. The kid and young adult who didn’t take such great care of her teeth and didn’t go to the dentist as often as she should have is suffering the effects.

Cavities don’t last forever, especially the silver fillings of old. They break or fall out, leaving a hole in the tooth that either has to be filled quickly, or as is more often the case, has to get a cap on it because there is already so much filling in that tooth, there’s not much tooth left to drill. And hoping against hope, it won’t need a root canal first, even though I know it will because I ignored any pain by trying to cover it up with aspirin.

2005-2006 was the worst dental year of my life. A root canal and three caps. I had so much dental work done that my insurance stopped paying—I maxed out my benefits. It was all fairly painless, but damn, that’s not the point. I should have just set a cot up in the back room of the dentist’s office. Caps take 2 visits, and the root canal was 3 (one to find out if I needed a root canal, one to do the root canal, and one afterwards to make sure everything was ok), plus a visit to refill the cap they had to drill through.

Isn’t it odd that we say an appointment with the dentist is a “visit.” As if we’re going to sit around the breakfast table, have a cup of coffee, and gossip about our neighbors or co-workers. Well, not with the dentist I saw during this time. He was an excellent dentist, but he had the bedside manner of a turnip.

But that’s not the case here. I found a wonderful dentist who seems really good at his job, plus he’s very nice. And his office is comfortable and the other people working there are very nice. I’m still a nervous wreck, but I don’t have to be sedated to go there.

I’m slowly having those old silver fillings replaced with this white stuff that’s supposed to be stronger and better and let me keep my teeth longer. The longer I can keep from getting another cap, the better.

So, that’s what I did yesterday. Can you believe that it took less than an hour to take out 2 fillings and refill them? I’m sure it took at least a whole day when I was a kid. Or at least, that’s the way it felt. There are TVs in all the cubicles, so I can watch the morning news if I want. As if I could focus on anything, let alone hear anything, besides that drill wailing like a siren in that giant echo chamber that is my mouth. But it’s a nice offer.

And my dentist is very nice. He’s always asking, “Are you doing OK?” But of course all I can say is “Uhrr Huuuaahhhhggg.” He just assumes that translates as “Yes, I am perfectly fine, thank you.” Not unlike a waitress who waits until your mouth is full before she comes by to ask if you need anything else; you don’t want to spew everything that’s in your cheeks just to say you could really use a glass of water.

I can’t tell him that the sound of that drill will echo in my sleep tonight. Or that the grinding tool he uses not only vibrates my head, but tickles my nose, making me pray that I don’t have to sneeze. And that the smell of that epoxy he packs into the tooth is worse than anything my hairdresser puts in my hair to cover the gray—and that stuff makes my eyes water. Or that as nice as his dental assistant is, every time he asks for a spray of water, I get a shower, and I hate water being sprayed on my face. And by the way, that bib you put on me? Can you loosen it a little because it keeps riding up across my neck.

But I made it through. He even said, “You did good, Kell.” What? What did I do besides lie there perfectly still and not scream and cry that I wanted my mommy? If a guy had a drill in your mouth, wouldn’t you lie still? Unless, of course, he said, “Is it safe?” *shiver* (that's a terrifying scene in Marathon Man btw.)

The right side of my mouth was numb all morning; it was close to 1:00 before I was back to normal. However, this morning, everything is back to normal. And I don’t go back until my next cleaning, which I think is April. So, that gives me over 3 months to recover/anticipate/gather up my courage for the next round.

Maybe I should get a prescription of Valium, just in case.


Jay said...

Valium and a lot of it! Or maybe just get drunk. Or ask if they can use that laughing gas on you as soon as you get there.

Actually whenever I think of dentists I think of that scene in "10" where Dudly Moore goes to the dentist and his lower jaw is numb for the rest of the day and when he drinks something it runs all down his chin and he doesn't feel it.

her indoors said...

well done you! i seem to be at the dentist a lot i clean them but its as you say when i was a kid i didn't look after them so well!
and jay trust you to think of something funny about this lol

Newt said...

What is it about the dentist? Seriously I don't know if I have ever met someone that likes to go to the dentist.

Neil said...

Wow, that's spooky Kell. I went for a 'visit' to the dentist yesterday also. Just a check-up and a polish thankfully because like you, I'm scarred from childhood. I can still smell the aroma of burning when the drill went to work... "Please God yes, it's VERY VERY safe!"

susan said...

I must be nuts, because I have no fear of he dentist at all. Maybe because we didn't go at all as kids and I've had good experiences since I started going. My dentist is alwyays telling me how beautiful and wonderful my teeth are. I don't care if he's just BSing me, I just walk out of there beaming! LOL

Ch3ll3 said...

I'm with Susan... I not only don't mind going to the dentist, I kind of like it. Mind you, I haven't had a filling since I was a kid and I've only got one crown that was 'installed' when I was 17. My wisdom teeth came out when I was 17 as well and it went like clockwork.

And, almost like Susan's experience, my dentist compliments me on my beautiful and well-cared-for teeth. In fact, he calls me his 'problem patient' because I don't make him any extra money.

B's experience, on the other hand, is terrifying. He didn't go to a dentist as a kid until he was 10 or 11. After that, he went again when he was 16 or 17. After that, he went again when he met me. He was 26. Since then, he's gone for cleanings every 6 months but he's also had 3 root canals. Poor guy. He's also got a VERY sensitive gag reflex and heart burn. Those two things alone make for a hell-ish visit.

Good luck on the next go around! I'll send some good energy your way. :o)

Kell said...

jay--I also think of Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors. Wait. He wasn't a good guy either!

Susan and Ch3ll3--I envy you guys. What planet are you from again? The planet "Gleaming" I suppose? I'm glad someone has a good experience. Tell B I feel his pain. Literally.