Archive for December 5th, 2007

Not Everything Needs a Reason

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

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Heart of Dentist

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it’d been six years since I’d visited a dentist, and of those six years, there was an entire year I even had insurance but never quite got around to going, not due to fear (I broke my front teeth in a bike accident when I was a kid, so I’m used to dentistry) but sheer laziness.

After making an appointment a month ago, this morning I finally went in.

The cavity filling took only a half hour, but time in a dentist’s chair is measured by eternities; I’d say three or four passed. The Doc, who looked like a friendly, White, Toxic Avenger, swabbed the gumline to numb it before the needle. There’s nothing ironic about numbing the area for a needle which will then numb the hell out of everything.

“Slight pinch and some pressure,” lied Doc Tox. I tried to relax but there was little need: Doc was a pro, and should be since he looked like he was about 85. I barely felt the needle.

The entire right side of my face went numb. Three hours later it still is. I wondered if it drooped like Tom Cruise’s face in Minority Report…I was too scared to look in a mirror. Here came the hooks and drills, not bad at all. Non-metallic filling was injected and zapped a few times by a blue laser. The female assistant did a good job with the saliva-sucking wand.

Now the cleaning, done by a pleasant Asian woman. “It’s mostly going to be at the gumline,” she said. Silently I thanked the gods for the continuing numbth of the needle. Her drills sounded like whining puppies and screeching banshees and rattled my skull. Her suction wasn’t as good, one time I coughing up a wellspring of thick saliva and blood, drooling because of the numbing agent. She wiped my teeth with a cloth and it came away red. I imagined what the drainpipes under the building look like, converging in a River Styx of blood, drool, gum tissue and powdered tooth.

Riding the storm of splash, drill and suck I thought of grainy black-and-white 1950s films about primitive dentistry and felt lucky and thankful for Now, but also jealous of the future, when teeth would be replaced by nanotech-grown diamonds that never got cavities.

Sometimes while scraping and probing her sliver of a metal hook, the Asian Sweetheart would strike a nerve and I would see God, laughing. If I could focus on writing the way hook and nerve triggered complete and profound focus on pain, I’d be able to write an entire novel every day. I wrote several in that chair.

If this treatment works, I’ll have cheated all those times I should’ve flossed!!

Not so. Not so.

Finally it ended. I rinsed with a sweet liquid and my teeth were swabbed with something like toothpaste, only stronger.

“Leave that on. No food or drink for half and hour.”

The Asian Sweetheart showed me a printout for the additional work I’d require in the coming months, totaling almost two grand (!!) and that for just fighting periodontal disease, not fancy stuff like bridgework or retractable fangs. She told me there’s a connection between plaque on teeth and a plaque buildup in the heart. Next time, I thought, I’ll have to break the news that my heart’s shot anyway.

“Aren’t you going to scold me for not flossing?”

She smiled–her teeth were perfect, of course–and told me I should already know better.

I set up the next appointment and when I got to my car I finally looked at my face. It didn’t work right, my upper lip looked normal but felt bee-stung like Angelina Jolie’s and the right half of my face was numb, the muscles totally slack. Thankfully no one would be able to tell.

I went to the supermarket and filled the scrip she gave me for a rinse, the bottle warning THIS MEDICINE MAY STAIN TEETH.

For crying out loud, could it at least stain them white? I tossed the rinse in the back with the box of cupcakes.

I admired my poor teeth in the car again. With years of neglect drilled and blasted away the visible black gaps between them returned. I sighed and started the car. Somewhere I’d read: Caring costs, but not caring always costs more. I would have to start flossing again, diamond-teeth be damned.