I know there are worse ways to start out the day than a visit to the dentist, but I can’t think of many.
I don’t hate going to the dentist because I had some horrible childhood experience like some people. In fact all I remember about my dentist when I was a kid is that his name was Doctor Butts. That’s probably not how he spelled it, but I still think it’s a funny name for a children’s dentist.
And I know a lot of folks hate the drill, but it’s been so long since I’ve needed a filling that I can’t even remember what the drill sounds like.
But I hold all my stress in my jaw and it makes a popping sound every time I open my mouth. Plus I grind my teeth. Since my jaw is pretty much always clenched, it hurts to keep my mouth wide open even just long enough to have my teeth cleaned.
But I do it because you’re supposed to.
The dental hygienist, Carol, is very thin and has big eighties hair so she looks like a mushroom. She’s very nice, but she loves to talk. That’s a good quality in hairdressers and dental hygienists, but Carol likes a response. She’ll stop what’s she’s doing and remove all the instruments from your mouth, including the water sucker thingy, so you can talk to her.
Today she was telling me about a performance she went to in a neighboring town that has a reputation for very wealthy residents. It was a benefit for people whose homes and businesses were damaged in the tropical storm that hit Vermont in August.
Carol said that a women sitting next to her made a comment about how not all communities had benefit concerts because not all communities were as wealthy as their town. She was appalled at the snobbery of the statement and went on to tell me more stories about local rich snobs, including some of her patients.
“I had this one woman and I was telling her about some inflammation she had around one of her teeth and the woman said to me, ‘Just shut up and clean them, honey.’ Can you believe that? ‘Just shut up and clean them, honey.’ I wanted to tell her to leave.”
While I agree that it was an incredibly rude and condescending thing to say, I have to admit that about four stories into my appointment I was thinking something similar.
A while back my dentist and all his dental hygienists got very into measuring “pockets.” Maybe that’s industry wide, but I don’t know. From what I understand, they stick something into your gum beside your teeth and see how far down it will go. The higher the number, the deeper the pocket. Deep is bad.
Today, Carol found a pocket in back of my very last molar that was a six. Six is very bad.
When she went to make a note on the computer about the six, I told her that everyone always tells me that’s a “trouble spot” so I try to floss back there.
She said, “Not even God can floss deep enough on a six.”
My first that thought was that I hope if heaven really exists there’s no flossing up there. In fact, I would hope that flossing is one of the first things God eliminates for the people who make it to Heaven.
But that didn’t seem like a good thing to say to someone who makes living telling people to floss, so I just said, “You think God flosses?”
Carol assured me that he did because of “all the dental professionals up there.” I don’t know what’s more disturbing, the fact that she thinks all dental professionals go to Heaven or that she thinks God is susceptible to dental hygienist guilt like the rest of us mere mortals.
She went back to measuring my pockets and then she suddenly said, “I bet that pocket is so deep because of the hole from where your wisdom tooth was.”
I found that statement a little disconcerting because I still have my wisdom teeth. Somehow I thought that the woman with her hands in my mouth would know that. But since she didn’t I told her they were still there.
Carol got very excited when I said that. She stopped measuring pockets and started flipping through my records, looking for my last panoramic x-ray.
She found it, but it was from twenty years ago. Carol thought that the pocket issue could be solved by having my wisdom teeth removed. In fact, Carol seemed to be very taken by the idea that I should have another panoramic x-ray and my wisdom teeth taken out. She thought it would solve all my problems.
Personally, I thought a six wasn’t worth all that pain and trouble. Luckily, neither did the dentist.
My dentist looks like he’s wearing a pair of those plastic glasses that comes with the big nose and fake mustache. I don’t know if he actually has a mustache because I only see him for about thirty seconds every six months and he’s always wearing a surgical mask.
The moment he walked in, Carol told him her theory. He glanced at the old x-ray and immediately said, “That’s crazy. Look at that tooth. It would be a pain to get that out.”
She tried to explain that it would fix my pocket issue, but he told her it wouldn’t help at all. And he said that if they were his teeth, he’d leave them alone.
As much as I loved my dentist at that moment, I also felt a little sorry for Carol. She seemed to take that six personally and she really wanted me to get my wisdom teeth out.
To make her feel better I told her I’d consider buying a night guard to help me stop grinding my teeth. I won’t do it, but at least she was smiling when I left.