Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Zen Dentistry

I'm pretty sure I am the only person in the world who finds the dentist's chair a calming, Zen place to be.

I attribute this fact to my refined Welsh genes which gave me a slender nose, skin that freckles charmingly in the sun, and a mouthful of peasant horse teeth. My parents, to whom I am eternally grateful, nipped what could have been a snarling orthodontic nightmare early on. In my bank of very early memories, none of them exist without some form of orthodontia. Arch expanders, rubber bands, retainers, extractions, adjustments, cranks, braces, and all manner of plastic and metal hardware existed in my mouth at one point or another for the sole purpose of completely rearranging what nature intended to be overcrowded and chockablock. Eventually, the 18-point pile-up that might have occurred in the frontal region of my jaw was straightened and refined into the fetching smile I sport today. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for putting the orthodontist's kids through college!

But a secondary result of all of this tugging and straightening is that I feel quite at home parked back in a dentist's chair with people poking around in my mouth. I was pulled out of school on a monthly-and sometimes weekly, depending on the status of the hardware- basis for afternoon appointments that involved smocked technicians scratching and rummaging around in my face.

I had a dentist's appointment this week; the first in a long, long time. (Part of the deal of returning to the 9-5 workforce is what I now recognize as the luxury of health insurance that includes dental.) I mean, a LONG time. An amount of time that might make a dentist, say, suck in a mouthful of air in a dual reaction: "OhmyGodDISGUSTING" and "Ca-CHING; JACKPOT!"

Also because there had been a serious stretch of time since anyone had stuck pointy metal objects between my teeth, I think the dentist was under the impression that I had some sort of raging phobia about general dentistry and went quite out of his way to insure my comfort.

"Now, we're just going to do X-rays right now. JUST X-RAYS! This won't hurt AT ALL!" he assured me. I somehow made it through the horrifying and life-threatening procedure of photographing my teeth and was rewarded with a toothbrush. A PURPLE toothbrush! Because I am a brave little soldier.

I almost wonder if he was slightly disappointed that I was cavity-free. A perusal of my X-rays revealed a mouthful of strong, sturdy European choppers with five-foot long roots. (Which only furthered my somewhat pervasive fear that my teeth are, in fact, abnormally large and horsey.) No cavities! Good for you! You've been brushing your teeth sometimes! And maybe flossing on that one night a week you force yourself to go to bed at 10pm so you can get something close to 8 hours of sleep! Hooray, aces!

"I'm going to clean your teeth now," he said. Good. It was early in the AM and I had only had time for half a cup of coffee, so this meant I could settle back in the chair, open my mouth, close my eyes, and embark on a nice little snooze. No more questions to answer about my previous dental history. Have at it, good doctor, and wake me when you're done.

Except he seemed to be under the misapprehension that I was bordering on a giant freak-out.

"I'm just going to use the Water Pik," he explained. "This is NOT A DRILL! I promise!"

Ok, fine, use a fire hose for all I care. I'm closing my eyes now, mmmmkay? Night niiiiiiigghhht.........

"This won't hurt AT ALL," he went on. "It will make a sort of loud noise, but it's NOT GOING TO HURT!"


"Are you ok?" he asked.

"Yep, just fine."

"You sure? This won't hurt," he said, again. At this point, I was starting to wonder if, perhaps, whatever he was planning to do was, in fact, going to hurt and this was his disclaimer ahead of time. Or something to convince me, mentally, that it WASN'T hurting, I only THOUGHT it was hurting. It couldn't possibly hurt because he told me so many times that it wouldn't! I was starting to doubt this, a tiny bit.

"I'm going to get started here in a second," he said. Awesome. Settle back. Eyes closey. Hands foldy. Sleepy sleepy time. I figured I could get in a good twenty minutes while he was scraping a few years' worth of artsy-I'm-only-waiting-tables-and-freelancing-until-my-book-deal-comes-through crud off of my newly-insured teeth before I had to get up and go to work.

It didn't hurt. At all. I was just dozing off when he stopped. "You still doing ok?"

Yes. I'm fine. My eyes are closed because I am sleeping. Not because I am trying to shut you-and, by proxy, this nightmarish situation in which you are squirting water onto my delicate, sensitive teeth- out of my mind. I am actually trying to doze off. Don't worry- I sleep with my mouth open all the time; this is no problem for me. Unattractive, perhaps, but utterly convenient for you.


"Where did you say you went to school?"

I didn't. Say anything. Because I am TRYING TO TAKE A NAP! Now. Sleepy time.....

"All done!"

Wait, what? I barely closed my eyes!

"Now, that wasn't too bad, was it?"

Yes! Yes it was! I don't even think I actually fell asleep, I just got my eyes barely closed and you woke me up and now I'm awake again! I DID NOT GET A NAP. WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE DENTIST IF I AM NOT LEAVING WELL-RESTED?

"That's a difference now, huh?!"

Huh? What? I am cranky! You woke me from my nap! Actually, you did not wake me because I did not actually fall anything close to asleep, I barely even shut my---oh. Oh. OOoooooooohhhhhhhh.

My teeth are so..........slick. And my mouth is so.......minty fresh. It's actually quite...well, it's quite refreshing!

I left the dentist, swiping my tongue across my newly sparkling choppers, feeling the squeaky clean of a plaque-free mouth. And, to make up for my lack of nap, I rewarded myself with a triple shot skim latte.

So my mouth was clean for approximately seven minutes before I had coffee breath again.

Oh, well. Maybe if I'd gotten a nap....

No comments: