Thursday, September 25, 2003

Fear and Loathing in Las Silla Del Dentista 

I went to the dentist today to get my teeth cleaned. At least, that is what I thought. I conveniently “forgot” that I also had an appointment to get a chipped filling replaced. So there I am, in the torture chair, with the way-too-cheery-for-reality dental hygienist (she must inhale happy gas moments before every patient) complimenting me on the progress I’d made with my “pockets,” when the sudden realization that this wasn’t all there was to my visit hit me like a ton of toothpaste. It must have been something I overheard between the dentist and the chirpy receptionist, but suddenly I remembered that I had other work to be done. Damn.

It wasn’t bad enough that my jaw was throbbing me from a four-week-long bout with TMJ. It wasn’t enough that’d I’d been persecuting my gums nightly with not one, but TWO different kinds of floss. It wasn’t enough that I knew my way around the rubber tip end of the Butler toothbrush. I was about to experience the drill yet again. Double damn.

I admit to a lifelong utter fear of dentistry work. Not apprehension, not trepidation, not even mere dread, but rather a stone cold horrific fear of previously unknown human proportions. The kind of fear that raises blood pressure and induces the urgent need to urinate.

It’s not the dentist I fear; my dentist is a lovely mother of three who has a passion for Disney World and taking Caribbean cruises when out of the office. What I fear is the sound and the pain and feeling of vulnerability and the taste of my own blood and the smell of the instruments and even the strange yellowish lamp that swings precariously over my head. They all send my body into extreme panic mode.

I once had a holistic dentist actually throw up his hands and squeal in frustration at the amount of saliva I produced when under the drill. I am not joking. He apologized profusely afterwards and made a tasteless attempt at a joke by calling me a “very juicy lady,” but the fact remains it happened. I no longer go to that dentist, but I never fail to think about him as one dentist after another stuffs my cheeks full of absorbent gauze.

During my cleaning today the dental hygienist hit a place in one of my back top molars that made me simultaneously whimper, squint, grimace, lock my hands together and point both toes down as though I were having a seizure. From her reaction, I think she thought so too. I removed the ever-present saliva-sucker tube from the now-raw corner of my mouth and politely told her to please not go there anymore. She agreed. Her cheery patter pretty much dried up about then, and the cleaning ended soon thereafter. After watching globs of my blood swirl around the porcelain spit sick, I was moved to the Dentist's personal chair.

I have this thing I do whenever I am under the drill. I can’t remember who taught it to me, but I hold my hands in such a way that each hand is grasping the opposite thumb. Whoever taught it to me (probably the holistic dentist, as he was a font of this type of information) told me that it would help channel my energy in such as way as to help me relax. It’s sort of like holding your own hand, I guess. I have no proof that it helps, but I do it anyway. I also pray over and over…”Dear God, let the dentist do her job well. Please let this be over soon. Please don’t let it hurt. Please.”

Today my dentist said something that I would have only thought I would hear if David Letterman was doing a “Top Ten List of Things You Don’t Want to Overhear Your Dentist Say” list. After dropping something on the floor, she giggled and said “Geez, I am all thumbs today!” I am not kidding. I joked about it with her afterwards (inmate kissing up to the guard) and she told me that when she was in dentistry school the first thing they taught you was to never say “Whoops.”

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