Monday, January 30, 2012

Revenge of the Dentist

by Ben Small

I know why people shy away from dentists, professionally and socially. You don't want to get too close to those guys. They know pain; they inflict it.

You know the anticipatory sensations of an upcoming appointment: a slick sweat across the forehead; the stomach that just won't settle; those last few moments sitting in your car when you calculate any number of fake excuses only to realize nobody will believe you.

Face it: You're chicken, just like me. No dentists, thank you. I don't want no lolipops.

Not long ago, I reported on my ailing tooth problem, the filling which fell out and finally started throbbing on a Friday with no dentists working until Monday. I reported how I called a dentist only to discover he was skiing in Colorado, and that he suggested a temporary filling from Walgreen's until I could see him the next week.

Well, I saw him, and he scraped away the Walgreen's junk that had hardened around my teeth like some form of smooth cement, and squashed in his own temporary junk, then set me up for another appointment when he'd provide a permanent solution.

It's all about more appointments, you know, more fees to do the same thing he could have done a month ago. And no doubt, my dentist wanted me to sweat, to think about that big drill for a month or so.

I know this because during my first visit, when my dentist wasn't laughing at my predicament, he was twirling drilling irons and blood napkins like a cheerleader with a flag-draped baton and cackling like a mad Lawrence Olivier poised with a Black & Decker in a shaky hand.

Okay, so Olivier didn't cackle, just asked, "Is it safe?" Still, Olivier left me this impression, so ingrained in my throbbing jaw that every time I visit a dentist,  I look for chair-straps and a head-vice.

Well, tomorrow is the day of reckoning, and I'm busy arranging all my affairs, anticipating it may be a while -- if ever -- before I have another fear-free, clear-headed day. Post traumatic stress, you know. Yes, it's been known to happen to dental patients.

Another reason nobody likes dentists.

My sister is married to a dentist. Now, her husband has always been nice to me, but I do get an eerie feeling whenever I see him. Perhaps, it's because he always recommends a dentist whether I need one or not, then chuckles to himself each time I stare back at him.

"Painless," they say.

Right. Doc Holliday said the same thing, but instead of Novocaine, Doc used a Derringer to put his patients out of their misery. If they awoke, the pain of an aching tooth was nothing compared to a hole in the chest.

So I've developed a game-plan for tomorrow. First, I'll pop a couple Vicodin an hour before the appointment, followed by a maximum dose of Naproxin. Pain and inflammation anxiety: the tools to prevention -- maybe...

Okay, I'll add some Xanax.

Then, I'll hit the vodka bottle. Old timers used booze to null the pain of amputations. This combo -- if it doesn't kill me -- should work for an extraction, root canal, or thorough cleaning, don'cha think?

Of course, there's another advantage to this approach: If I get pulled over for DUI or pass out and go to the Emergency Room in an ambulance, that's an excuse any dentist will accept and I'll have a written record to prove it.

Or maybe this guy is really evil, and he'll check my temporary filling, tell me he's too busy, pass a cleaning pic over my pearlies, and schedule me for yet another visit, thereby ratcheting up the fear factor and the post traumatic stress for yet another period of weeks while finding another way to bill an extra appointment.

Now, I must admit, I'm not a total coward. I can take a needle. But someone poised just over my delicate facial features with a jack-hammer so big it must be held in two hands, with a whirling, buzzing blade that to my ear -- eyes, jaw and forehead too -- vibrates like a Norelco electric razor amplified so it's like I'm inside a cranked up Bose, well, the thought just terrifies me.

And meanwhile, some hairy-armed assistant that may have once been on the East German female shotputting team thirty years ago is reaching for my jaw, saying as sweetly as possible for someone with such a large Adam's Apple, "Now, open up, you."

I think of Rosa Klebb, the shoe-blade.

Then, when the procedure actually begins, and smoke rises in a white plume from my open and defenseless mouth, I think about my tongue.

My tongue. Where is it supposed to go? There's a war going on inside my mouth: shrapnel spraying, heat rising...

Did I mention the smoke?

How do I protect a tongue I can't see, touch or feel?

I panic.

And that's where the leather straps come in. I've seen them before. They leave welts, you know.

Since I didn't see straps on my first visit to this guy, I suspect he uses the Auto-Strap, a hidden robotic device that's the latest in dental office supplies. I saw an ADTA (American Dental Torture Association) catalog in the waiting room.

So tomorrow, I get strapped in and discover just how pissed my dentist really was that I called him during his vacation.

And this may be the last you hear of me...


Hunter Emkay said...

Ben, I just read this on the night before I am due in for an extraction, after months of waiting with temp pluggings. I also have tongue anxiety, after getting it sliced open for moving around too much last time on the dentist chair.

I would like to wish you the best of luck, but your post has seriously freaked me out for my own appointment tomorrow. Kudos for your writing, but we don't have ready access to heavy medication here in Australia. All I can finish with is that I hope you and I share the same level of pain in the chair tomorrow.

Mark W. Danielson said...

First of all, "Is it safe?"

Good to have you back, Ben. Have fun at the dentist.

Jean Henry Mead said...

lol, Ben, your funny bone is showing again. I share your loathing for visiting the dentist, along with everyone else who isn't a masochist. I practice TM (transendental meditatation) while in the dentist's chair and it works better than "laughing gas."

Hunter, deep breathing also helps just before you sit in the dentist's chair.

Ben Small said...

Good luck, Hunter. I showed up and survived, despite all my preparations, and once I stop drooling, I'll survey the product. And no straps! But I did have to make the obligatory follow-up appointment. They said, "Tomorrow?" From my look alone, she changed that to two months.

If it's your Wisdom teeth, ask yourself why they call them "Wisdom" if they want to pull 'em out?

If it's another molar, no doubt they'll try to sell you on a spacer. As I understand it, a spacer is only required if your jaw bone is relatively soft and your teeth might move into the space. My jaw is like iron, so I didn't splurge for one. No one can see the space, and my teeth haven't moved in three years. Indeed, I like the space; I can hide pills and mints and pieces of chocolate there. :-)

Carola said...

I killed a dentist in Die Laughing. With pleasure. I was talking about it to my present dentist, who's great, and she said nervously, "Not a female dentist called Terri?" I assured her it wasn't her, but I dedicated the book to her as an insurance policy. She bought copies for everyone in her office.

Jackie King said...

Even though I adore my dentist (he once sent me flowers when I was sick), I still dread going to visit. Think it was because when I was about 16 we had this dentist named Dr. Butcher. (And aptly named he was!)

He always said, "This is just a small cavity, so we don't need any pain medicine." Then he'd start drilling until he hit my belt buckle. That was a long time ago, but I still have scars!

Ben Small said...

LOL, Jackie. When my sister and were kids I'd go first, because I was older brother. Then my poor sister would have to listen to me screaming as soon as they touched my jaw. I'm surprised my dentist didn't see me in seclusion, I made so much noise. So of course, now that my sister's married to a dentist -- nice guy, too -- she taunts me with threats what he and his buddies will do to me. :-)

Jackie King said...

Guess all brothers love to torment their sisters. Mine did. I, of course, was always a perfect little lady.

Ben Small said...

Good thing your brother doesn't read this blog... :-)

Jaden Terrell said...

Ben, I have a real phobia about dentists. I put off going as long as I possibly can. Glad your tooth is fixed!

Ben Small said...

Ditto, Beth. No other word for it. I know it well. :-)

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