Monday, May 22, 2006

Cavity Search

Last week I went to the dentist. That is big freaking news in these parts because I hate going to the dentist and had stayed away for quite some time. How long? Well, the last time I went in for a dental check up was right before I moved to New York City. Right, more than two and a half years ago. You see the last time I went to the dentist, she found three cavities. Two days later I returned to her office so that she could fill them without waiting for the novicane to take effect because the office staff was annoyed with me. Then about 8 months later when I was in God foresaken Minneapolis, I was flossing my teeth and one of the fillings popped out and sailed into the air, leaving a little hole in my mouth exposing the nerve. The resulting "adventure" found me nearly coming to blows with a smart-mouthed, stone-dumb corn-fed pharmacist in some Kroeger's or whatever the hell they have out there. Before I took a swing, Belstock intervened and told the white coat, "You see, she's in a lot of pain..."

So, I developed a new strategy called, "No Dentist, no pain" (see also Marley, "No woman, no cry") and was getting along quite well. I was keen on flossing before, but once I decided to take my dental health entirely into my own hands I became a bit manaical about flossing. And so I might have been happy to carry on like this, but it must be said I eat a lot of candy. A lot a lot. Eventually the last remaining drop of prudence that wasn't yanked out with my wisdom teeth ten years ago told me that I shouldn't give up on preventitive dental care just yet.

So on Wednesday I went to Medusa's dentist, about 10 blocks from my office. It was the first time I had been in a New Yok dentist's office. Everything was so crowded. It was not like the palatial rooms of my former dentist in Rhode Island, that dirty whore, whose office just seemed to go on forever and was mostly dead space in that thrilling shade of sterlized, clincial white. So as I sat in the chair in Midtown, I had to rationalize that Manhattan rents being what they are, naturally I could not expect to find myself in such a luxurious office and that the dirty, dingy tint I was seeing everywhere was probably in my head. Right? RIGHT?

Before the hygentist came in to take 18 x-rays of my mouth, (Me: "Is neffer ad tis mny xrays bfre" Her: blah blah baseline blah blah) the dentist came in. She introduced herself to me and was very nice. Then she said, "Are you crying?"

"Me? No," I said, but I was aware that my face was probably ashen white and I was gripping the arm rests like an ill-fated passenger in a plumetting jet.

"Oh," said the dentist. "Allergies?"

"No," I said.

"Are you going to cry?" she asked me.

"No. I just don't like going to the dentist."

"Don't worry," she said. "It won't hurt at all."

"Yeah, I'm not really concerned about any pain," I explained. "It's the sounds. The whirring, the scraping, the drilling, the poking... I can't take it." The dentist tried to reassure me (futile) then went to have a pep talk with the hygentist. Somehow, between the two of them they decided that this was my first trip to the dentist. So for the rest of my time there, they explained everything to me like a child. "Now I'm going to polish your teeth with this. Here is the toothpaste. This is going to make a sound, but it's not going to hurt. This will make your teeth nice and clean."

I wanted to scream, "I've been to the dentist before! I wasn't raised by wolves! I had responsible parents who made me go twice a year, it's just that I'm an irresponsible adult! I'm familiar with the procedure here, you can skip the play-by-play!" But, I didn't. I was having enough trouble restraining myself.

In between bouts of scraping and poking I asked the hygentist, "Do you ever have people that come in here drunk?"

"What?" she asked.

"I would be able to handle this a lot better if I had a few drinks in me...." It was 10 o'clock in the morning.

"No...." she said. "We have laughing gas. Nitrous Oxide. If you really think you need some..." I considered this option, then tried to picture myself walking into my office a half hour later, totally stoned, sitting at my little desk and trying to answer the phone with a straight face. I sometimes have difficulty not bursting out into laughter after I answer the phone when I'm sober. I skipped the gas, but it's nice to know I could have signed on for that.

I was told that my teeth looked pretty good. The dentist thought I had one small cavity, "but I don't see anything on the right side, where you said you felt something sticky."

"Okay, well then, I must have been mistaken."

"Let me look again."

"Don't put yourself out..."

"Nope, I don't see anything. I'm going to check the x-ray again."

"If there's no cavity there, don't look for one!" I yelled at her retreating back.

They decided I only needed to come in to have the small one filled and despite my questionable behavior they gave me a "goody bag". The goody bag contained a tooth brush and some floss. When I was a kid the goody bag also contained stickers. I felt cheated.

"When do you need to come back?" asked the receptionist.

"Oh, I just need a small cavity filled. No hurry."

"Are you in pain?" she asked. "Because the next open appointment is in two weeks."

"Two weeks? Fine. Want to make it four weeks?" She looked at me. "Look, I'm in no rush," I said leveling with her. "You could make that appointment for the 12th of never and that would be fine with me." She laughed at me, then booked me to get the cavity filled in two weeks. Readers, this is my vow to you: next time, gas!


AJWP said...

I can't wait to hear about your laughing gas experience. Good times!

Cupcake said...

The toothbrush in my goody bag has the dentist's name and phone number and then the words "Gentle Dentistry". I can only imagine business has improved three-fold since she replaced "Sadistic Dentistry". Seriously, shouldn't all dentistry be gentle? What is the alternative? "Agressive Dentistry?"