Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dental PTSD

I don't like going to the dentist. Never have, and I can't imagine that I ever will.

My wife, on the other hand, loves it.


"Don't you just love how it makes your teeth feel?" she gushes.

She says it's like going to the spa or having a manicure, and she feels all pampered and pretty when she comes out. I, on the other hand, feel all poked and prodded and in pain.

I brush my teeth. I even floss. But I don't like having someone with Very Sharp Torture Instruments digging around inside my oral cavity.

Part of this stems from a horrible dentist I had as a child. An "old school" dentist, his solution was to drill-n-fill at the first sign of decay. I received a mouthful of silver fillings from that man, and I have a suspicion that few of them were necessary. But the worst part about it was that he never offered Novacaine or any other sort of anesthetic. He'd just pin you down and get that drill a-spinnin' while your legs would be kicking futilely in the air and your screams were scaring the other children sitting in the waiting room.

I once remarked to my mother that it was really painful to go to the dentist, and devout Catholic that she was, she said "Yes, but then I remember that Jesus endured a much more painful agony on the cross, and if he could endure that, then the least I could do was put up with the drilling."

Well, how can you answer that without sounding like a pansy? By telling her that Jesus' agony ended in death?

Dr. Evil Dentist also once cemented a strange block-like device onto my front teeth in order to correct the angle of an upper incisor. If you thought braces were bad, imagine a huge metal blob protruding from your mouth. (And remember, this was before the days that people began regularly adoring their faces and mouths with bits of metal. Today this would be consider "alternative" and cool. But back then . . . ) Take a middle-school kid with thick glasses who already has a low self-esteem and then uglify him with a huge and hideous dental device, one that also causes a slight speech impediment, . . . and then watch the fun.

For what it's worth, the device didn't work, but not a single dentist since has ever mentioned this supposed "problem" that Evil Dentist, DDS was trying to correct. I suspect ED, DDS had payments on a yacht or something.

Anyway, the trauma of my childhood dentist means that I cannot fully embrace the cheery abandon which marks my wife's regular dental check-ups. But my wife makes appointments for me anyway with joyful gusto. Thanks, honey.

Last week I went in for my regular check-up, and the dental hygienist expressed "concern" over an area between two of my upper molars where a larger than usual gap meant that more food was able to get down below the gumline, become trapped, and cause some problems. I knew this was a problem area; the problem was created by another former dentist who got sloppy with a filling that ended up irritating the gum for years. And then yet another former dentist attempted to fix that problem, but apparently didn't fix it well enough. And now my wife's dentist (I cannot call her my dentist for I refuse to claim any) is having a go at it.

So today I had to go back in so the hygienist (who, we must admit, is the one who wields the Very Sharp Torture Instruments) could really scrap and poke and prod up in there and try to get it all healthy again. At least I got Novacaine.

I was a bit surprised to discover that they've now started taking blood pressure at the dentist with each visit. When mine was taken, the hygienist expressed "concern" at how high it was. "I'm at the dentist!" I told her. "What were you expecting!?"

One thing I don't like about dental hygienists are the lectures. "Are you flossing?" she asked. I said yes. "How often" "Hourly, I deadpanned." "Show me how you do it," she instructed. So I had to perform the floss maneuver for her. Then I had to show her my brushing technique so she could judge my worthiness some more. She wasn't particularly pleased.

She gave me some dye to put in my mouth. Remember those little red tablets they made you chew in elementary school? They were supposed to show you where the plaque was. The red coloring would stick to the plaque, and the school nurse would then determine whether you were a good brusher or not. Gold stars for the good ones.

The dye the hygienist gave me was sort of like that, but no gold stars. After swishing it around my mouth for a bit, the hygienist handed me a mirror.

Oh. My. Lord.

My lips, my tongue, my gums, . . . everything was livid purple. I looked like I'd just snacked on Barney the Dinosaur for breakfast, his purple blood still dripping from my mouth. (In fact, I secretly hoped the dye would last until I got home so I could tell my kids exactly that.)

After the Novacaine kicked in, the hygienist got down to business of scraping and poking while the overhead speaker played annoying hits of the 70s. As if going to the dentist wasn't suffering enough, I had to listen to "Hotel California," "Piano Man," and "Benny and the Jets."

When did they stop letting patients spit in the little sink? Instead, the dentist sprays water in your mouth, and then invites you to suck it all out with a powerful vacuum tube. The hygienist kept making fun of me because I could not operate the suction tube properly. "Little kids know how to do it," she snarked. But I couldn't get the hang of it, and it would either suck air directly out of my lungs, causing me to gulp like a fish, or it threatened to pull my esophagus inside out.

Just let me sip from a cup and spit in the sink, already! Even Dr. Evil Dentist let me do that!

When it was over, my mouth still numb, and she was done haranguing me about oral hygiene, she started talking about all the follow-up visits. Excuse me? There's going to be follow-up? Several visits?

And the sad part is, my wife is envious of me.


At 4:59 PM, Blogger Firestone said...

Is your wife's favorite movie Little Shop of Horrors?

At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL, yeah I agree. Course it sounds like my fear of dentists is a bit more extreme than even yours. I don't get liking the dentist by any stretch. My ideal dentist would put me under no matter what. And I'm still in my 20s and my BP was in the 170s/90s at the dentist when it normally runs 90s/50s. Yes, I know it's really low, but I'm a nurse and have played with taking my BP a few times to see. They thought I had uncontrolled hypertension with a really early onset LOL.


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