Dental Hygiene

tooth fairyThirty years or so ago I got a wart on my gum. I have never met anyone else who knew this was a thing, as the young folks say, but apparently it is. Some random virus gets into one of those divots where you dag yourself with the wrong side of the toothbrush, say, and if the stars are right and Great Cthulhu is rising you get, well, as a co-worker of mine at the time called it, Star Wart. It hurt like a bugger every time I brushed, and I found myself in the hands of an oral surgeon who apparently wasn’t the best in the West, because two decades after the wart was removed with much fanfare and lashings of Pentothal, the equally numb-nuts dentist I was seeing at the time told me I had an erosion in my jaw bone and I needed to see a periodontist.

The first thing I did was throw away his referral (he was a crank-em-through discount dentist I had consulted as a stopgap because my last dentist had started putting in fillings that flew out of my teeth after about three years, which was getting irritating, and I just needed someone to do maintenance until I could get a decent recommendation). I ended up with this expensive, brilliant guy who promptly announced that he was going to drill holes in my jaw bone, which had developed a sort of a saddle in it under the surgical site because the long-past surgeon didn’t really sew the gum back together all that tight, and insert either porcine or cadaver growth hormone to reconstitute the missing bone, take your pick. I am a vegetarian, but not a martyr, and you can get all sorts of disgusting things from cadavers so I opted for the pig. They have not yet reported Mad Pig Disease to my knowledge.

I cannot describe exactly what it is like to listen to a drill burr through your actual bone while you are sitting there in the dental chair trying to think beautiful thoughts, except to say that I have no zeal to ever get one of these implant things. The whole thing worked a treat though and I started going back to this guy for every other teeth cleaning, twice a year, since anyone who drinks Darjeeling and Assam at the rate I do has more or less Palomino-colored teeth after about three months. Also he has done a pretty damn good job warding off the sort of gum insurrection that most people my age seem to have endured by now; instead of disgusting incursions with flaps and stitches and things, I just had to have the root of the goofball warty tooth planed about a year back.

Last October when I reported in the nice hygienist from Bahrain who has been doing the honors for years wasn’t there. Instead a twentysomething women’s field hockey fullback chivvied her way in, introduced herself, looked at the chart and said chirpily, “Okay, I see you always get numbing gel!” No I don’t. I loathe all those flavored unguents that get slopped into your mouth in dental offices, and one reason I stuck with this practice (and the primary dental one that I sent me to it) was that, for the first time in my life, getting my teeth cleaned was not an utter bloody white-knuckled hell. Never mind. Fullback Mary insisted that I always got numbing gel. “It says so right here! You must just not have realized it!” Nothing I said would change her mind. How confrontational are you prepared to get with someone who is about to go spelunking in your mouth with sharp instruments? I considered walking out, but I was getting stalgamites on my premolars. She slathered me with goop that tasted like out-of-date Hawaiian Punch and proceeded to go over my mouth with a hammer and chisel. In between blows, she said, in tones that a special ed teacher might use to a particularly recalcitrant little ‘tard, “You know if you want good checkups you need to use the sonic brush for two whole minutes!!! Do you use it for two minutes?”

“Did Mary do a good job for you?” asked the gum doc when she had finished, while she stood right there, smirking. As I was freed from the chair, she glanced back at her computer screen, and remarked “Oh I see!!! You just got that numbing gel when they did the root planing!” I guess that was an apology. Or something. My mouth tasted like fruit-favored dogshit for hours, even after the obnoxious blubber-lipped numb feeling wore off and it became apparent that she had used barb wire to floss with.

I decided to wait a few weeks and check back to see if they had canned her already. That stretched out into months, on account I was moving an engineer into my cats’ bedroom and all and had other things to think about. Oh no. She’s the only one there who can clean my teeth now.

This is a bit difficult. The doctor is top-notch, but there is no way in hell I am letting that woman back near my mouth. I mean, if the next argument is about something a little more critical than numbing gel, like say drug allergies, it could get ugly; she may have the field hockey look but I still shove 500 on the leg sled most workouts, give or take, and in the dental chair I have a position of leverage, and there is a big plate glass window on the opposite wall, and it’s on the sixth floor. I made my case to the office manager, but she said the scheduler would have to call me back to book me for the week that The Reamer is off. That was the last I heard from them.

I scheduled with the virtuoso who works at my regular dentist’s office. Meanwhile I can’t decide whether to make another phone call, or write the periodontist a letter which will probably get used against me in court in a wrongful firing cum slander suit, or something.

This bites. So to speak.

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6 thoughts on “Dental Hygiene

  1. Dear-oh-dear. If it were me, I would notify the doctor…he’ll never know unless someone tells him. The clinic I go to now—the place where they knocked me out cold and filled my mouth full of 18-karat crowns last year—specializes in anxious patients, and I couldn’t believe how nice the hygienist was when I went earlier this week, for the first regular cleaning I’ve had in years…I couldn’t tolerate it before then because of all the bad dental work that made even drawing breath to speak an interesting exercise in wanting to scream. I hardly felt the scaling at all…like, hardly at all, and she was so so so so so so careful. I was ready to bury my head in her bosom and ask her to marry me. I wish I could export her to you.

    • That’s exactly how I felt about the woman from Bahrain, and the woman from Boston who does the work at my regular dentist. My dearly loved Stupid Girl (who has blessedly gotten a lot smarter since I started to call her that) saw the Boston lady after a succession of shitty Medicaid dentists and literally leapt from the chair and flung her arms around the hygienist and mashed her. Everyone in the practice still talks about it.

  2. Seeing mine in the morning. I have no complaints, but a cleaning is nothing to me after the crap I’ve been through (and still need to schedule – gold crown, anyone?). I love my new dentist, though. She gives novocaine shots you don’t even feel. And tiny little hands for my tiny little mouth.

    Shut up. I DO TOO have a tiny mouth!

    I’d have gone for cadaver. I would just adore grossing people out with that.

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