Last Word: The Dentist

I hate going to the dentist. However, as they recommend, I try and go every six months. That’s mostly because I like the idea of my teeth being located inside my mouth and not in a cup on the nightstand. So I do what I can. But I don’t like it.

Half the time I can’t even remember that I have an appointment. I’m pretty sure that’s because the people at the front desk of my dentist’s office insist I schedule so far in advance that I’m afraid I might not still be alive by the time they roll around.

Though I understand the need to book them so far out, most days I struggle to remember whether I put deodorant on or not, let alone recall a commitment I made in a different calendar year.

When I arrive it’s always the same. Even if I’m on time, I still spend 20 minutes sitting in the waiting room listening to an unlucky person undergo some kind of excessive, off-shore drilling procedure while I’m stuck paging through Motocross Digest because all the good magazines are taken.

No matter how often I go, I always have to start with X-rays. Other than discovering Jimmy Hoffa buried beneath my left molar, I’m not sure what they think they’re going to find that’s significant enough to warrant repeated shots of radiation directly to my head.

And with all the advances in modern technology you’d think they would have figured out by now how to shape dental X-rays to actually fit in your mouth.

Instead, the hygienist inserts little paper-covered razor blades into every crevice of my mouth while I’m expected to grip them with my teeth without blinking, breathing or crying for help while she takes pictures.

Once finished, we move on to the main event.

When you think about it, there’s something humbling about reclining in a chair, mouth wide open, while someone else scrapes encrusted plaque off the back of your teeth. I imagine it’s similar to how my cat feels when the vet takes his temperature.

If that’s not bad enough, the hygienist then uses my paper bib to wipe off anything disgusting she fishes out in the process, leaving me no choice but to look down at a Picasso of my poor dental hygiene for the rest of the appointment.

However that pales in comparison to having my teeth polished. I know they’ve heard of toothpaste at my dentist’s office, so I can’t understand why they still use that stuff that comes in a color even Crayola can’t name and tastes like drywall cement mixed with gravel.

I can’t get it out of my mouth fast enough. But that’s a problem, too, because apparently I lack the skill set required to spit into the little sink. Instead, I end up slobbering it out in a demoralizing display of ropey saliva and tooth polish that I ultimately wipe on my sleeve anyway.

When that’s done, a second hygienist comes in and one of them sticks a tiny, metal pitchfork in and out of my gums while the other writes down numbers. I get some 1s, a few 2s and they exchange looks when there are a couple of 5s. I can only assume this means that I have catastrophic gum disease caused by too much Kool-Aid and saltwater taffy.

But I find that hard to believe. In fact, in the last few visits I’ve been told that much like my bra size and checking account, my gums are suffering from recession. They say it’s probably from over-brushing and that eventually I’m going to need gum surgery. It involves cutting skin from the roof of my mouth and reattaching it to the problem area.

While I’ve given the idea careful consideration, I’ve decided that I’d rather undergo a brain transplant before signing up for a “gumectomy” and am willing to forsake having gums altogether if that’s what is necessary to avoid it.

At the end of the visit my dentist drops by to poke around one final time before announcing that I have a few hairline cracks in my teeth, but not to worry, they’re due to old age. Then I’m done.

Before leaving they ask me to make another appointment. I tell them I’d like to, but that I have to update my will first.

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