Someone else has been grinding my teeth……
A few days ago, I found myself sitting in my least favorite chair. You know the one; it’s that 8-way plastic covered recliner that’s upholstered in fake leather. The leather is the pale brown dirty white color of those lumpy shoes they sell to senior citizens at Wal-Mart. The chair has a pole for a blinding spotlight. It also features an attached tray for torture implements. The wet hissing sound that comes from somewhere behind your head on the left side could be something crawling out of the drain. Add your own details to complete the picture.
Remember that old Dustin Hoffman movie called “Marathon Man”? The one in which Lawrence Olivier strapped our hero into one of those chairs and tortured him with a dentist’s drill? Ughhh! I don’t remember a thing about the plot, but I’ll never forget the horror of hearing the high wine of the drill and watching Dustin Hoffman writhe in pain.
Farther back in my history are dark dental memories, not yet suppressed, of a dentist my parents made us go to because he was a member of our church The good doctor’s fingers were permanently stained with nicotine and he didn’t believe in Novocain (I think he’d taken a correspondence course from the dental school at the University of Southern North Dakota).
Worse yet, he had an old-fashioned dental drill that was so slow you could feel each burr on the drill bit as it took a little more out of the crater he was drilling in your tooth. This is probably the reason I quit going to church.
To top it off, one of my grandfathers was a dentist. Every visit to my grandparents held hidden within it, like a worm in an apple, the possibility I would be hauled down to “Grandpa Doctor”s office. You could say I have issues……
Fast forward to my recent trip to the tooth guy. I had a cracked filling and it had to be replaced. Drilling was required, of course; it’s always required once you walk through the door of your dentist’s office. This fact is called DesCamp’s Law of the Worst Case Outcome. This law also applies on any occasion I get stopped by a traffic gendarme. The chance that I’ll get off with a warning, instead of a ticket, is statistically zero.
The dental assistant covered me with the Shroud of Those Who Are About to Suffer and then fluffed around with long shiny sharp looking things. When she was finished preparing me for the sacrifice, there was the prick of the needle, the numbness that never comes quite quickly enough, and then a shrill scream. It took a second for me to realize the noise was coming from the drill and not from me.
As I lay there, cursing the entire dental industry, I realized there was an alternate reality; one in which I couldn’t be sitting in that chair. At that thought, things began to look different.
There I was, getting my ancient teeth re-treaded for another 100,000 bites. The service was good, the dentist was chatty and informative, the place was clean and, with my health plan, it was almost free. I get annual maintenance and emergency treatment if I need it. And I’m in good hands with a professional who knows what he’s doing and, while he’s digging around in my mouth, likes to tell me about his newest whiz-bang technology dental equipment.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think most of us tend to notice the pain and inconvenience of things instead of seeing the benefit we get for our investment of time and discomfort. Dental procedures are high on that list.
I’m not saying go hug your dentist. It’s always good to keep them at a safe distance. But I am grateful that my guy and his dental minions are there to take care of me.
I’m not ready to start gumming an oatmeal diet just yet.