I’m upside down in a dental chair. The only plus (aside from the obvious- saving my teeth and gums) is the fact my feet are above my heart, which, after recent foot surgery, is just what the doctor ordered to keep swelling down.
I keep my eyes closed, ostensibly from the beam of the overhead operatory light, but mostly it’s to keep my hygienist from seeing the pain and naked fear as she approaches my mouth with her “tools”. I submit to these oral hygiene rituals three times a year. I guess because I am diligent about these visits, I rarely have to see the dentist. And God help me when I do. He sounds like an urban cowboy and can’t stop talking about himself when he comes in to check the hygienist’s work. This morning he pats his chest, pointing out a cardiac monitor measuring his rhythm and heart rate (see, already I know to much just from his opening hello).
“Yeah, my new cardiologist says if my heart beats are only slightly irregular I can get off this beta blocker. It’s actually not too bad, I don’t really feel any side effects I just don’t like taking medication if I don’t absolutely have to.”
Do I really want to know all this? My mind’s eye is now forced to visualize his 66 year old skinny (probably hairless) chest with this apparatus attached to his pale skin. I don’t want to imagine that look. I don’t even want to imagine the chests of men I actually care about. I’m usually a prisoner in the chair with no means of avoiding his incessant chatter. Today, I was vertical and able to inch out of the 10’ by 11” closet to pay my bill and leave!
But I actually like the hygienist. Her name is Liz like mine. She knows people I know and asks after my children. She does her share of “tut tuts”. “You know you should floss every day.” (I was once told by another hygienist that I was quite the “salivater” which is problematic for plaque build up). “You know you should brush your teeth for a full minute at least twice a day.” The lecture is given at a time when I can’t possibly respond or defend myself since her hands and tools have taken possession of my mouth.
I actually think it is a myth the rate of suicide among dentists is higher than in most professions. But they probably do suffer from self-esteem issues because rarely does anyone ever want to be in their offices. Every muscle in my body tenses as she wields her pointy medal scalers and thingamabobs in this vulnerable body part. (Who would have thought going to the dentist would be worse than the gynecologist?!).
When I make an attempt to brush my dog’s teeth I’m met with vigorous head shaking and running away. THAT SHOULD BE EVERYONE’S REACTION! Humans really must be either a weird bunch or somewhat evolved creatures to willingly submit themselves to torture once, twice, or like me, three times a year. But I do want to keep my teeth. I remember my Grandmother taking her teeth out at night and storing them in denture cleaner next to the bed. I was totally grossed out. I guess that was a motivator.
Remember the 1976 movie Marathon Man where Dustin Hoffman is tortured with dental tools by an exiled Nazi war criminal? I’ll never forget it. I practically rode in the lap of my then fiancé on the way home from the theater I was so terrified. You would think after 60+ years of dental visits, this would not be the image I conger up. But, alas it is.
Tell me about your experiences. My mouth and my psyche need company! (Obviously I’m no longer still upside down at the hygienist’s mercy in the dental chair as I write this blog post.)