With all the recent kind words being expressed about me both in and out of the newsletter my head is now officially the size of Toledo. So to combat this condition I did what any normal (in the loosest sense of the word) male would do- I scheduled an appointment with the dentist where I could be belittled about my personal hygiene habits.
I don't go to the dentist as often as I should (even though I do have a very real fear about losing my teeth when I'm an elderly gent) because it has always been such a miserably memorable experience. I remember one summer as a youth when I was feeling like way too stale and deflated pancakes when my Mom dragged my brother and I to Dr. Oliver Johnson's office for our annual dental checkup. When we arrived at the clinic (ironically right down the street from my current abode) I showed Mom a blister I had on my finger and she immediately identified it as chicken pox and dragged me back home with my fever and soon to be itchy epidermis. I remember another time when I literally burst into tears at Dr. Johnson's office. I've carried this terrible burden with me into adulthood (or as near as I come- and I simply haven't had time to reveal all this to the battery of shrinks I have visited).
I have a sneaking suspicion that as different as I am from most people, most people really don't like to go to the dentist. Whenever I hear a drilling sound I do notice that I'm not the only one who noticeably cringes. Besides being poked and prodded in a sensitive area, who wants to be disparaged by health care specialists who are none too quick to observe that we aren't taking care of ourselves as well as we should? Is it really a surprise that gums tend to bleed after being jabbed by a sharp metallic object? Does this really necessarily indicate some mode of personal negligence? I can't recall a time when my eye doctor jabbed something in my eye and was surprised to discover that it teared up.
OK so it was my first visit to the dentist in a couple of years (more like three or four). The seed for what is supposed to be a regular event was planted when I sat next to a dental hygienist at the Lucinda Williams' concert at the beginning of summer. She told me that anxious patients now could receive laughing gas at the most simple and routine appointments. I like to laugh yet I ultimately didn't even ask about the gas upon my visit.
So the first difference I noticed this outing from the last time was they asked me who they could contact should something go wrong. That didn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence in what was to transpire. I jokingly asked the front desk ladies if my contact had to be human or if he could be of a feline species. They laughed and said that a cat probably couldn't pick me up if the need should arise. I then told them about arriving home the other day to the unexpected smell of toast and the sneaking suspicion that my kitty is more talented than is easily seen by the human eye. We all chuckled at that.
Another difference this time around was the behavior of my dental hygienist the extraordinarily chipper Angie, who assigned a number and called out to an assistant the amount of space and sensitivity condition of my gums as she went about cleaning my teeth. Normal, Angie told me was in a one to three range and thus any four or fives she identified in my teeth caused me pain in an area inside my chest rather than inside my mouth.
When the elderly masked Dr. Renelt came in to give me the official state of my mouth I was a bit anxious when he said he saw a cracked filling with some decay behind it. What was even more alarming was the mention of the words "root canal" when he described a potential remedy to my malady. I have always heard that procedure ranks right up there with giving birth in terms of unpleasant human experiences. When the good doctor left the room Angie noticing the look of alarm on my face reassured me by saying my potential root canal probably wouldn't be as severe or as painful as those words usually signify. She proceeded to show me the correct way to floss, genially observing how straight my teeth were ("You didn't have braces? You should have kids- just to pass on your teeth," she cooed. "Oh I guess that really isn't a reason to have children...") She then scheduled a return visit for me and sent me on my merry way with semi-shiny teeth plus visions of (more) pain headed my way and brochures educating me all about gum disease. Oh what a joy it is to be alive.