Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Semi-Annual Violation

My dentist’s office ceiling is exceptionally clean. I know this because I spent 45 minutes looking at every visible millimeter of it while I was having my teeth cleaned--no cobwebs, no dusty light fixtures—it was beautiful.

I was trying hard to ignore what was happening to my mouth.

I AM truly grateful for modern dentistry, but that still doesn’t mean I enjoy going to the dentist. It’s just...

the odors of disinfectant, hot inner tooth-core and sweet laughing gas,

the sounds of high-pitched drills,

the taste of “latex glove,”

the sight of masked, goggled people and

the unpleasant spray of dry air on my teeth

...that upsets and disturbs all five of my senses. And that’s just from a cleaning. I don’t know anyone who enjoys their bi-yearly “mouth invasion” even with a plastic toy surprise at the end.

I think my problem is that I don’t like watching someone mess with me. If my mouth was on my back and not right below my nose, I’m sure I could read a magazine through the whole procedure. Headphones are offered in some offices along with drop down television sets to amuse and distract patients. That doesn’t work for me, and I sometimes miss critical commands like, “Turn towards me,” “Spit” “Bite” and “Don’t Bite."

Yet, how fortunate we are to have the ability to sit and do nothing but count dots on dentist office ceilings. If you believe what my father used to tell me, that, as a boy, the dentist made him power the dental drill himself like a bicycle, you’re be especially thankful. Dad said the drill was so slow you could count the revolutions. I always figured it was just another, “when I was a boy” story—full of well-meaning deception.

As it turns out...Dad was only half lying. Dentists in the late 19th century acquired the ‘newest’ tool—a ‘modern’ foot operated drill. The dentist himself would pump his foot to operate the machine. All day long, push, push...and push. And people back then had LOUSY teeth too. I’ll bet those dentists had some enviable calve muscles.

Teeth are in much better condition now than when I was a kid, thanks to better toothpaste and fluorinated water. My children, for example, have never had a cavity--and it’s certainly not because they’re superior brushers. Yet, dentists still want to see them twice a year. I think it’s because they just like to see teeth. Dentists are also addicted to interpreting “Wide-Open Mouth” language. That’s why they always ask you open-ended questions during the process:

“How are the kids?” Dentist Mark asks during a recent appointment.


“I don’t see any problems. I want to poke at your teeth anyway. How’s life?”

“Jane, a little air here. Read any good books lately?”


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