The Dental Spa

While in the waiting room before my daughter’s dental check-up this morning, she played with another girl about her age while I sat in a strange and squeaky chair that appeared to be made entirely of rubber, and defended my knees from a little boy who apparently believed my right knee was a punching bag.  After the boy was called for what I hoped was a root canal, I picked up my backpack and began searching through it for something to read.  As for any healthcare visit, I take somewhere between six and ten books.  I suppose I like to hedge my bet, not knowing what mood I’ll be in or how much time I’ll have to read.  I usually take at least one from each of the major fiction genres (mass market, literature, classic, short fiction, young adult, and anything by a Fox News contributor) as well as a decent selection of nonfiction (memoir, essay collections, etc.).  I guess you could classify my mood at such times as “indecisive.”

None of the books I brought this morning were of any interest so I picked up the magazine from the side table next to me.  It was a lifestyle magazine for one of the upscale neighborhoods in town, and as typical, the first few pages were dedicated to pictures of recent high society events and the face and/or breast renovations of its attendees.  But more than these cleaves of flesh, it was a two-page advertisement for a “dental spa” that caught my eye.

First of all, from the picture in the ad, each of the professionals that make up this practice appear to be perfect human specimens. This is a picture I would expect to find in a futuristic press release notifying the people of earth who among us had been selected to propagate our species in the upcoming colonization of Mars, since, you know, our stewardship of earth turned out to be a complete failure.

The ad also describes their services. The “general and family dentistry” and other typical services, of course, but they also provide:

  • Hot Paraffin Hand Baths
  • Light-Reducing Eyewear, and
  • a Professional Relaxation Specialist on staff, and No-Fear Dentistry

And although this sounded very pleasant, the ad also noted features, such as Mercury-Free Dentistry and Preventative Saliva Screenings that got me a little worried.  Granted, I had never heard of a “dental spa” before, so it was natural that some of their services would be unknown to me.  But I now had to wonder what my normal dentist was doing to me.  Was I being exposed to mercury? And what the hell is wrong with my saliva that they might need to screen it for?  I just assumed it was natural for it to taste like rat poop in the morning.

So I finished reading the ad and flipped through a few more pages, feeling worse and worse, me and my crooked teeth and wounded knee, as compared to the perfect smiles and tanned bodies on those glossy pages.   Well, at least then I knew which of my books to pull out – the collection of depressing short stories.


A Huge Tooth Fairy

First, know that my team (yes, there’s a team of them so that should tell you something) of dentists and hygienists rock, hard.  They’re top-drawer, top-notch, top-whatever the hell other lame cliche you can conjure, just in case some of you know who these people are.  The following is substantially true.

Just a few hours ago, I settled in to the high-backed recliner and looked out through the large windows in my usual cleaning room.  A cool and sunny morning with the moon, although 240,000 miles away, appearing quite clearly like a wad of gauze hanging over the spire of the nearby Baptist church.

“I brushed my teeth this morning before I came in,” I said in hopes of impressing my hygienist whose name I can never remember.  “Longer and harder than normal to make the cleaning easier.  And I flossed, which I can never remember until I come in. It’s kinda painful when I haven’t done it in a while,” I noted while my tongue gently probed my gums, which had swollen significantly since leaving the house.

She wheeled her chair over to the doorway, leaned around the thick walls into the next room and said to someone, “I’m gonna need more cotton rolls.  Yep, just gimme that whole box.”

As she rolled back to me she said, “you really didn’t need to do that,” and began unpacking the box, adding more of the little swabs to a pile already on the tray.

“Oh, it’s no problem.” I thought I saw her face bunch up around the sides of her mask but maybe she was just itching her nose.

“Okay, we have you down for a cleaning, and x-rays today…” she said.

“Yep, that’s me.  Easy peasy!”

“…and a cavity.  No, sorry, make that two cavities.”

Trying to play it cool after fishing my tongue out of my throat, “Oh yeah? Huh, I don’t recall that.”

“We marked three and eighteen for replacement last time.  Was no hurry so we scheduled it for this time.  They’re the old silver fillings that often need to be replaced,” she explained.

“So you’re saying it’s not my fault.  Bound to happen sooner or later? That’s what I can tell my wife?” I asked to clarify that I was on solid legal ground.

“Yes, the material used for fillings is better now.”

She proceeded with the x-rays and the cleaning, and after tying up the trash bag full of reddened cotton rolls and giving me a towlie to wipe my face, she said I needed to move to another room for the cavities, and maybe something about needing to clean up her room more before her next appointment.  “But I really need to go pee,” I said. “To the bathroom down by the elevators?  I promise I’ll be back.”  I really did need to go.  As my family knows well, my bladder is the size of a lentil.

While in the bathroom I sent a text to my wife about the turn that my appointment had taken.  Her response was immediate.: “You’ll do great…you’re a big boy.”

Once I got seated the dentist came in, looked over my chart, and swabbed some pink slime to the base of my gums inside my right cheek and said, “I think we’re going to do this one on the left, number eighteen, without Novocaine.”

“Pardon?” I said, feeling my tongue trying to retreat back behind my epiglottis.

“A Novocaine shot on that side would be more painful than just doing without,” he explained.

“Uh, but you should know I’m a huge pussy.”

“Trust me.  The shot would be worse.  On eighteen I’d need to block the nerve to your whole jaw.  If you feel any sensitivity at all, just raise your left hand and we’ll do the Novocaine, OK?”

So I practiced a few frantic waves of my hand, closed my eyes, and put my head back.

Even more surprising to me than learning that nine metal rods and a suction tube could all fit in my mouth at one time was that the unmedicated side actually hurt less than the other.  Maybe I was a big boy!

After finishing, he got up and said see you next time.  And as I got out of the chair, I saw that my hands had sweat out a crescent-shaped blob, like fat smiling lips right across my crotch.  Nope, still a huge tooth fairy.