Panic! at the Dentist: Regularly Scheduled Belittling Appointments.
(originally posted July 18, 2006)
The Dentist I can’t stand. Ok, maybe it’s not the dentist as much as it is the “Dental Hygenist,” who actually does all the scraping and prodding, and gives you all the “helpful” little hints on how to be a better brusher. The actual dentist does very little, similiar to a doctor. What is it about being a dentist or a doctor that allows you to bestow all the actual work onto your nurses or hygenists? One time I went in, I swear I had this lady give me a full demonstration on brushing techniques, like it was my first time in there; perhaps as if she herself had just invented the toothbrush, and was describing its revolutionary cleaning abilities to me. She was hand-motioning the little brush circles to me and everything. At the time, i’m sure I was at least 22 years old. And of course, I don’t floss with any regularity. That never goes over well. It’s amazing the standard you feel like you’re not living up to when the dentist asks you questions like, “so have you been flossing?”, and you answer negatively, which illicits a reponse similiar to that when your parents say they’re not mad at you, they’re just disappointed. Like their life and choice of career is so much better than mine, sticking their fingers in people’s mouth’s all day. And of course, all these questions are being posed to you while you’re housing a mouthful of equipment that renders your responses into muffled jargles. Who do these people think they are, asking you anything beyond a yes or no question? Do they expect to recieve an audible response? Is there some sort of blink-sign system i was not told about that i was supposed to learn? I can’t tell you what my plans are for the rest of the day and the upcoming year with the suction tube halfway to my epiglottis, it’s just not possible. So if i can remember just one time that i did use one of the 8 million unopened floss dispensers in my bathroom for something other than a MacGyver bomb, I will respond affirmative that I have been flossing since the last time i came in. You know they’re gonna ask, and you feel like such a failure of a person if you have to say you haven’t been doing something so simple like flossing.
The only other more demeaning moment is when they tell you that you have a cavity. You feel like a dog that’s just being scolded for peeing on the carpet. And they tell you in that voice that says their previous disappointment has only deepened, further wallowing you in a kiddie pool of your own shame. Getting a filling might be one of the most torturous events I’ve ever experienced. Someone please tell me how you’re expected to breathe with that giant rubber tarp and equally large cotton balls stuffed in your mouth, keep your jaw propped open, and just, “relax,” as they instruct you to do. All this while they drill a mineshaft of a hole in your tooth and fill in back in with some substance that nothing will grow on. It might be solid margarine for all i know. Is this the point that modern dentistry has evolved to?
And of course you’re lying down in the chair with that floodlight blinding you while the dentist’s giant head is hovering over you like an omnipresent Roman god. With that light in your face, and the shadow around their head, it’s pretty tough to tell if the dentist even really has a body. I mean think about it, you get ushered in the chair by the little helper lady, you’re always facing away from the door, your chair gets reclined, and you never actually see the dentist, because they always beetle out before you can collect yourself at the end of the appointment. You don’t even get to see most of their face, since it’s always half covered with that little green mask. The hands holding the tools could really be anything. Believe me, no human could jab another human in the gums that many times and see their face grimace and twitch without thinking maybe that wasn’t a tooth they were grinding down. And the scraping, ohthe scraping. With that little hook that would be better fitted on a pirate; around the same size too. Recently they invented these sound-wave devices that supposedly do the same work as the hook scraper. Regardless, my dentist always finds the time to come back at the end and give me a good scratch coating with that rusty coat hanger of a tool.
Oh, and how intimidating is the dental x-ray machine by the way? I mean, first they throw this led vest on you (only on your lower body though, for some reason, your skull, brain, and entire central nervous system will be able to handle whatever radiation is shot at it apparently), and before you can finish your question as to what’s going on, there’s a gag in your mouth and a cannon of a device pointing right at your cheek. Not to mention that everyone within twenty feet of you has fled, taken cover, and suddenly stopped communicating with you. Even the radio and tv’s stop momentarily. You’re trying hard not to choke on the film thing, because you feel like you might be executed if you do. So you’re sitting there, cutting a bead of sweat that could dent the floor, you hear a high pitched “beep!” like someone pointed a fake gun at your head and a “Bang!” flag popped out and unfurled, and then it’s all over. Everyone stops playing hide and seek, and then it’s on with the rest of the procedure.
The only moment in the dentist appointment experience that will make all the suffering worth it, is that moment where you get the warm water rinse with the little squirt gun. That one moment when the first drops of two heated hydrogen and one heated oxygen molecules hit your teeth are purely magical. If that and the little no-cavity prize box didn’t exist, i would have no use for the dentist, or teeth for that matter. Sure the box still contains the same prizes it did in 1987, but the off-chance that i could get a new bouncy ball or styrofoam plane for not having any cavities, is enough to make me schedule my next 6 month visit, and do it all again.