Twice a year I find myself engaged in one of the most uncomfortable activities known to man or womanhood—getting my teeth cleaned. Even though my head knows that it is something that has to be done in order to remain healthy, I find myself fighting over the very idea of making that trip to my dentist’s office. It would seem more normal to say that I don’t want to go because I’m afraid of the drill, or that I’d just rather jam a toothpick in my gums rather than bite on that obnoxious piece of plastic when I’m taking x-rays, but I’ve never been anywhere near normal. The simple facts are that I am too lazy and going to the dentist is too much effing work.
I value my teeth almost above any other part on my body. They don’t get fat and they don’t sag and they almost always make me look good when I smile. So, I am not against regular maintenance by any means—I see the payoff. But, the game (and it is a game) is so exhausting. Brushing? Check. Staying away from coffee and dark juices? Check. Flossing? No comment. It gets done, don’t get me wrong, just not with any kind of regularity. I’ve put packets of floss at work in my desk, on the living room table, in my purse, in my shower, and next to my bed and I still can’t muster up any enthusiasm to use the damn stuff.
The lack of flossing never bothers me until about three weeks before the appointment that I forgot I made six months before, when I get the reminder post card in the mail–that small rectangular bearer of bad news that has the picture of a sun wearing sunglasses and the details of my upcoming date with Dr. Doom (or more accurately, his dental assistant Ms. Enthusiasm). Panic immediately sets in as I realize that I have not been taking good care of my gums and my little enamel babies. Screw the fact that the only person being hurt by the lack of flossing is me. I just don’t need anyone thinking that I can’t get my homework done. So I start to floss two times a day (okay, that’s a lie) and I hope that I can patch things up just enough to avoid the lecture I know is coming.
If I can manage to get to appointment day without doing something stupid to my mouth (ha, you guys know where this is going, right?) I feel pretty good and confident when I walk in the door. However, if I do something completely unheard of for me like, say, eating a bag of microwave popcorn the night before, I find that my car meanders through neighborhoods I don’t regularly frequent and when I finally park I find a sudden need to whip out the phone and find out just what’s up on facebook.
The office is pretty small and, usually, badly lit and there’s always some poor soul huddled in one of the plastic chairs when I squeak my way into the room. There’s a look on her face that says “I’ve been here for fucking ever and can somebody please kill me now?” Tough shit, sister! I was you the last time I was here. I’m on the fast track today. Gotta get through this crap and on to work, you know. And, sure enough, my butt barely skims the chair when Ms. Enthusiasm is calling my name to come forth to the inner sanctum. I can’t bring myself to look over to the woman in the chair, but I can feel her stare boring into my back. Okay, I admit it, I feel a little bad.
Ms. Enthusiasm has been my official teeth cleaner for about eight years now. She knows enough about me to comment on how much my hair has grown and to ask what vacations I have taken with my family and she really loves to talk—a lot. Usually, that isn’t a trait that bothers me so very much, but it isn’t really something that is required or desired in someone that is going to have me at their mercy in just a few minutes. We bullshit down the hallway and I come to accept that I am here, I am going to get my teeth cleaned and I will have to cop to being a bad, bad girl. I never wait to let her know what’s up or let her find the true state of my mouth on her own. I hold out hope that if I own up to it right away she’ll go easy on me during the scraping. Ha.
As I take a seat in my Captain Kirk chair I panic when I think about her looking up my nose. What is she going to see? What’s in there? She turns on the uber-bright light and I imagine the bats getting scared and flying further into the cave. That light is a freaking menace! Within seconds I am trussed up in the latest style of paper apron and Ms. Enthusiasm is very nicely trying to tell me to get my shit together and floss once in a while. I nod and smile and guarantee that everything will be copacetic next time. She doesn’t buy it, and neither do I, but what the hell, I keep her in business, no?
The actual cleaning is really very easy. I mean, it hurts like hell and I really wish it was over, but it does put on an exclamation point on the fact that I need to take better care of myself. I could almost fall asleep while in the chair and I tell her so (shut the hell up, René) as I feel my legs start to relax and fall slightly open. Of course, this is the universal dental assistant signal to start talking to me and not only start talking to me, but to ask me questions that require a fucking answer. Are you serious? You have a water pick screaming in the left side of my mouth and a suction hose hanging out of the right! I couldn’t really tell you my favorite place to eat in New Orleans right now. After I try to grunt an answer or two at her, she finally realizes that, oops, maybe this isn’t the right time. She starts only asking yes and no questions after that. At least I have my thumbs to communicate.
Thirty minutes of screeching banshees in the back of my mouth later, we are done. Well, kind of done, anyway. I have to await the arrival of Dr. Doom to actually give his seal of approval before I can escape to my real life. Ms. Enthusiasm uses a small piece of what amounts to toilet paper to try to wipe off the spray of water and blood that has splattered across my face. It’s all pretty glamorous. The doc comes in, comments on the weather, checks my babies, declares my teeth to be in pretty good shape, and meanders on down to the next cubicle. It is done. Except, no, Ms. Enthusiasm has a little more work to do. Damn it.
My paper apron goes away and I take the time to plan the next appointment that I will forget. The little girl in me gets excited when Ms. Enthusiasm asks if I want a toothbrush. I earned that freaking toothbrush—of course I want it! I also want a couple of packets of floss but I only get one. I imagine my teeth could be falling out from gum disease and I would still only get one. Harrumph.
I finally get to tell Ms. Enthusiasm my favorite place to eat in New Orleans and I give her a big smile and tell her I look forward to seeing her next time. Yes, I promise to floss more. Yes. I promise. No, really, I promise. You can go back to your cubicle now. I can feel the pain in my gums with the pumping of my blood and I find it hard to smile too big, but I feel pretty good. I managed another visit to the dentist!
Shit. Now I have to go to work.
© DRB 2015