Tuesday, April 06, 2010

An Inconvenient Tooth

Of all the things I might have liked to pass down to a child--my green eyes, my curls, my sunny disposition--what I seem to have magically shared is my lousy teeth.

Granted, I haven't always considered them lousy. They're pretty straight, and white(ish), and by gum, they're all there. But until I started meeting other adults who said things like "What's that like, getting a filling? I think I had one when I was 14." and "Oh, I love going to the dentist! We have such good talks!" I thought I was lucky.

I had this amazing dentist back in the '90s who said "Never let people dig around in your teeth unless they absolutely have to. You only have so many teeth, and you ain't getting any more." That might be paraphrasing a bit. But I took it to heart. For five years, she cleaned my teeth, crowed over my healthy gums, and sent me on my way. Then she retired suddenly and her replacement tried to kill me.

At least that's what I think she was doing, because suddenly my mouth was a hotbed of decay and every time she tried to drill, I practically hit the ceiling. And that was after eight shots of Novocaine, a couple Valium and a shot of whiskey.

I found a new dentist. Same drill (ha!) Either I wasn't numb, or numb just didn't help. I developed a terrible fear of all things dentist. I cried more times than I care to admit, confessing my fears to anyone who'd listen that I'd lose all my teeth before I could sit still to have them fixed.

And, suddenly, they needed fixing all the time. The revolving door of dentists told me I grinded them down to nubs and needed nightguards, that they were riddled with hairline fissures that would eventually make them snap right out of my mouth, that my childhood silver fillings were leaking into my brain, and that every time they put in a new filling, I managed to "lose" it in six months, so terribly did I treat them.

On my own, I noticed new, disturbing trends, like the fact that every time I ate rock candy (mmmm, rock candy) I'd end up eating a chunk of my own teeth, which I wouldn't know until I looked in the mirror and smiled back like Huckleberry Finn. What, had the warranty run out? Were the teeth in my mouth no longer good for tooth-like functions, like chewing and...living?

I lost my last dentist in an insurance switch-over around New Year's, and dragged my feet about finding a new one. Finally, I decided if my five-year-old could lay there and watch Spiderman without crying while she got SIX FILLINGS in two months, I could probably give this dentist a whirl myself. I told her about my anxiety, and she suggested I start with a cleaning. No problem, I thought. I can handle cleanings.

That was this morning. I settled into the chair and the hygienist pulled The Devil Wears Prada in front of my nose. Note to self: Do not watch a movie about six-foot-tall models in hundred-dollar underpants while you are seeing your reflection in the screen, spread out like Jabba the Hut with about six tools in there. First, the x-rays. I know from x-rays, or so I thought. They ram some cardboard into your soft palate and tell you to hold still, no biggie. But today, they did that about 73 times. "Um, how many are you going to do?" I finally gasped, swallowing hard so I didn't barf on her. "This is what we call a full set!" she exclaimed gleefully. "The insurance company only lets us do it once every five years!" Wow, I never thought I'd be thankful for something about the insurance company.

Then the dentist loomed in, and my head went way, way back. "I've never been so low before," I whispered. "Is that a problem?" she asked. "Um..." But she was off and running with something that made an incredibly loud, piercing noise. I raised my hand. She stopped. "What is that?" I whispered again. "I've never heard that noise." "It's an ultrasonic plaque remover." "Just invented?" She laughed. "Not even. Been around forever."

I lay back and tried not to freak out about the noise and wondered if maybe my last dentist was a Cave Dentist, or maybe Dentist to Henry VIII. Why had I never had this before? In any case, she was at it for like 30 minutes. Not that it helped me avoid the regular scraping. There was plenty of that, too. There was also a lot of shooting air at my teeth with the question "That hurt?" Um, yeah it does. It all hurts. I turned up the movie and tried to block out the near-constant "Oh, put down left occlusal bucal frontal sidal backal inbetweenal on 15. It's a goner."

After an hour of this (I only wish I were making this up) my teeth were squeaky clean and it was time for the bad news run-down. I have very few teeth that are not in grave peril. Pretty much they all need to be pulled and replaced with those shiny white things you see on reality makeover shows. That's a slight exaggeration. But I do need to go back for fillings...FOUR MORE TIMES. Mostly, I think, because she's afraid I might go all postal on them and start hurling instruments into people's eyes, because she is philosophically opposed to the lovely, lovely nitrous that kept me drooling and pliant at the last dentist. "I'm not opposed to it," she corrected me. "You just don't need it. You're going to be fine."

Huh. We'll see about that. Next time, at least, I'm watching a zombie movie. Oh, she did say I'm a good flosser. Which I already knew, thank you very much.


Anonymous said...

Oh, poor thing -- sounds just awful. xx Lix

miss. chief said...

oh yeah, I had a similar experience recently. Isn't it interesting how you were getting by fine for your entire life until you went to a new dentist who found SO MANY THINGS WRONG AND YOU'RE GOING TO BE TOOTHLESS IN FIVE YEARS UNLESS YOU COME BACK AND GET INSANE SURGERY A HUNDRED TIMES AAAAAAAAAAH

and they just throw you into this dental panic...every single day now I think "oh, I feel something, maybe it's that hairline fissure in my molar they were telling me about, I should really get that fixed"...they got into my head!!

Sam said...

Totally, miss.c. I kept waking up during the night thinking "Wait. What's that? Is it my tooth cracking in half?"

Stephanie said...

For such "lousy" teeth, you both have beautiful smiles!

EWR2SAN said...

Here´s my tri-fecta of good San Diego Dental Professionals.

All 3 are superb.
Anton Misleh

Oral Surgeon:
Daly Brian DDS MD

Dr Lotzoff

Dr Daley is the man if you ever need wisdom teeth extracted.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

"and by gum, they're all there"

There's another one of those Sam gems I know and love.

Anonymous said...

My cat may have to have all her teeth removed because she's got some kind of "disease."

This probably isn't helping, is it, Sam?

sorry. :(


The Wades said...

I thought I commented on this clever post. I did forward a link to one of my friends who has her own teeth issues.

I sure miss NaBloPoMo! ;)

Lynne said...

Agghhhhhhhhhhhh. You have my sympathy. I have nightmares of my teeth all shattering and falling out (mainly because some have!) and I am currently recovering form oral surgery for an implant to replace a brokern tooth :(

But your smile is so beautiful... so something is working!