Wednesday, January 28, 2009

evil = dentists

So, I appreciate my clean, straight, complete set of teeth as much as the next well-insured American, yet I still can't help but hate the dentist. I spent what may easily prove to be some of the worst 2 1/2 hours of 2009 there yesterday getting two crowns seated. That's right, TWO. They were on my very back molars on the bottom. Right where, coincidentally, my braces were attached for two of my less-than-enviable teenage years. I clearly remember my orthodontist saying, as he removed the tooth-encompassing caps that had long sat there, "Woops," which is about the very worst thing any kind of medical professional can say to a patient. The orthodontist went on to explain that the his staff had neglected to clean those teeth adequately before putting on the braces and they now had 24 months' worth of decay that should "be checked out pretty soon."

Not long after, I had fillings done in both teeth, which, over the course of several years, future dentists deemed inadequate, removed, and refilled, until my current dentist who decided that crowns would be the best solution. And so, armed with the best insurance we could buy from Dow, I mustered up my courage and went to the dentist determined not to cry during the visit. (Once, during one of the aforementioned botched fillings, I shed a tear or two trying to stave off suffocation while my less-than gentle dentist hacked away at my mouth. When her assistant signaled that maybe it was time to take a break, she said, a la Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, "Are you crying?!")

The first half hour wasn't so bad. I signed some papers, learned how to care for temporary crowns, and got two large shots of local anesthesia, with only a little bit of pain. I easily kept myself relaxed and then read a magazine while I waited for my entire tongue and bottom lip to go fat and numb. Strangely enough, the hygenist got really chatty about the time I got totally numb. "So you had a baby?" she discerned from reading my chart. "Yea, she's weawy cute."

"How old?"

"Nigh mos"

"That's a fun age. My own is two, which is not so fun or cute anymore. Especially when he's falling on the floor at the grocery store. Not so cute. But nine months is cute. And fun. Have you decided how you're going to do child care yet?"

"I no goin ba to wok"

"Really? I tried that. It drove me crazy..." And so on. Eventually, she called in the doctor to begin. "I think you're ready, 'cause you can barely talk!" Duh.

And so began the next hour. The hour from hell. The hour that nearly broke my fighting spirit.

The doctor began to drill. And drill. And drill. "Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the memories," he sang. Over and over again. The hygienist seemed to barely be doing her job. "Is that thing on?" The dentist asked of the suction. I had been wondering that for a lot longer. "Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the memories." The suction was on, but not working very well, so another sucker was brought in and promptly shoved down my throat. "Careful!" from the dentist "You're going to suck her lunch back up!"

This went on for a long time. Drill drill drill. Squirt. Suction. Give me a moment to breathe. "We're not trying to torture and drown you," the dentist reassured me. This is as close as I'll ever come to waterboarding, I thought.

"We're almost done," the dentist said as he went in for another drill. "...Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the memories." And then the sharp pain hit. I clenched the arm rests of the reclined chair and sucked in air. "Did that hurt?"


"All right" and then he jammed another needle into my gums to numb it some more. "Hm-hm-hm-hm-hm-hm. Thanks for the memories."

Thankfully, after the first tooth was done, I was detached enough and determined to see the end quickly that the second tooth went much more smoothly. I had learned when to breathe and remembered to think about relaxing my body every now and then.

By the time the drilling was over, all I could do was lay there and give thumbs up or down in response to whatever was asked. I concentrated on keeping my mouth open the entire time the holes were filled in and the temporary crowns were fitted. My lips cracked and bled. My throat was dry. The hygienist kept putting in clean and pulling out bloody gauze from my gums. "You're really hemorrhaging." Something else not to say to a patient. The hygienist molded and trimmed and sucked and prodded. At one point, she made me gag with the suction. I hacked and coughed. "You okay?" she asked as she shoved the suction in place again. "Uh" I responded.

And then all of a sudden, she said, "You're all done." I dizzily got up from the recline I'd been in for over two and half hours. She led me to the front desk. I'd meant to ask for a toothbrush since I need a new one, but it was all I could do to breathe. "Have a great afternoon. Denise will take care of the rest."

Denise, smiling sympathetically, asked, "Long day?" I nodded and my heart reached out for this kind face who understood.

She seemed to sense my need and with a great smile and turn of the head, she said, "That'll be $611.00"

*fyi-- Thnks fr th Mmrs My dentist is so hip.


Lisa and Mark said...

to be honest, i hate dentists, too. and i have NO problem telling mark that. i'm hoping that someday i'll trust mark enough to see him. at least then i can yell at my dentist...

Samantha said...

Just wait until you have to take is even worse when you are the parent that didn't brush her teeth good enough and know she needs a crown and has several cavities!!!

Sherry said...

I went to the dentist once when I was about 4, and then not again until I was a freshman at BYU.

Fortunately, I have had a GREAT experience with the dentist I chose. He prefers to over-numb, just in case, and he is really gentle.

The bills are still miserable, though. I feel for you!

rusted sun said...

I'm so sorry...sounds like a miserable day. I hope Sam came home and took good care of you.

Rachel said...

I'm sorry, that really stinks. I've never had to deal with that kind of dentist experience but Dan sure has. He ended up having to go in four different times to get a root canal and crown for one tooth. I can't even imagine how miserable it would be to be drilled on for over 2 hours. I hope I never have to have that kind of dentist experience.

Jennie said...

I am so sorry. I could actually feel your pain. I get headaches and sick feeling just thinking about them. And I can immediately think of the smell! Yuck! Let me know if you need anything.

laska said...

I know that this is a very serious story...and that it probably really really sucked. but you write so well that I couldn't help but laugh. not at you - never at you. but rather at the awful situation you were in, and your wonderful writing. I hope that you don't have to go back for awhile.

heather said...

Don't worry Laska. It was meant to make you laugh-- and to laugh at me and the hopelessly pathetic situation I found myself in. I'm glad it achieved its goal :) I'd also love to not go back again soon, but I have to go in 3 weeks to get my permanent crowns put on. But that doesn't involve any shots or any drilling. Yay!

Rob Stringham said...

I can't even go into the misery one dentist put me through including drilling with no Novocaine, filing down my teeth so I can no longer bite anything off (try eating pizza where your molars are the only thing sharp enough to grind through the melted cheese) and having his hygienist fill a cavity and then having to have a brother-in-law, on my vacation, redo the filling yelling the whole time about how hygienists are not allowed to fill cavities and how many steps she missed. AAAAAAHHHHH!!!

On a positive note I see that you found "The Apron Stage". Are you loving it as much as I am?!

So sorry to hear about your ordeal.

Marci said...

Sorry, that last comment was from Marci, not Rob. Just forgot to switch the blogger identity. Hmm..

Katie Primm said...

I'm that freak of nature that loves going to the dentist. Except the last time I went which was right when the whole Blagojevich story broke. I went back to work with my mouth all numb and could not for the life of me say Blagojevich correctly. Everyone was looking at me like - why are you even in news. It was the drugs, people! :)

kimlis said...

I feel for you, Heather. Dentists should have your experience themselves so they might possibly learn a little compassion for those of us who hate going to see them.
I will spare you my stories except that one filed lower teeth to make the upper crown fit and a later dentist thought I ground my teeth -- yeah right.
Once we did have a wonderful hygienist who talked to you as if you were a real person. She sent us to a wonderful orthodontist for Cristal who didn't ruin her teeth to decay. (That was uncalled for.)
Your writing made me laugh and that felt good, so thank you, Heather, for sharing your ordeal.