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."
"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.