An Odious Oral Obligation

I’d like to think that I’m a pretty calm person. I’m not; I’d just like to think that I am. Indulge my caprice, won’t you? But there’s still one place in particular that I am anxious from the moment I walk in to the moment that I willingly pay $600 so that I’m allowed to leave. That place is of course, the dentist. And no, this isn’t a 10-year-old child writing this post, it’s me, the same grown adult whom you’ve come to tolerate. To this day, however, I cannot shake a constant sense of dread and worry as a medical professional jabs at my teeth and gums with a tiny spear. I can’t imagine why.

Seriously though, I can’t understand how anyone could be calm at the dentist. Metal scraping against your teeth. You can hear it. You can feel it. And that doesn’t feel unsettling to you? Who are you–George S. Patton? And what do you know about your dentist? I mean what do you really know? Have you even seen your dentist’s degree? Have you looked close enough to know it wasn’t just printed off at a Kinkos? Are the signatures written in crayon? I will say with confidence that I haven’t seen any of my dentist’s credentials unless you count a cartoon of a man in scrubs painting a picture of a beautiful set of white teeth. I, personally, do not.

But actions speak louder than words or cartoons, so let’s take a recent dental procedure I had and see if it should make me trust my dentist. I recently had to go in for a crown appointment because my teeth can’t get it together apparently. Crown appointment–do you know what that entails? I do, now, from experience. They cut your tooth in half by filing it down like bars on a prison cell. They numb you up, so it doesn’t hurt, but you can still feel the pressure of an industrial-strength drill jack-hammering your tooth until half of it doesn’t exist anymore. Which is deeply unsettling. And the smell–oh the smell. They don’t numb your nose up, so you enjoy in full force the ambrosial scent of burning tooth. The one good thing is that I could wear headphones throughout the whole thing to take my mind off of it. So I listened to an audiobook about underground resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany. Because that was more enjoyable. The whole thing was a bit like having my tooth amputated. And–newsflash to dentists–the medical community hasn’t been doing a whole lot of amputations since World War 1; it might be time to check out some new techniques.

And then it’s not even over. They take a mold of your tooth so they can create a porcelain fake tooth to put on top of the one to which they just laid waste. Great. So now my dentist has a perfect mold of what my tooth looks like. So he has the capability to make some kind of porcelain tooth totem that he can stick pins into to make my mouth more uncomfortable than it already is. He could also clone my mouth and try to impersonate my smile in photos; who knows what he’s capable of.

So I’m glad I’m nervous at the dentist. I’m going to keep being anxious and getting up from the dental chair covered in cold sweat. Because that means I’m being vigilant. That mean’s he knows I’ve got my eye on him. And there’s nothing he can do about that, because he’s not an optometrist.