My son is marrying into a family of dentists.
Dentists. Of all of the possible medical professions, how did he happen to become attached to this one?! The dentist is the one and only doctor’s visit that I dread most year-after-year. Now, with the upcoming nuptials, will the in-laws forever be staring at my teeth?
The truth is that I don’t have a good reason for my feelings about dentists. I’ve been with mine for almost twenty-five years and I like her. I have never had a cavity, a filling, a crown, a false tooth, a root canal, or any other dental work; not even braces. At the ripe old age of fifty-two, my teeth are “perfect” and my dentist teases me that she can’t make money with patients like me. So what’s my problem?
Tartar. I have a problem with tartar. Despite brushing and flossing (okay, maybe I don’t floss often enough), my teeth build up a significant amount of tartar at an unusually fast rate. So, I am forced to keep a three or four time-per-year dentist appointment for regular cleanings.
For some reason, however, with each passing year my anxiety over these visits grows. The drilling noises around the office sound like fingernails dragging along a chalkboard. The sound of the dental suction unit (the straw-like thing that is put in your mouth to suck up your saliva) reminds me of Darth Vader. The smell of the place makes me want to gag. I think my irrational fear of dentists relates back to the 1976 move, Marathon Man. In it, Laurence Olivier played a doctor from Nazi Germany, known for removing the gold teeth from concentration camp prisoners, who tortured Dustin Hoffman’s innocent runner by drilling into his teeth. The torture scene was positively gruesome!
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I had another cleaning yesterday. My dental hygienist really is the one who does the work. She is professional and thorough. She knows I could floss more, but says nothing. She quietly muses over the tartar behind my front teeth and keeps an eye on areas where the gum-line appears to be receding. She measures, counts, and compares yearly x-rays. She uses a Cavitron to perform ultrasonic scaling. (Its high-pitched frequency gives me a type of “brain freeze.” I hate it.) Then she patiently digs away at each and every tooth with a sharp, metal, scraper. At long last, I get polished with a mint-flavored paste and then coated with fluoride. Finally, my dentist shows up, looks inside my mouth, tells me I have great teeth and wishes me well. I left with a sore mouth.
For the next two weeks, I’ll bleach my cleaned teeth to ensure nice, pearly whites for the wedding pictures. I’m cutting back on red wine, coffee, tea and chocolate so they don’t sabotage my efforts.
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As I sit here typing, with my Crest White Strips securely in place, my mind drifts to my grandparents. They are sleeping soundly right now. I wonder if their false teeth are soaking in the same glass…