Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Tooth Scary

I do not like visiting the dentist office, and I do not stand alone. My friend Nicole recently displayed her disdain for trips to the dentist on a Google Chat Away Message (GOOCHAWM, pronounced "goo 'chaw mmm"). Chris Pappa told me a couple weeks ago he fears for the salvation of dentists.

I have no such soteriological thoughts on the matter. I just do not like going because I get yelled at. I do a decent job in keeping my teeth clean, but dental hygiene is like righteousness. No matter how good you are, you can always be better. The dentist's job is to tell you how to get better.

My trip this morning stood as particularly daunting for four reasons:

1) I was three months overdue, meaning three extra months of filth.
2) Since my last trip, I had begun a love affair with coffee and a lustful relationship with Coca Cola Zero, both of which stain my teeth like Sherwin-Williams on a deck.
3) I smoked a cigar last night and still tasted it this morning. This cannot help.
4) I do not floss.

So it was with great fear and trembling that I approached the throne of hygiene this morning.

After some misdirecting small talk, I take my seat in the chair and opened up. I love this moment. I really love it. The first look into my mouth.

Now when I observe my mouth in the mirror, I see nothing noteworthy. Straight teeth, a tad yellowed but no rotting, no bleeding. But I am an ignorant. When a dental hygienist pears into my mouth, he/she sees vile uncleanliness. It must seem like a scene from The Exorcist for him/her, the one where the girl projectile vomits something mean and green a very impressive distance. At the very least, it must look like one of those obscene still photos from the Ren and Stimpy show.

And so I open up. There is a pause, a hesitation, a revolt from the hygienist. You can hear her unspoken, "Damn!" But she is a professional and recovers quickly. Off we go.

Trips to the dentist remain difficult enough as is, but today I suffer from allergies. As soon as she begins cleaning, I can feel the slow, lava trickle of, uh, nasal waste trudging down the back of my throat. I hate this feeling. It makes me fear strep throat, the Venom to my Spiderman. I constantly cough, sniffle, and snort to try to halt the retreat down my throat, moving not violently but enough to disrupt teeth cleaning. I feel bad for being inconvenient and for not being able to control my bodily functions. Awkward.

She tells me I have "recession" around my upper left molar. I confess to you all I do not know what this means. I suspect it has something to do with my high incisor unemployment rate and the fact that my Dental Dow Jones Index dropped below 10,000 this past month. Regardless, I blame George W. Bush.

The cleaning goes well. She scrapes the Sherwin-Williams off my teeth, assaults my enamel with baking soda spray, and pokes my gums. I spend most of my time will-powering my gums to not bleed. I know my mouth is dirty and my teeth are not in great shape, but I can pretend that nothing is disasterous. Just a little dirt, that's all. Unless my gums bleed. This would be confession, and this cannot be. If my gums bleed, the game is up. All is lost.

"Hang in there, babies, hang in there. Daddy's got an iced coffee and six months of no flossing for you if you just hang in there."

And they do. No blood. We win.

As the cleaning begins to wrap up, my dental hygienist finally drops the bomb that we both knew would eventually come: "So, how's flossing been going?" Ugh. Why the heck do they ask this question? They have been staring into my mouth for 30 minutes now. They see the situation. Does this look like a mouth that has been flossed?

I am trapped. I receive chastisement if I confess, but I cannot get away with a lie given the overwhelming evidence against me. Darned if I don't, danged if I do. So I follow in the footsteps of great orators such as Master P. I say, "Uhhhh. . . ." She lets me off the hook by interjecting the utility of flossing so that I do not have to answer the question fully. A wordless embarrassment is better than a loud but futile attempt at saving face.

All in all, I survived. I lived to tell, or blog, about it. I walk out of the dental office with my mouth feeling clean. It's a really unnatural feeling though. After months of stain, plaque, and that wonderfully stale film which covers one's teeth, I feel naked, like a beloved part of me is gone.

So here I am, dear reader, sitting at Dunkin' Donuts. I drink an iced coffee, large, dark, double-sugary, with blueberry syrup. Like Harding in the 1920 presidential election, I promised my teeth and gums a return to normalcy. And they shall have it.

7 comments:

Jeff said...

Of all of the things I know about you, I think your interest in blueberry iced coffee might be the fruitiest. Well played.

Jenn Pappa said...

fruity.. ? how very punny

dentist are from the devil

Hilary Elvin said...

Excellent story I can totally relate to everything you said! :)Dentists sound universally the same!! Hope all is well

Wilson said...

Jeff, don't knock the blueberry coffee til you try it. It truly is wonderful. Anyway, I think that is far from the fruitiest thing about Ben. I'd say his Grey's Anatomy obsession would be at or close to the top.

Jeff said...

Wilson...
It's a long list. We shouldn't try to list them all out.

Ben said...

First off, Hilary, welcome! Glad to hear you made it; Redeeming Prufrock needs a little Mainer influence!

Secondly, I feel the need to defend my honor. Wilson has done so by articulating his love for the blueberry ice. Hmm, I don't know how to get Jeff back. Man, I just have no idea. . . .

Speaking of Jeff, Mr. Lail, what did you think of this season's Grey's A? Since you are such a HUGE fan and used to come over and watch it all the time and everything.

If Grey's and blueberries are fruity, it looks like I'm not alone, fellas!

Jessi said...

Haha, I don't have one of these sites but I happened to stumble across your page in a google image search for Ren And Stimpy.... read your blog....

You have QUITE (!) the sense of humor!
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