At the filling station

1 August 2010

Does anyone, other than Jack Nicholson’s character in Little Shop of Horrors, actually like going to the dentist? These days, however, what with the wonders of anesthesia (which my dentist insists on calling “freezing”) my worries about pain have less to do with a high-speed drill hitting a nerve and more with things that dentists seem unaware of.

Maybe it’s my height, but after twenty minutes in a fancy-schmancy dentist’s chair my back is crying for mercy. Shouldn’t this high-priced hunk of furniture be as comfy as a La-Z-Boy? And when one’s mouth is full of plumbing, pointy metal picks and power tools, it seems ill-advised to squirm about in search of spinal relief.

Then there are the parts of my face that the dentist ignores at my peril. I understand his focus on the task and the teeth at hand. But must he brace that hand against my lip, painfully pinching it against the sharp edge of my teeth? I’m sensitive, dammit. In my most recent visit, mouth full of apparatus, I was at odds to explain that he had somehow folded my ear forward on itself and could he please stop doing that.

As a prodigious producer of saliva, one of my greatest fears in the dentist’s office is that of drowning. If the dental assistant isn’t paying attention, the pool at the back of my throat deepens until only desperate sounds of strangulation awaken her to my plight. That suction hose was custom designed for spit, so put it to use!

My current dentist provides sunglasses. Maybe they are to guard against shrapnel, the friendly fire of bone or old fillings fragments, hurled into the air by whatever reno work he’s doing in there. More likely is the shades are simply to cut the intensity of that powerful searchlight of his. In any case, with my head tipped back, my glasses quickly slipped upwards onto my forehead, and for half an hour neither the dentist nor his assistant seemed to notice. And that blasted light was pointing as much into my eyes as my mouth; my conspicuous squint should have been a clue.

Oh, well, I tend to close my eyes anyway. After all, what is there to look at? Long ago I thought if I ever become a dentist I will have my ceiling decorated to give patients something to view. A mural. Puzzles. A racy novel in large print.

So you dentists out there, try thinking outside the jaws. Recognize the need for more comprehensive comfort. Make it special enough and maybe I’ll require less “freezing” when I see what I’m being charged for my visit.


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