DentistI have mixed feelings about dentists. They tend to be pleasant people, but they still cause much discomfort. When the visit involves a checkup and cleaning, the first few minutes are spent with the hygienist. This is fine because while she cleans my teeth, I’m only expected to rest my head near her shoulder while soft music plays in the background. It’s strictly professional of course but I find it especially relaxing because I’m usually too busy to do this with my wife. Also, the hygienist never inflicts pain, which can’t be said about my wife.

I do get a little nervous when x-rays are taken. When she asks me to bite down on that white card and points the machine at my face, I can’t help feeling like I’m posing for some kind of radioactive mug shot. And I’d be much more convinced that there was no danger involved if I didn’t have to wear that huge lead apron she drapes over my vital organs. She doesn’t wear one; she leaves the room to push the button.

I’ve learned that if the dentist looks at my teeth and then high-fives the hygienist, there’s some expensive work to be done. Even if there are no problems the fluoride treatment is awkward.

First the hygienist asks me what flavor I want: Cherry, Orange, Blueberry or Bubblegum. I choose one, which makes me feel silly because I think someone well into their thirties should be able to handle just about any flavor of fluoride treatment without complaining. So she pours my choice on the plastic thing that looks like a hockey player’s teeth guard and places it in my mouth. She then puts the suction hose between the upper and lower parts of the teeth guard, tells me to bite down and gives me a paper towel to help deal with the involuntary drooling. And just in case I’m not feeling foolish enough, she then asks me what color of toothbrush I want. I usually just point to the closest one. After a few minutes she’ll tell me to go to the sink and spit. I used to be very self-conscious about spitting in front of her, until the time I accidentally swallowed some fluoride. It made my stomach feel the way I imagine being scheduled for an income tax audit would make it feel.

Dealing with the receptionist on the way out can be a problem if freezing was used. It just seems that she has more questions about the dental forms on the visits when I come out of the office without the gift of speech. Then she explains the breakdown of the various charges for that visit, convincing me that I’m definitely in the wrong business.

The trip from the office to my house could be touchy. For example, what if I have to speak to somebody before the freezing wears off? The worst that could happen would be getting pulled over by a policeman. He’d think I was impaired, unless I could convince him that I’d just come from the dentist. And the only proof I’d have would be the brand new lime green toothbrush. (Once I tried to rinse my mouth with water at home before the freezing had worn off. I ended up rinsing the mirror above the sink instead.)

I know it’s worth the trouble to keep your teeth. On the other hand when people with dentures need work done… Can’t they just mail them in?

By Rick Dickert.