I needed two fillings today. Actually I needed one at first, and then the dentist got in there and muttered a bit and said “You’ve got kissing cavities…they’re right in contact and they’ve both decalcified and you’re already Novocained up, so why don’t I just do this now?”

I, like most people, lived in stark fear of the dentist for many years. Having braces pretty much ensures this. The dentists themselves didn’t help with this much, and having lived much of my life in relative poverty and being in an insurance-free field, I tended not to show up until they had something to yell about. Preventative care is for people who don’t worry where the next check is coming from.

And then Kevin got me on his dental insurance, and found this dentist.

Who is only a few years older than me, who goes to Ren Faires dressed as the Tooth Fairy, who is a huge My Little Pony fan and who spent the morning grilling me about which Wacom tablet to get while shooting Novocaine into my gums.

I went in at first with trepidation. I had not had dental insurance since my divorce. I floss on alternate Thursdays. My gums have been a wreck my entire adult life. (And tangentially, they got MUCH worse when I went off the Pill. Man, hormones do EVERYTHING.)

I went in expecting shame and degradation to be heaped upon my head. I slunk into the waiting room like a criminal.

And she looked things over and said “Looks like you’ve done as good as can be expected, given the circumstances. I’ve seen way worse.”

And scheduled a really serious cleaning and a follow-up exam a bit later when my gums were recovered. And they put that numbing gel they use when they’re going to shoot you with Novocaine on the gums first so the cleaning wouldn’t hurt.

O Readers, it was like going in for confession for the first time in a decade and spilling out your guts to the priest—ALL the sins, not just the skipping Easter mass and the unpaid parking tickets, but the deep meaty ones about envy and lust and despair and what you REALLY think about your sister’s kids—and as you sat there in quivering silence, waiting for the axe of judgement to fall, hearing him say “Is that all? Pfff, don’t worry about it, my child, you’re only human. Say a couple Hail Marys and we’re having a blood drive on Friday if you’re free.”

Some months later I found myself having lost a filling and I went in. Fearlessly. Knowing that there would be drilling. Knowing that there might be big needles. Knowing it wouldn’t feel good. It was about the same level of stress as a pap smear—“Yes, this will be physically uncomfortable, but then it will be over until the next time, and it’s not THAT bad.” I was filled with resignation, not with dread, because however much it might suck, nobody was going to yell at me.

When I think about all the things I would tell my younger self if I could, a lot of them I might wind up not saying, because maybe not knowing at the time was important. I don’t think I’d tell younger me that I would someday be successful beyond my wildest dreams in a field I never expected, because maybe I’d just sit around waiting for it to happen. I haven’t got a clue what I’d say about love. So many opportunities involved being in the right place at the right time, I’d hate to jinx it.

Ultimately I might just go with “Life will be better and stranger than you ever thought, and you really will get over the bad bits.”

And then I’d add in the caveat “And someday you’ll find an awesome dentist and that bit won’t suck any more either.”

 

Wordcount: 15750

  • reply larksilver ,

    Finding a dentist with whom you are comfortable is an amazing, health-changing event! So glad you did!

    • reply Lounalune ,

      Agreeing with larksilver here! I also found a dentist that I love, and suddenly my teeth are a lot better.

      • reply Hawk ,

        I have not been to dentists much either, for the same reasons as you. Only without the flossing, I despise floss. It hurts.

        Anyway.

        Did go in at one point, because my entire mouth ached and I was terrified that I was going to die from an infected tooth. Yes, I was over-reacting, but nothing less than fear of a long painful death was gonna get me in there.

        Turned out: gum problems, which wasn’t a surprise. No cavities, which WAS. Also the dentist was like “have you had your wisdom teeth pulled” and I answered, no. And he said…”No? Hm.” Apparently, they’re not there or something. Bonus points for me, I don’t want teeth pulled in any case!

        But yeah, a serious cleaning was about it. And *this* is why I will return to that dentist if some day I have to: he told me to try oil pulling to help the gum disease. In fact, he told me this with the added comment of: “So you won’t have to come back here unless there’s a real problem.”

        Not many people in the medical field (in my town) are so generous. Most of them seem almost as crazed as the mechanics; it’s as if they want you to stay sick and miserable so they can charge you (or your insurance) more money. It makes me sad.

        But this dentist was quality people, I tell you.

        • reply RhianimatorLGP ,

          If i can find a decent dentist he or she will not only have to be kindly and understanding, but fast. Most pain meds don’t work on me and those shots only work to a limited degree and wear off quickly. So I very much understand fear of dentist.

          • reply Escher ,

            I’ve never had a dentist who yelled at me. I’m kind of shocked they exist. The closest I’ve ever seen was when I was 12-ish and the dentist — an older gentleman in his late 50s who wasn’t much fun but much less grouchy than his face would suggest — got very serious about my need to floss. (I don’t much, even today, because my teeth are rather crooked and it’s very difficult to get the floss into the right spots.)

            Good grief. Getting dental work is already painful and scary enough for a kid, why would you want to add fear of the dentist to that?

            • reply JaedrethLGP ,

              My teeth are completely wrecked. I don’t have any teeth that aren’t at some stage of broken. Eating often hurts. I have ALS and don’t have the muscular strength to take care of my teeth. The only thing that can be done is to take them out. I hope the insurance covers implants. Usually it doesn’t.

              • reply JaedrethLGP ,

                On a side note, I’ve had ALS since 2001, but my teeth didn’t start deteriorating like mad until I went to Iraq (my symptoms were mild enough then I thought I could handle it, found out the hard way I couldn’t) as a civ contractor and got that nasal infection. Couldn’t breathe through my nose for a year. Teeth went to hell.

                • reply C. S. P. Schofield ,

                  I am very lucky in my dentist; a smart, funny woman with a staff to match, who quickly caught on that I don’t give a damn about looks. Sadly, this hasn’t done much for my teeth, which have always appeared to be made from an inferior grade of gutta-percha.

                  Years ago, when I was in need of my second root canal, I made an appointment with a dentist near my place of work (which I have since – thank God – left). That week was absolute hell. The weather was miserable, my Lady was exhibiting the early symptoms of what would eventually be her nervous breakdown, my tooth hurt, and my immediate boss and HIS immediate boss were fighting. When I slouched my way into the dentist’s office the bright little dental assistant looked at the chart in her hands and said;

                  “Oh, I see you’re here for a root canal. I’m so sorry!”

                  This took me somewhat off balance and I blurted, “Honey, this is going to be the nicest thing that’s happened to me all week!”

                  I still think that’s right; after all a root canal brings some pain to a blessed END!

                  • reply Don Hilliard ,

                    @Rhinanimator: I’m the second generation in my family (at least) who burns through dental anaesthetics in about half the usual time.

                    When I had to have a bridge put in, I warned the dentist about this. Sure enough, he had to shoot me up again halfway through the procedure. This prompted a “What the hell, do you eat Novocaine with your breakfast?”

                    (Also wasn’t helped by the fact that I apparently have very hard teeth – he went through two diamond burrs getting the work done and was on a third.)

                    • reply erebor ,

                      If I EVER get to the point where I am as calm about a pap smear as I am about the dentist– even when I know I need a filling– it will be a minor miracle.

                      • reply The Gecko ,

                        @Don Hillard: I ran into that problem during a root canal. I can definitively say that’s not a problem you want to run into during a root canal. Right down in there, diggin’ into the inflamed, raw, pulpy nerves and OOPS. That’s not numb anymore.

                        Anyway, they switched me from lidocaine to articaine… I think? Maybe it was the other way around. That seems to have worked alright ever since, but granted, I haven’t had any more root canals since then.

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