Friday, June 09, 2006
The tooth fairy is dead
I just killed her. The annoying little brat kept chirping in my ear all week that today’s visit to the dentist would be “a piece of cake.” And then I’d get my quarter.
My daughter got on the Mary Poppins bandwagon too. I casually mentioned that I was going in for a new crown and dreaded the grueling prep work. An email soon came flying back.
“Oh Mom, don’t use the word ‘grueling’ for the dentist. Digging out from a hurricane is grueling. Lighten up, lady. It may be a bit uncomfortable but, really, you are so blessed.”
Pumped up by clichés and shamed by reprimands, I got up this morning determined to face my non-ordeal with a stiff upper lip. I should have known that would come later.
I love my dentist. Let me set the record straight in case he ever happens to read this blog. The guy is cool - young, easy on the eyes, pleasant personality and a perfectionist. The last one’s a great trait to have when you’re mucking around in someone else’s mouth. I had a really bad fall several years ago and this man managed to realign and save my front teeth … for that alone, I’d follow him anywhere. His dental assistant is my cousin’s wife, wonderful woman, very calming. It’s nice to have family in the room as the drilling begins.
So off I go, counting my blessings. All shall be well. On a whim, I grab my iPod from the dining-room table and throw it in my purse. I know that they have Muzak in the office but what the heck … maybe I can still find some use for my popsicle stick. (Tiniest iPod – oh I’m so in, thanks to my kids!) I arrive early, ask to use the restroom and notice that my cousin’s wife is not around. Kim, the nurse of the day, tells me that she has gone to Bermuda. I feel a little nip of tension. I often rehearse stressful events in my mind. Now, all of a sudden, I have to replace a constant with a new variable. Kim is sweet; she sees the iPod now hanging around my neck with the adjoining ear plugs. I, the digital diva, promptly show her my toy and she seems impressed – like she doesn’t know how to operate one of these things. Hehehehe. Score one for the senior citizen. I’m making chit chat with Kim, comparing favorite female vocalists. I show her mine; she shows me hers. We promise to write down recommended albums before I leave, which should be in about an hour and a half. I’ve had crowns done before. It usually takes about that length of time.
The doc comes in. More chit chat and then he peers into my mouth, briefly turning into the Godfather and making me an offer I can’t refuse. “How about we do both today? They’re both on top and you’re my last patient.” Bingo! I see the tooth fairy hovering behind the assistant’s shoulder, grinning broadly and gesturing the a-okay sign.
I swallow hard. What a lousy dress rehearsal! Nothing’s going as expected. I was really preparing myself for the one crown today and the other later in the month.
“Oh, sure. Let’s go for it.” This is said without any enthusiasm whatsoever. What would you say to a medical professional leaning over you with sharp instruments in his hand? I could sense his eagerness to dive into my mouth and muck around big time – two for the price of one! It seems expedient and economical, but so did that online dating service which led to love in the afternoon.
What I forget to factor in are the logistics of the whole operation. The one crown is going to live on the east side of my mouth; the other crown is taking up residence on the west side. Before I can say, “maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all”, he looms over me and pops two wads of pre-needle anesthetic into both sides of my mouth. At this point, I fumble and turn on my iPod. The earplugs are already where they belong and soon Eva Cassidy is belting out one of her classics. This is good – mind on Eva, mind off what’s coming next.
Doctor Bob is ready to rumble. Before the last notes of Eva’s tune drift away, he’s back with two needles for the east side and two matching needles for the west side. My gums are starting to panic. Luckily, I’m not feeling any pain … physical pain that is. Mentally, I’m trying to think of every damn stress-management technique I’ve ever learned because now I start to feel a culprit sneaking up on me. Post-nasal drip awakens in the back of my throat. Timing is everything in life. I popped my allergy pills all week hoping this wouldn’t happen.
I go back to counting my blessings as my dentist prepares the silly putty which is about to clamp my jaws together. Before kd lang can whistle Dixie (on my iPod), I am the captive recipient of a full mouth of glob and put back into an upright position so a) I don’t choke while b) I attempt to master swallowing the other glob running down my throat from the post-nasal drip. Challenging, yes. Grueling, no. How dare I even entertain the thought?
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m an extrovert. I express myself best by talking and interacting with people. With my jaws sealed tight, I can do neither and, oh, breathing would be nice too. Breathing through my nose is tricky. My nose keeps reminding me: “You’ve got swollen nasal passages, you twit. Breathe through your mouth.” My mouth refuses to answer as it is occupied at the time. About now, I decide that I just may sell my firstborn child to a traveling circus to be with that kick-me-clown who’s been threatening her. The word grueling keeps demanding my attention. I tell it to take a flying leap. I’m busy just trying to breathe.
The tooth fairy is fluttering about the room, trying not to meet my steely gaze. She knows I’m not happy.
I close my eyes, try to stop the urge to gulp and swallow, and do the only thing I can do well at the moment: listen to my iPod.
Soon Doctor Bob and his trusty assistant return. He pulls the reluctant putty from my mouth, smiles, and the drilling begins. I think people become dentists just for this part alone. Look at all the playthings – big honkin’ drills, tiny delicate drills, drills that go super fast and spit out water, drills that go agonizingly slow. Hey, variety is the spice of life as long as my dentist doesn’t choose a category like ‘drills that break while in patient’s mouth.’ Luckily, this doesn’t happen. I swear the man is energized by the dual opportunity. While I’m listening to my stereo ear plugs, he’s working on my stereo mouth. I decide to close my eyes again as I do not really want to see him with a drill in each hand. Thankfully, he’s not into showmanship. Methodical and precise, he begins with my east side and then cruises over to the west end of town. I try to be a good patient. He tries to be good and patient. The Drip is getting worse. There is soon a routine: whrrr, whrrr, swish, whrrr, hand up (that’s my I’m choking on my own mucus sign), drill stops, I try to swallow and breathe, we begin again. By now, the iPod isn’t helping all that much and scenes from Marathon Man are running rampant through my head.
And then the unexpected twist makes it appearance. The dentist’s and assistant’s faces turn a bit serious. I notice that their light chatter has stopped. And stuff keeps pouring down my throat. I also notice that Doctor Bob recommends a new bib as mine is getting a bit tainted. Would I like to rinse and spit? Yeah, anything to push Dustin Hoffman out of my brain. I swish and spit and think, “Wow, I’m really bleeding here.” There’s that moment of holy crap, is this supposed to be happening?! Coward that I am, I don’t say anything, thinking that if there’s something I should know about the new holes in my mouth, he will tell me. He stops drilling and asks if I’d like to use the restroom. That’s a new one. Okay. This signals that we’ve got a lot more work ahead of us and he doesn’t want me to pee on his floor while I’m bleeding in his basin. I go to the bathroom and look in the mirror and smile. It ain’t pretty. My mouth is, indeed, full of blood. I try to stay calm and return to the scene of the crime. He tells me that I should have a blood test for clotting factor. We interrupt the drilling as he tries to clean me up and then apply pressure, cotton pads and medication to both sides of my mouth. He is very calm. That’s good as he’s in charge of making it better. The tooth fairy, however, is sitting on the sink, eating a cookie. She doesn’t look upset. Bitch!
I guess it takes about twenty minutes before we can begin again. Oh joy. By now the anesthetics are wearing thin and I really do believe I’ve crossed over into the Marathon Man. We stop. He understands. He pumps me up again.
Finally, after three hours in the dental chair, my temporary crowns are in. Nothing is running down my throat (think blood). I can breathe. Life is good. I wipe the spots of blood off my iPod as Doctor Bob reminds Kim to “sterilize the room completely” after I leave.
The tooth fairy tries to follow me out the door but I turn quickly and catch her with a slam. When I open the door, she is lying very still on the threshold. I don’t bother with CPR.
I’m too busy smiling through my stiff upper lip.