Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Oral Sucks: Or, Dental Dammit

When you think about it, as I’m forcing you to do right now, c’mon and open your mind wide, there’s no event that creates a misery index combo like going to the dentist. Let’s run the vivid, miserable list: Pain and Expense are the ugly leading duo, A DeLay-Schiavo of the mouth, as it were (this blog is not responsible for any effects caused to those pondering this analogy for too long).

But wait, there’s more—-as if the actual event weren’t enough, we get to deal with insurance, which, at least in my policy’s case, turns out to be slightly different for every tooth in my mouth. I think, as they explain it, it works so: if the tooth is OK, then it’s fully insured. Of course, there are all the little bonus problems, too—-the dry cleaning bill after you drool over your clothes when they ask you spit but they’ve numbed your mouth to a point body parts in nature only achieve at the end of a high school (and is high school natural?) literature class taught by to the nth-degree-old Miss Lily Liverspots, a woman who probably had an affair with William Wordsworth. And it should be noted here that Wordsworth had a beautiful set of teeth, which is probably why he kept re-writing a poem called the Prelude his whole life and never got to the real poem. If he had to have visited the dentist more, than he would have realized how precious life truly is.

But you and I, let’s smile here, because we know the dark ugly side of life that stares you in the face when you’re flat on your back in a room with a blinding light emitted from what looks like the head of a robot in a ‘50s sci-fi movie. If you can see past the light, there's always a poster on the wall of some castle in Switzerland that must be the first university to give the DDS, or something. Or maybe you don’t want to smile, if, like me, you have more silver in your mouth than the Lone Ranger had between his legs (heigh ho humor, and away!).

I try to be good to my teeth, I ddooo (sorry, but the chocolate on my fingers makes typing hardd), even floss, at least during leap years. But even that’s an odd experience; my teeth, at least the most industrious, seem to resent the invasion—-“Hey, give me that plaque back, damn you, I’ve been working on that since Halloween of 1973!”—-and they bite at the floss. Really. How else to explain the way the floss gets ripped and shredded? When I’m done I’ve often got enough floss splinters stuck in my teeth that when I open my mouth, well, my mouth is kind of forced open given all the floss hanging out, people confuse my face for Uncle Dorn’s ears. (I swear his eardrums have a five o’ clock shadow.)

Which brings me back to the dentist. I’m amazed, every visit they’ve got some new gadget to show off, which either means I should go more frequently or they are doing something with the thousands of dollars I spend, after insurance. It’s one thing to get x-rayed, although it does worry me that they put that lead chest protector on you as they dash out of the room, being sure to leave their lunches out so they get microwaved. What I want to know is, why does the dental hygienist always manage to drop a corner of the forty pound protector into your lap so that, well, guys, I can already hear you groaning in male solidarity. (Let’s not complain too loudly, though, or they might suggest a shot of Novocain to a place I don’t want to think about any hypodermic coming close to.)

But now they’ve gone one better than x-rays, they have an intraoral camera. Now, that sounds a lot more fun, especially for you internets savvy folks, than it really is. What it really means is they can take really up close picture of your teeth. The dentist (and don’t forget they liked to be called doctor, that helps justify the loans they’re paying back, to the same companies, no doubt, that write insurance policies) showed me these TV images, and I thought, “Wow, a ski resort with the snow melting!” Turns out it was my teeth, and every spot that wasn’t snow-covered was a money making opportunity for my dentist. He should be rich very soon.

Sorry I didn’t get to all the other horrors of the dentist, like having to keep one’s mouth open for so long, and not even getting paid for it. In fact, I have a modest proposal for making us all go to the dentist more often. Given he (or she, although it does really seem the sadist side of the job leaves it a male-dominated profession) gets to hurt you and then demand your money, it seems only fair we get to extract a bit of revenge after the visit. Say, maybe, one swift but mighty kick in the same spot a hefty chest protector recently hit you? Is that too much to ask? Well, the gas is wearing off, so I better move along now.


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