The Tooth Noob
“The hygienist is out today. The dentist will be cleaning your teeth.”
I used to think these were the most terrifying words one could hear upon arriving at one’s biannual scrape-and-blood-fest. Most dentists I’ve encountered combine the bedside manner of an executioner with the gentle, nurturing touch of a detoxing crackwhore.
How the hell can someone drill trough enamel and perform root canals, yet be incapable of putting the X-Ray film in my mouth without puncturing through to my nose?
The typical hygienist has had, I’m guessing, seventy fewer years of schooling, yet they still managed to fit that vital “Scrape, Don’t Stab” class in. Is that the stuff they cover on Dentist Ditch Day? Or is it all the dentist’s extra classes that make them forget Dentistry 101: Patients Wincing. Dentists only remember those upper division classes – Dentistry 515a: Scrapers Between the Teeth (Because Floss is Too Forgiving) and 515b: Scrapers & Gums (The Lawn Darts of the 21st Century).
Whereas the hygienist seems to realize that there will be blood and have the sanitary napkin ready to go.
Wait, that gauzy cheesecloth they use isn’t called a sanitary napkin? Sanitary napkins go where? Hmmm. Maybe I should’ve been concerned by the Dentist/OB-Gyn sign on the front door. But the Dentist/Bartender sign next door looked so shoddy.
Regardless, I learned this week that there is a situation worse than dental dictator subbing as sympathetic schoolmarm. One that can’t be cured by a simple “Milkshakes for dinner?” text to the wife.
“Your hygienist retired. I’m your new hygienist. Today is my first day.”
Yikes. Is this going to be as bad as that first-day hooker I visitied?
The answer: more pain, less chafing.
She asked me how I felt about my dental health. Um, fine? Do I brush twice a day? Let’s say sure. And floss? Yes, I’ve heard of it.
She asked the questions while out of sight, standing behind the upright chair. She paused after each question because she was writing down my answers. Then she asks me to sign the paper. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Will this be used against me in a court of law? I mean, I just told you that I floss regularly, but if I’m required to testify, I might need to plead the fifth.
On this sheet she hands me to sign, I see all the notes the previous hygienist had kept on me. Sentences and sentences appeared on each previous visit. Discussions we had had, what vacation I’m going to be taking before my next visit. Ha! I knew she didn’t “happen to” remember my child’s name six months later! It was all written down on that sheet. The sheet I had never seen, nor had to sign, before.
Today’s “notes” say “Health: Fine. Flosses.”
Alright, as long as I don’t have to use a thumbprint or retinal scan, I’ll sign that. But I’m going to sign it soppy so the prosecution has a tougher time pinning it on me.
Then the festivities began. She handed my some loaner sunglasses. “Wear these so the light doesn’t hurt your eyes.”
Um, how about you just not shoot light into my eyes? Last time I checked my teeth aren’t in my eyes. There’s an entire nose in between the two. If you feel the need to shoot light somewhere other than my mouth, have a gander at those lustrous nostrils.
But not only was she using the standard hovering dentist light, she also had a miner’s lamp strapped to her forehead. Wow. Are we going spelunking?
She then lowered my chair into the reclining position. And then she kept going. Holy crap. The old hygienist could work wonders if I was at a 45-degree angle. Maybe she’d occasionally drop me to 35-degrees. For this chick, zero-degrees wasn’t enough. We were heading into Graphing Quadrant IV.
“Is that comfortable?” She asked as I started clutching the side of the chair to offset the gravitational pull on my head.
“I don’t know. When I come down from the high of blood rushing to my brain, I’ll tell you. Y’know, the hooker made me wear sunglasses and hang upside down, too.”
She reluctantly put me back to horizontal and went to work.
In the teaching world, it can be refreshing when a new teacher shows fresh out of Teacher Prep school. They bring new technology and websites that I might not discover on my own. And I reciprocate by giving them some of my old videos, but mainly just to watch them try to figure out how to jam a VHS tape into their laptop.
So maybe, I thought, this new dental hygienist would bring a similar novelty to the process. Maybe some laser wash that instantly removes all plaque with no scraping.
It turns out she did, in fact, have a newfangled tool. Unfortunately, it resembled Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver. It vibrated and shot water at the same time. The vibration felt like drilling, because patients loved the drilling sensation so much, they added it even when not filling cavities. The water came out at roughly the same force as a fire hydrant. Because, “Yay, Waterboarding!”
But the really great news was that, after the sonic screwdriver was finished, there was still scraping to look forward to. Whew! In her defense, though, the scraping went faster. I assume all she had to do was scrape the few bits of enamel that hadn’t been pulverized over the twenty minutes of tooth fracking.
She didn’t really know where to sit to gain the best access to my mouth. Probably because I was an asshole and wouldn’t let her hang me upside down. So she kept moving her rolly chair from one side of my head to the other, trying upside down, sideways, whatever. She asked me to move my face and body one direction, then the other, so she could get the best angle. The various tubes and cords came close to strangling me a few times, but what’s a little asphyxiation amongst friends? The hooker would have charged me more for that, but here it’s an all-inclusive price.
During the entire process, she kept the suction tube hanging from my cheek like a goddamned breathing tube. Could she have at least given me some nitrous? Hey hygienist, maybe you can just keep that suction thing nearby and only use it when necessary, huh? Then again, when you’re pumping ten thousand pounds of water pressure into my gumline, I guess the suction needs to be continuously running. Delta Dental ain’t paying your salary if I drown.
So while the cords and suction were constant, you know what was missing? Any conversation whatsoever. I get that it’s awkward to have me deepthroating on a first date, but how about some of that bona fide hygienist banter? I know that has to be taught in hygienist school. It truly is a skill. No other profession on the planet has mastered one-sided conversations. Who else can get somebody’s life story based only on yes-no questions and guttural plegm? I mentioned that my old hygienist had listed my baby’s name as “fghrghrxchtl,” right?
Any big plans for this weekend? Swimming, you say? What hobbies do you enjoy? Blog writing? Interesting! Sado-Masochism? Whips and chains, huh? Does this hurt? Yes? Do you want me to stop? No?
Sorry. Got confused with the hooker again.
But this new hygienist didn’t say a damn thing. I get that I was the first patient she ever had without a giant button between my nipples, but even Resuscitation Annie likes to be asked how her day went, right?
But maybe it’s for the best. Unlike my former hygienist, this one’s copious notes can’t ever be stolen for identity thieves. The fact that I’m behind on my grading isn’t going to appear on Wikileaks.
The only thing the NSA or some Nigerian prince is going to get on me now is some suspicious self-reported dental habits.
$10,000 OR THE WORLD LEARNS THAT YOU LIE ABOUT FLOSSING!