2008: As you stumble out of the dentist’s office, the receptionist asks if you want to make your next appointment for 6 months from now. As you have absolutely no idea what your schedule will be in six months, politely decline. Promise you will call as the date becomes closer. The receptionist offers to send you a card… which she does… and which you ignore. Allow two years to pass before you decide to return.
2010: Prior to leaving for long overdue appointment, brush your teeth with a level of enthusiasm and fervor rarely exhibited in your bathroom. Then floss until your gums bleed. Then brush again. Rinse with mouthwash. Re-floss. Kid yourself that this last dental boot camp routine will make up for the fact that its been two years since your last appointment and during that time you have flossed your teeth maybe a dozen times, always after eating corn on the cob. Smell breath.
Open the door to the dentist’s office and recoil from the smell of “dentist’s office”. Feel slightly faint but announce your arrival to receptionist. Sign new HIPPA forms and wonder why anyone would ever be interested in accessing your dental information. You are not even interested in accessing your dental information. Sit down and scan magazines which consist of a crumpled last year’s Ladies Home Journal and a stack Car and Driver.
The attractive hygienist calls your name. Wonder why hygienists are almost always woman and usually attractive. Wonder why on earth anyone would ever want to spend their days cleaning other people’s mouths. As you walk back to the chair, begin the mea culpa about being 18 months late for your appointment. The hygienist nods. Apparently you are not the only patient with this confession today
The hygienist tells you are scheduled for x-rays today. It seems that you are always scheduled for x-rays but you don’t argue. She asks if you might be pregnant. Begin to get offended but then realize its standard protocol. Relax in the comfort of the lead blanket. Bite down on the tab and experience guaranteed discomfort. She tells you not to move and leaves the room. By telling you not to move, she is daring you to. Try to stay perfectly still but feel as if you might have moved. Did you move? No, you didn’t. Look at your x-rays and realize that beneath your hair and skin and Clinique make-up, you are really just a creepy skeleton.
The hygienist clips the paper bib around your neck. As she puts the saliva sucker in your mouth, begin to worry that it is going to suck your tongue through that small tube. This fear is exacerbated every time you close your mouth and the hose attaches itself to the side of your cheek in an attempt to swallow your entire head.
The hygienist grabs her tools and begins to dig. She confirms that indeed you “have some buildup” and tells you that she is going to use the power scraper, which resembles a small blow torch. You smile as best you can with your mouth wide open. You had this coming. Rather than scream in pain when she hits a sore spot, squeeze eyes even tighter and hope she notices your discomfort. Concentrate on your fingers which are curling in your lap.
Know that it is going to be ugly when the hygienist has to use a wet towel to clean your face when she is done. She utters those magic words, “rinse and spit.” Sit up and spit out your gums, feeling a bit like Rocky Balboa in a curiously pleasing way. Rinse and spit. Wonder how many times is acceptable to rinse and spit. Decide you should rinse and spit until your spit is clear. Sit back, leaving a long trail of drool from the little sink to your mouth two feet away. Wipe quickly with the bib.
The dentist arrives and says, ‘Lets have a look” spending an entire 27 seconds poking each tooth and doing nothing else. He tells you how lucky you are that you don’t have any cavities. He reminds you the importance of flossing and you nod in violent agreement, retreating before he can offer you teeth whitening or Botox, but not before he offers you a new toothbrush. Feel like you are 7 years old as you walk by the receptionist who asks if you would like to make your next appointment in 6 months.
Politely decline. She’ll send you a card.