“Flat On My Back With a Stranger’s Fingers in My Mouth”

As a kid, I enjoyed going to the dentist because it meant three things:

  • Getting to read “grown up” magazines like Glamour and Vogue in the waiting room.
  • Picking a free toy from the prize basket at the front of the office.
  • Goodie bags that included toothpaste that was just my size.

Times sure have changed, because today?  I’d rather visit the lady-doctor and face the stirrups than let someone put Barbie-sized power tools in my mouth.  Trust me, I am so grateful to even have access to dental care (and coverage!), but that doesn’t make me any less terrified walking into the dentist’s office.

This is why…

 “Flat On My Back With A Stranger’s Fingers in My Mouth”

A Real-Life Timeline of My Semi-Annual Dental Exam

Tuesday, 17 October 2013

3:00pm – Arrive, sign in at front desk.  This is not too bad.

3:01pm – Ushered back immediately.  Dangit.  So much for mentally preparing in the lobby.

3:01pm-3:10pm – Sit in exam chair and allow dental assistant to drape me in various bibs. I’m having flashbacks to being eight months old, but instead of pulling out strained peas, she shoves x-ray film strips in my mouth.  She comes back to retrieve the film strips after taking the x-rays.  I manage to detach the strips from their holders, and she has to fish them out from between my gums.

3:15pm – Dentist comes in.  We make small talk.  She asks if I’m still in school; I explain my current state of “funemployment.”

3:17pm – Dentist reclines my chair and begins the exam. Staring up into the fluorescent light 20 inches from my face, I wonder if this is this is what it feels like before being waterboarded.

3:18pm – As always, once the dentist sticks her fingers/miniature scythe/mirron-on-a-stick in my mouth, I seem to lose complete control of my tongue.  It’s like there’s an epileptic octopus in my mouth; I accidentally lick her fingers and/or dental instruments no less than three times.

3:22pm – She pulls out the Polly Pocket-sized drill of death, and gets ready to attack my perfectly healthy gums.  I request a moment to put in my headphones and turn on my music before the ordeal begins; she offers to turn on the heated-massage feature in my chair.  “It’ll be like you’re at the spa!” she says.

3:24pm – She’s right, it is like being at the spa…If spa treatments included lying prostrate under an industrial light while someone scrapes the enamel off of your teeth.  At least the massage feature is mildly distracting.

3:25pm – Even Jeff Buckley’s haunting tenor cannot drown out the shrieking demon-banshee sounds coming from the tools inside my mouth.  I feel a twinge of envy towards Helen Keller.

3:30pm – The heavens open as she puts away the damned drill.

3:31pm – The one part I look forward to: The tiny-garden-hose-thing that sprays water all up in my piehole, which is dry as Death Valley since it’s been pried open for the past ten straight minutes.  Sadly, the dentist is being stingy with the water today, and too heavy-handed with the mouth-sized Dyson-vacuum.  All take and no give is never pretty.

3:32pm – Dentist slips on that toothpaste-ring and begins basting my gums in grainy tangerine-flavored paste.

3:34pm – I realize that the water-sprayer-thing looks eerily like a tiny version of the hoses at the car wash station.  As the dentist continues buffing my teeth, I begin to feel like a car being detailed.

3:37pm – Time for flossing.  Things are alright until the floss breaks on my molars.  I want to apologize for having an elf-sized mouth and horse-sized chompers, but alas, the dentists hands are already back in my mouth.

3:40pm – Hallelujah! It’s over.  The dentist rights my chair and removes my bib, narrating the action all the while.  With her demeanor, I think she could do well as a nursing home caregiver.

3:41pm – After being reassured by the dentist that grad school will do me well, I receive my goodie bag and hightail it out of there.

3:42pm – Examine my bag of party favors in the car.  Experience a transcendent moment as I realize this bag is not so much a parting gift as a token of apology from my dentist: “Sorry I spent the last hour poking foreign objects around in your oral cavity.  Here’s a travel size tube of toothpaste to make you feel better.”  Somehow, the tiny toothpaste tube really does lift my spirits.

Just the right size for my panda paws.

Just the right size for my panda paws.  (What can I say? I’m a sucker for marketing.)

3:50pm – Arrive home. Abstain from making myself iced coffee after being shamed by the before-and-after photos of teeth-whitening patients that I was forced to stare at for the past hour.

On the bright side, it’s over, and I’ve got another miniature tube of toothpaste to add to my collection.

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