I am a bad person, and so it’d been a while since I’d been to the dentist. First I didn’t have dental insurance, and then I did have dental insurance but I was scared to go to the dentist and then I was still scared to go but I thought I should go anyway, and I then I did, and I figured, well, all right, I don’t need to go for another two years now even though it’s exactly that kind of behavior that gets me into dental trouble. And then a year or so passed, and I begin to think that maybe I should go to the dentist again, and then I remembered that I didn’t much like my dentist, so I put off going for another five or six months, and then I thought I’d really better go because the last time I didn’t go to the dentist I had to, no lie, get a tooth pulled and that’s not even counting getting my wisdom teeth out with no painkillers afterward. So I began to think about getting a new dentist, and I asked around a little, half-heartedly, because I sort of believed that if no one had a new dentist for me then I wouldn’t have to go ever again. But then my boss told me, with no warning whatsoever, that she loved her dentist and that she has never loved a dentist before but that she loves him and that his office is very close to my work and that I should have him be my dentist so that I can love him too. And I told her I would, and I mentally told myself that if I could make it through going to the dentist I would make it a point for the rest of my life to get regular check-ups and cleanings and to floss every day. I have made that vow before but this time I told myself that I really meant it.
So I went to visit this dentist (his name is Dr. Ranta. Hi Dr. Ranta!) and indeed, he and his entire staff were very kind and gentle and sweet and lovable. He told me I had five cavities and that I needed to brush my teeth with extra-flouride toothpaste and I was like, well, all right, and we made an appointment to get the biggest of the cavities fixed, and the way he said it, it was like I was just going to stop in after work to say hi and while I was there he would drill my tooth a little and then maybe we’d get coffee later and talk about fly-fishing or whatever it is Dr. Ranta does when he’s not having lovely little chats with his patients in his soft soothing voice that sounds like rain falling and kittens lapping cream and ponies whickering, all at once. It’s good that he has that voice because it does distract one from that horrid pulverized tooth smell that comes from the drilling.
Yesterday afternoon was my appointment. There was a bus straight there from my work and the receptionist knew who I was and asked me when I’m leaving for my trip and said I could go right in and I went right in and the very lovely nurse sat me down and said, “So, have you ever had nitrous before?”
No I hadn’t.
“I think it will be helpful for you, since you said you have a lot of dentist fear. It’s better than a benzodiazepine because it exits your system right away and it takes the edge off. Also, it helps time go a little faster.”
Well, all right then.
“Just sit right here. This rubber nose thing is supposed to smell like vanilla. Now breathe in through your nose.”
Okay. Okay. Ooooooooooo-kay. Okay, I’m totally going to throw up.
“Hmm. I’m just giving you a TEENY TINY bit there. I don’t know why it’s making you feel sick.”
So I sat there and felt mildly buzzed and a little sick to my stomach and Dr. Ranta came in and I waved at him and he sat down and bent to his work and his work was sticking eight or nine hands into my mouth while I breathed through my nose into the not-really-vanilla-scented rubber nose thing. Every now and again he’d stop and say, in his creamy chocolate-y voice, “Doing all right?” and the lovely nurse would pat my shoulder or occasionally, inexplicably, put the air sprayer thing on my forehead and neck, which did feel very nice indeed, and I would make a sort of muffled groan and Dr. Ranta would say “Good” and I would close my eyes again, thinking that time wasn’t really going by all that quickly, really. And Dr. Ranta put shiny tools in my mouth, and then told me to tap my teeth together, and I did, and then it was over and the lovely nurse took the rubber nose thing off and I sat up and tried not to fall off the chair. Dr. Ranta looked in disbelief at the TEENY TINY amount of nitrous I’d been given and said “This is supposed to be like a two-glass-of-wine buzz. It’s not supposed to make you spacy.”
“Guh,” I said.
“Ah,” he said. “A proverbial lightweight.”
Dr. Ranta told me that he’d pretty much given me emergency minor oral surgery there because the tooth was so decayed (Sexy!). He said it will eventually need a crown. He said lots of other things about painkillers and chewing on my left side and cold sensitivity and I nodded my head and got up off the chair and managed to make it to the waiting room until Carl could come get me.
“Eergh,” I said.
“I know,”said Carl. “I can tell just by looking at you.”
Carl took me home and I discovered that my Cooking Light subscription finally came and he made me some mac and cheese which I managed to moosh down my throat and I sat there and mumbled about not feeling very well and my cheek began to swell up entertainingly and I decided that maybe I wouldn’t be making it to bellydance that night after all and that I needed to maybe lie down and sleep the sleep of the recently-emergency-operated-upon, which I did. That was when my downstair neighbors decided, as they decide every night, that it was time for Thrash Band Practice. Usually they just play their music really really loudly (it vibrates the light fixtures upstairs at my house) and try to accompany it with their bass guitar or whatever they have down there. Lat night they did all that, but they did it for about twice as long as usual. I slipped in and out of consciousness for a while and listened to the various appliances in my house rattle and wondered if perhaps time had actually stopped. Carl called at about 9:30.
“Ooooooorrrrrrrggggggggarble,” I said.
“Me too, sweetie,” he said. “Sleep well.”
Today I can hardly open my mouth and I think my cavity-filler-stuff is still off-gassing into my mouth because I can’t get rid of that sickening gassy dentist taste. I’m still woozy and a little unsteady on my feet. I have been promising myself and anyone else who will listen that I will never do this again, never just decide not to go to the dentist, never la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you my way out of taking care of my teeth. I’m feeling very affectionate and solicitous of my teeth right now; I’ve soothed and petted them and promised them everything is going to be all right. I’ve told them we’re all going to France next week and that when we get back we’ll go to Disneyland, too, and possibly will get ice cream on the way home. I haven’t told them that we need four more fillings when we get back because I think that’d just ruin their trip, and I want them to enjoy themselves and stop sending the shooting pains through my jaw directly into my brain. I plan to send Dr. Ranta a postcard from Paris, with love from all of us.