My mouth is throbbing today and I’m popping Tylenol like Tic Tacs because yesterday, I went to the dentist, a chore that I look forward to almost as much as having my spinal cord yanked out through my nose without anesthetic.
I once went more than five years without having my teeth checked when I finally stumbled across some personal responsibility hiding in my sock drawer. I swallowed it, grew some figurative balls (as opposed to literal because … EWWW) and dragged myself to the dentist, only to walk out of there an hour later with shiny white teeth firmly rooted in red, inflamed gums, all trapped in a mouth so swollen and bruised, it looked like a tank had parallel parked on my face. I knew it was my own fault for letting my teeth go for so long, knowing full well that the back of my teeth is one big plaque magnet but holy crap, what the hell kind of dentist inflicts that kind of pain upon a patient unless he’s also trying to extract launch codes for nuclear weapons in the process?
I later learned that that particular dentist retired shortly thereafter due to dementia. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t briefly consider paying him a house call and smacking him upside the head with the hope he wouldn’t remember it ten minutes later.
Now I make it a rule to visit my dentist for routine checkups every six months which, when coupled with my annual gynecological exam, means I get to read People magazine three times a year. That in and of itself almost makes up for the inconvenience of having two of my three major orifices probed and prodded.
I like People Magazine. It’s simple, mindless entertainment that doesn’t make me scrunch up my forehead and think. It’s stupid time, a cheap, non-invasive, frontal lobotomy. My dentist and ob-gyn are the only doctors I frequent who subscribe to this magazine. Why is that? People magazine is the perfect antidote for nerves that are mangled into gigantic knots because they are trapped inside a body that, within minutes, is about to be weighed, poked, scraped, scoped and manhandled to the tune of a $25 co-pay or more, all without the benefit of liquor or illegal narcotics.
I’d subscribe to People Magazine myself but it’s kind of expensive and without a root canal or pap smear factored into equation, I can’t really justify the expense just to have my brain atrophy 362 days of the year. Not when I have children who can do that for me for free.
I like my dentist’s office and I like my hygienist. It’s not her fault that as soon as I sit in the chair, my teeth morph into mini chalkboards and the sound and sensation of metal scraping up and down them is enough to make me want to catapult my consciousness into next week, which never actually happens because my consciousness is too busy silently screaming OUCH, OUCH, OWIEEEEEE as my gums are being hacked to death. My hygienist is aware of my anxiety and thoughtfully screams “INCOMING” before diving into my mouth with a myriad of sharp instruments and poking about my gums like she’s aerating a lawn.
And why, for the love of God, do all hygienists converse with you when they’re cleaning your teeth? Do they go to the same school as waitresses who ask about your meal the second you shovel stuffed chicken breast into your mouth?
Not that it matters really, because my hygienist is fluent in AGHUROOO.
Hygienist: So, how was your summer?
Me: “Uh, iii aaaa oooooog”
Hygienist: Nice! I had a great summer too, but it was so busy with the kids. Running here, running there. I was exhausted.
Me: “III aaaghj ooophtyoooo! Oooeeyyhh aaaart aaarrrghh!”
Hygienist: I know, right? It’s ridiculous. Is there a law against entertaining themselves?
Me: Uh huhhheeewn! Hhuio cooooue I gooooow. Onnnnk ooooough?
Hygienist: I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I’ve been going to this office for a couple of years now and every single time I’m in her chair, she asks me if I floss. I do not, and I’m pretty sure it says so somewhere in that big fat file she flips through all during my exam because every time I’ve answered that question, she makes a little notation somewhere in that file and while I can’t say for certain was that notation says, I’m pretty sure the word “moron” is part of it.
I know I should floss. I know that it would toughen up my gums and help destroy the plaque. I know it’s good for me. I just don’t do it. I don’t know why … I just don’t. It’s like losing weight … I know I should do it, I know it would be healthy for me, I know I’d be better off for it, but I lack the motivation that would surely come from a massive stroke. It’s the same with my teeth. If gingivitis all of a sudden opened a can of Whoop Ass on my gums, I’d start to floss. That is motivation. Giving me a complimentary pack of dental floss and sending me on my way, is not. Helena can smell dental floss before I even turn into the driveway and I know that within thirty seconds of entering the house, she will have confiscated it and it will disappear into the black hole located in the southwest corner of our second floor, more commonly known as her bedroom. Yes, I could just go out and buy some more but hello? That requires motivation, of which I have none. Remember?
I do, however, use Listerine, faithfully swishing it around my mouth once or twice daily. Only the Freshburst flavor. All other flavors make me want to vomit and throw my tongue out the window. A thirty second encounter with Freshburst and I can actually hear the plaque shriek in protest. Or maybe that’s me. It does burn something fierce. But my mouth feels so sanitized and completely germ free afterward that it’s worth thirty seconds of OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL? I’m seriously considering painting the girls’ bathroom with it. Or stripping the wallpaper with it … whichever.
Listerine does not rise to the level of “suitable alternative” in the eyes of my hygienist who makes it a practice, at the end of my appointments, to launch into a lecture about floss, its benefits when done twice daily, blah blah blah. She even pokes my gums once more for emphasis, declaring “See? If you flossed, that wouldn’t hurt so much” as my eyes roll back into my head. Just once, I’d like to … no, I won’t even go there.
I try really hard not to think about clamping down on her finger with my jaw because then my teeth won’t be white and sparkly anymore and I’d definitely have to use floss to get rid of all the tendons and tissue.
And I will try really hard not to entertain such thoughts for at least another 180 days.