Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Dentist

TBG says it best - "He has the smallest, smartest hands which have ever been in my mouth."

Nibbling on our babies' fingers aside, I think he's right.  Dr. Jess (he practiced for a while with his brother, so last names were useless) is thoughtful and gloved before he beginss to manually admire my dentition.  I always know what he's going to do and why.  There are no surprises; he announces noise and spray and discomfort so that I can be prepared.

I've written about dentists before  (click here and here) .   I have nothing but affection for the profession.  My teeth are inherited from my paternal grandfather, he who chewed chicken bones right up to his death, where he greeted the Grim Reaper with all of his own, original, un-filled teeth.  The dentists in my life were never going to get right with me as a patient.  I was good for two cleanings a year and x-rays every two years.  I never thought about dental insurance.

Marrying TBG made me rethink that decision.  The man has a mess in his mouth, and a long history of incompetent men with their hands in his mouth.  He's phobic about dentists; Dr. Jess is the first one I've known him to visit with a smile.  And he visits him a lot.

Given my history, I was rightfully surprised to hear that the sharp edge on the side of my tooth was, in fact, a cracked tooth with an unstable filling.  Last month it received a temporary covering.  Today, it was permanently repaired.

I didn't sleep well last night.  Took an Ativan in the evening, when I realized that I was curled up in a tiny ball in the corner of the couch, arms around my knees, chin resting on my biceps, a frown on my lips.  I had to go to the dentist at 9am. I wasn't a happy girl. 

The Ativan took the edge off, and I managed a smile or two before seeking comfort in sleep.  Woke up, reluctantly, and ate, because I knew I had to be properly fueled, not because I wanted to put the blood orange Chobani, half a banana and a sprinkling of Kashi Go Lean Crunch into my mouth.  I didn't want to put anything into my mouth.... especially the dentist's hand.

But I had no choice.  The temporary implant, which gave me no problems, is unreliable for the long-term.  Even though I was perfectly happy with its vaguely rough surface, Dr. Jess assured me that it was an accident waiting to happen.  I needed a permanent solution.

I was prepared for the morning's activities.  I brought crocheting and my Kindle and my smart phone and my ear buds.  I put Sarah Vaughan on Pandora, put the purple buds in my ears, closed my eyes behind the sunglasses the tech provided, and tried to breathe.  Meditation is a skill I'll need to develop further before it can be of use in such situations.  I tried inhaling and visualizing a 1 and exhaling as a 2 appeared, but it was hopeless.  I relaxed my fingers from the death grip they'd found on my shorts, took my shoulders out of my ears, and let my brain wander with Ella Fitzgerald's scatting.

It was wet and numb and noisy.  It was slightly pungent and noisy.  It was turn your head this way and noisy.  I'm hearing that damn drill still... and I've been home for 90 minutes.

Dinah Washington and Duke Ellington rounded out the ear bud section of the morning.  I had to participate in the placement of the overlay - my teeth rewarded me by being strong enough to support this less drastic measure - and then there was the smoothing and lowering and bite-on-this-ing and my face was so tired of holding my mouth open I nearly wept. 

And then I was done.

Just like that, Dr. Jess was patting my shoulder, telling me to be careful of the Novocain in my lip and cheek, and the technician was guiding me to the payment counter.  I was befuddled.  I was exhausted. I wasn't thinking very clearly at all.  I drove home slowly, down my newly paved through street, but I was too distracted to notice the improvements.  I've typed the story to you, here, hoping that it will help the anxiety to dissipate.

So far, it's not working.


  1. Since I just made my appointment yesterday to have first Dentist visit in a year next week, I really appreciate your telling about your experience. I was glad the receptionist had my chart right at her fingertips. I was not so happy about everything my mouth now will need. Incentive to finally do this? Not the filling that fell out a couple of weeks ago. Nor the old ones that have more decay around them. I just decided. I don't want my teeth to look ugly when I'm buried. (Assuming I am eventually.) Now if I should be cremated, who cares!

    1. Hmmm..... ugly teeth in the casket..... I never considered that. Won't your mouth be closed?!? On the other hand, regular checkups will keep that smile beautiful, B., and an empty space where a filling once resided cannot feel good.

      Wishing you as pleasant an experience as mine...

  2. Nitrous Oxide is the only way I can have any dental work, luckily I have a dentist friend and he is about the only one I know that uses Nitrous. It is wonderful. I commiserate with you and your mouth.

    1. I love nitrous oxide, but I can't find a dentist here in Tucson who uses it. They are all (rightfully) concerned about the effects on fertility for their female staff members.

      It makes me sad; I loved breathing deeply and floating away....

  3. Hearing the loud noise of drills can be quite scary. Good thing you prepared yourself for that day, and packed all the things that you might think will help; like some music to tune it out with. Somehow, that lessened the stress on your mind. And it helps that you know the dentist. At the very least, you know that he is familiar with your dental health, and will apply only the best treatment you need.

    George McEvoy @ Dr. McEvoy, DDS

  4. Your experience with your dentist is really interesting. Like you, I also have a certain affection for people in that profession because all dentists I’ve met are kind and admirable. It’s really advantageous if you know and trust your dentist, because all the scary parts will be gone and you won't have to sacrifice the maintenance of your oral health. In any way, thanks for sharing that, Ashleigh! All the best to you!

    Sharon Woods @ Falls Park Dentistry

  5. I think a person’s view on dentists depends on the dentist himself. There are a lot of great dentists out there who can work on people’s teeth without giving them the anxiety of going through it. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right dentist, and maybe a bit of getting used to the processes. Anyway, thanks for sharing this with us. Have a great day!

    Richard Travers @ Travers Dental Clinic


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