If you are scared of the dentist, you might not want to read this post. Or, alternatively, it might make you feel better about your own teeth.
I’m not afraid of the dentist; I am afraid of how much it costs. Dentists are like Pringles; once you pop you can’t stop. I’ve never made just one dentist appointment in my life. One appointment always turns into a dozen. Going to the dentist is like one of those time-share seminars. You think you’re getting a free vacation until you realize you have to spend days watching lectures on all the time-shares you could buy around the globe and writing a rather large check at the end of it. Dentists are the pyramid schemes of the health care industry.
Of course, this has been my experience, what with the absolutely crappy teeth my ancestors handed down to me. You’d think in all that time since Christopher Columbus’ day, we could have evolved better chompers. Nope. Like everyone else in my family, I’ve got shitty fucking teeth. I guess that comes with being partly British.
Anyway, last month, I told you about how one of my teeth fell out. We were going along fine together for decades, when all of a sudden, mid-bite, it took a runner. Fortunately, I didn’t chew on it or swallow it.
Once that tooth was gone, the one next to it decided that it might want to see what was outside the mouth, too, and started getting loose. This, of course, meant that I had to go see a dentist right quick. Seeing as I have new dental insurance, I figured I might as well take it for a spin. I spent a week with a missing incisor before my first appointment.
Appointment 1, Friday.
Full mouth X-rays. It took approximately ninety hours to take fourteen pictures of every angle of my mouth by shoving a giant black thing attached to a very not smooth plastic piece that essentially acted as a cheese grater on the roof of my mouth. I was bleeding before I even had any dental work done.
Then, we had a cleaning, which hurt more than it should have. The dentist told me to raise my hand if I felt any discomfort, which I did approximately every five seconds. I raised my hand more in that hour than I did in all of my years in school.
After that, she yanked out the loose tooth. All the anesthesia in the world isn’t enough to entirely kill the pain of a tooth being ripped the hell out of your mouth with a pair of pliers. OWWWW.
I left the dentist with fewer teeth than when I went in. I spent three days walking around with two missing incisors. I tried to talk as little as possible, because when I did, there was a distinct whistle every time I pronounced the letter S. I found myself using my brain thesaurus more than usual. My internal monologue before I spoke went a lot like this: OK, what’s another word for stop without an S…? Halt! You have no idea how many words have an S in them.
Appointment 2, Monday.
Monday, I went back with the hope that they might have fake teeth ready and I would stop whistling. Obviously, it had been far too long since I had been to the dentist. That coupled with my inexperience with having missing teeth led to my misunderstanding the process.
They had no teeth for me on Monday since they hadn’t done impressions yet. The reason for the weekend delay on the impressions was that the dentist wanted the gaping hole she had made with pliers to heal first. How silly of me!
Monday, they filled a plastic tray at least three times the size of my mouth with gooey pink gunk. This whole works was shoved into my mouth as if I have a jaw that can unhinge like a snake. I don’t.
Before they filled my mouth with pink goo though, they made sure to scare me about it. “How’s your gag reflex?” “About normal I suppose.” “Well, just so you know, this process makes some people want to throw up.” Great.
Shoving the giant trays of pink goo in my mouth and keeping it there for a full minute, while uncomfortable and certainly not pleasant, didn’t make me want to throw up. It wasn’t until they took it out and I discovered that the back of my tongue was coated with it that I felt a little nauseated. Something about having flecks of pink goo stuck to the back of my tongue that I couldn’t remove, did in fact, make me want to hurl. Still, I didn’t. Yay me.
I spent another week walking around with two missing incisors.
Appointment 3, Friday.
My third appointment in a week. Earlier in the week, they called and told me that my temporary fake teeth weren’t covered under my dental insurance and would cost over $600. Great. Do I really need temporary fake teeth? Can’t I just wait for the permanents? Do I care $600-worth about pronouncing the letter S? Screw the letter S. It’s not important.
However, the dentist said that it is important, since it will be at least a month of cleanings and other dental nightmares before I get permanent teeth. Without the fake teeth to act as placeholders, my teeth could shift and I’d have to do the pink goo trays all over again. If it was money that was holding me back, they’d only charge me $350. “It’s important,” the dentist reiterated. Fine.
On Friday, I went in and got my fake teeth. Yay! I can now say, “Stop sucking, sucker!”
But, we were not done yet. I left with an appointment card with four more appointments written on it. FOUR. Booo.
Appointment 4, Yesterday.
Appointment 4 was the first of four deep cleaning appointments. The dentist is going to do one quadrant at a time. I went on my lunch hour, because the receptionist told me that it shouldn’t take longer than an hour. Two hours later, I was on my way back to work.
First, she numbed me. Those shots directly into your gums hurt like a son of a bitch. Once I was properly not feeling anything, she measured my gums by sticking a metal measuring stick between my gums and teeth as far down as it would go like using a jimmy to break into a car.
Then the actual cleaning started. She began with the robotic tool that swishes water around in your mouth and sounds like a drill even though it’s not drilling anything except the icky stuff on your teeth. She finished by going in by hand with a metal pick. A metal pick against your delicate teeth has to be one of the world’s worst sounds.
Then came the laser, which not surprisingly, smelled like burning. What was it burning? My flesh and the billions of evil bacteria in my mouth. That wasn’t all that scary except that I had to wear special eye goggles.
Finally, she injected antibiotics in between each of my teeth and the gums. Two hours later, with a completely numb face, including my nose, I was out the door and back to work.
At first, I felt nothing, because I was still numb, but as the anesthesia wore off, it began to hurt. By the time I left work a few hours later, it felt like I had been smacked in the face repeatedly with a shovel. And I was still bleeding. It still hurts today, but it’s more like getting hit with a pillow–a rather firm one with maybe some rocks hidden inside, but still just a pillow.
The really excellent part is that I get to do this three more times since she only finished one quarter of my mouth! Not only that, but once all of that is over, I have to go back to get my permanent teeth and fix whatever other horrible disasters lurk inside my mouth. So far, I’ve spent over $500 and we’re not even done yet.
So, the moral of this story is, no matter how broke you are, do not wait 10 years and/or until your teeth fall out to go see a dentist. It will be less painful in the long run. Trust me.