Hip hop beats of Usher’s “My Boo” leak from ceiling speakers as the “Friends” episode “The One with the ‘Cuffs” plays on the television. I’m trying to read a profile about actor Zachary Levi published in “Men’s Journal” on my cellphone when I hear fighter jets overhead. What kind of Bizarro World is this?
I’d become hyper aware of my surroundings. This is what happens when you’ve been at the dentist for nearly four hours.
My dentist told me replacing an old crown would require a three-hour appointment, and I’d been very nice for the first three hours.
But now as I settled into my fourth hour, my spirit was broken. I was told my new tooth was being baked somewhere else in the office while I was left alone in my little cubby wondering if everyone had gone off to lunch and forgotten about me.
The sound of the jets made me laugh. So this is the end, I thought to myself. I knew there was no impending doom. The pilots from Travis Air Force Base were practicing for this weekend’s air show. No need to be alarmed. But I found the sound of their passing inviting. At least it’s something new.
I’m typically a patient person. I don’t like to be rushed so I see no value in rushing others. But what’s got me down is that before my dentist started her work, she informed me the crown she replaced last year would need to be replaced again because the bond wasn’t right. So now I need two crowns replaced, and I’m not feeling great about today’s procedure considering last year’s similar event appears to be a wash.
I message my husband. He says I need a new dentist. He’s probably right, but the thing is, my battle with dentists has been a lifelong odyssey.
If you gathered all my dental records you’d see a story of a girl with decent teeth and bad luck. When I was young, my adult teeth began to grow over my front baby teeth, which stubbornly refused to fall out on their own. When I was 6, I had my four front teeth pulled, but the damage was done. I was in serious need of braces. Those came just after I turned 9 and they stayed on my teeth until I was 13. My family dentist had trouble holding onto an orthodontist so in those four years, I saw at least a dozen different people who each had different ideas of how to treat my teeth.
When I was finally free of the braces, I wore my retainer religiously. Then as an adult, I was told that I grind my teeth when I sleep and that I should wear a night guard, which would act as a retainer. Wrong. Guess who is getting Invisalign this summer – this girl! But that’s a whole other column.
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In between all of this is a series of fillings, crowns, root canals and loads of poking and prodding. This four-hour dentist visit is just par for the course. It’s not like this is the worst experience I’ve ever had in a dentist chair.
My favorite cringeworthy dentist experience happened to me when I was in college. My dentist was getting ready to replace a crown — different dentist, same problem — when I pleaded with her not to do it. She’d given me two doses of Novocaine, but I wasn’t numb. Not one bit.
She insisted that I was ready and began to drill. My hand shot up within seconds. She reluctantly gave me a third shot. Still nothing. She tried to work anyway and I tried to be brave until I let out an involuntary yelp.
She decided to bring in the other doctor. It seemed like the whole office had gathered in my room to see if doctor No. 2 could figure out how to numb me up.
They hovered over me expectantly. I felt a tingle of numbness, but I wasn’t sure if I really did or if my brain was just messing with me. I hadn’t eaten in hours.
As the dentists consulted on my “case”, the office manager came in with a form. She informed me that they could only legally give me one more shot based on my body weight and so she was asking me to sign a waiver to be treated with Nitrous oxide. Laughing gas? Sure. Why not.
I wasn’t numb, but I was high as a kite. My dentist worked as quickly as possible as tears streamed down my face. She would later tell me that if I could handle dental work without being numb, giving birth would be a breeze. Not exactly words of comfort for a girl who just started college, but whatever lady. I’d been there for nearly four hours. I just wanted to go home.
I’d gathered my belongings and was finally ready to leave when my dentist came back in with an envelope. Inside were two movie passes. It was her way of apologizing for the ordeal.
I was thankful, but mostly confused. The dentist keeps movie passes on hand for moments like these when treatments go sideways? What kind of Bizarro World is this?