Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Don't Look at Me
Back from dentist. 1st cavity ever. Once luminous smile now hideously twisted. Searching for this mask, but for mouth. -- From my Twitter feed, October 3.
I've had the same dentist for the past 12 years. Her office is equidistant between my house and my employer. The waiting room is always stocked with the suburban equivalent (Us Weekly, OK! Magazine) to those ubiquitous black barbershop periodicals (Jet, Ebony). And, save for a single crown (thanks to a rogue Corn-Nut), I've never had any dental issues -- including cavities.
Now, that's not to say I enjoy every visit to the dentist.
During my biannual cleanings -- without fail -- my dentist attempts to upsell the latest hygienic and/or cosmetic innovations to me. I wouldn't mind her efforts to market to my mouth if she didn't use passive-aggressive digs as part of her sales pitch.
When I first started seeing her, she'd half-heartedly recommend Invisalign and other adult braces. ("You don't NEED them, but don't you want a nice smile?") From there, she began pushing teeth-whitening agents. ("I can tell you drink a lot of coffee. This would help with that!") Most recently, it's been the $200 sonic toothbrush kits. ("It will help your gum line look healthier!")
Last Monday, I prepared myself for the revelation of yet another oral shortcoming. While fully reclined in the chair, my dentist took a perfunctory peek inside my mouth before beginning the cleaning. Moments later, she determined I'd developed a cavity in my lower right wisdom tooth. And, she declared this diagnosis with the same absence of urgency one would exhibit upon finding five cents in the pocket of an old pair of pants.
My dentist offered to fill in the cavity right then and there, but the thought of a needle immediately in my mouth was incredibly unnerving. Instead, I scheduled an appointment for three days later -- unwittingly ensuring a 72-hour extension of "incredibly unnerving".
This past Thursday, I spent most of my lunch hour researching any possible links between aspirin allergies and Novocain. While I couldn't find anything substantive, I was still talking myself into the paranoid, panicky idea that Novocain could kill me. My anxiety was undoubtedly rooted in my most recent visit to Urgent Care -- when the doctor recommended medicine that could've killed me. It's harder than you'd think to shake those memories, yo.
Later that day, I was back in the dentist's chair -- once again, fully reclined -- with two pairs of eyes looking down upon my mouth. My dentist reviewed the x-rays with her assistant and prepared the anesthetic. I rigidly readied myself for the needle and the resultant discomfort. The cold adamantium penetrated my mandible. Soon, I'd be feeling...an unusually large amount of liquid at the back of my throat?
"OK, don't swallow. Do NOT swallow!"
Admittedly, I know little about the inner workings of the medical profession. But, in an instant I've culled my memories of television and movies. The only times a doctor raises his or her voice to a patient is when they're about to lose one ("Stay with me! Stay with me!") Is this blood pooling atop my tonsils? Was it the embarrassing by-product of my gag reflex?
"I'm sorry, Aaron. Most of the anesthetic sprayed back into your mouth. I think it's because your alveolar is particularly uneven. I wasn't expecting that."
My dentist gave me a second injection and warned that the effects would linger longer than with a single shot. She also mentioned that the numbness would almost certainly be "less localized" due to the splash-back off my malformed alveolar. The cavity wasn't deep, so the filling only took a few minutes. But, my lifelong winning streak against the cavity creeps had been snapped.
The below picture of me in the jacket and tie was taken two months ago. The other was taken as I walked through the door after my dental adventure had ended.
"Don't look at me if you're looking for perfection
Don't look at me; I will only let you down..."