Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dentist, Anyone? :o

I’ve had bad luck with dentists.  One of them shot and killed a would-be robber in his waiting room; I wouldn’t have argued with him about that crown had I known he was packing a pistol.  Another’s office went down with the World Trade Center.  A third charged my insurance for an expensive procedure he never performed and that I didn’t need anyway.  My worst dental experience, however, was at the hands of my childhood dentist.  I was vividly reminded of it when reading a recent post by Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half.

My first dentist had served in the Navy during WWII, so he was gray-haired as long as I knew him, and by the time I started high school his hands were disconcertingly shaky with the beginnings of Parkinson’s Disease.  Entering my senior year, I was finishing four years in braces when my orthodontist took x-rays of my mouth and discovered that my upper right wisdom tooth was coming in at a slant, heading straight for my back molar and ready to knock all my painfully straightened teeth back out of alignment.  He sent me to my family dentist to have the back molar pulled, calculating that the wisdom tooth would drop neatly into the empty space and save my family the cost of oral surgery.

In hindsight, the solidly-sited molar itself should have been excavated by an oral surgeon.  My dentist, willing but shaking like the proverbial leaf, gave me eight shots of Novocain without totally deadening my mouth before giving up and proceeding with the extraction.  He finished 45 minutes later, both of us covered in blood and spit.  The poor man was so pale I thought he was going to faint and I didn’t feel any better than he looked.  I really think the procedure would have violated the Geneva Convention had I been a prisoner of war.  After standing with his eyes closed for a few moments, breathing deeply, my dentist handed me the gory tooth, which had roots like a small tree, on a little pad of gauze.  That was the point at which the Novocain finally kicked in and my face numbed and blew up like a balloon.

Fast-forward to four years ago.  My latest dentist is ready to drill in my mouth for the first time.  As usual, the initial Novocain shot does nothing to deaden the tooth.  This dentist, however, nonchalantly pokes me in the mouth with a probe and asks whether I feel it.  When I say “Yesh,” he says, “Some people have an extra nerve in their mouths right there, and it looks like you’re one of them.”  He shoots me again in that exact spot and my mouth goes instantly numb.

Why did none of my previous dentists ever know about this mysterious extra nerve?  Were they sleeping in class on the day of that lecture?  The thought of all the needless pain I suffered over the years would make me grind my teeth were I not worried about losing more enamel.

I love the dentist I have now.  I plan to stick with him until death do us part.

"If suffering brought wisdom, the dentist’s office would be full of luminous ideas."  ~Mason Cooley

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