Like most people, the dentist evokes feelings of dread and fear in me. I go to my appointment with the expectation that the dentist will discover at least 15 cavities. This is an irrational expectation, but one that I come to terms with every six months.
At my latest appointment, the hygienist pulls me into a room, introduces herself as ‘Tammy’ and tells me that I will need to be patient with her because she is a temp. One of the many reasons I go to my current dental office is because a cleaning is about 15 minutes long which provides me ample time to get to work. So, from the start, I know that this will not be an ordinary cleaning.
Tammy spends a solid five minutes searching for gloves and a mask. She rummages through every drawer, ever cupboard, and every cubby, twice. Finally, she takes her leave from me to go “in search of a hygienist who normally works at this place.” She comes back fully gloved and masked and dives right into my chompers. She introduces a new tool of torture that measures the gum depth (used to detect gingivitis). She begins dragging this metal rope across my gums and makes disapproving noises.
“Wow,” sighs Tammy. “You have quite a bit of gingivitis! This is a problem!” Automatically, I start panicking.
How is it possible that I have developed “quite a bit of gingivitis” when just six months ago I had a clean bill of health? She pulls the tool of torture away and leaves my gums a bleeding mess. “Ah,” continues Tammy regarding my meaty gums. “I see you also don’t use the correct method of flossing.”
The cleaning continues in this manner. During the course of the 55 minute cleaning, Tammy was good enough to observe that not only was I lousy with gingivitis, I have receding gums that will need to be fixed soon, at least five cavities (or teeth that “bothered” her), and that I needed to relearn all of my known and practiced dental hygiene.
At this point, I didn’t want the dentist to come in. I dreaded hearing him reiterate all that was acutely wrong in my mouth. I feared the hours of dental work that would result from my horrible, horrible teeth. I could practically feel the Novocain and hear the squeal of the drill. Tammy patted me on the shoulder and told me she was going to grab the doctor.
I thought about my options. I look to my left where the door stood friendly and inviting. I could make a break for it. I look to my right and realized that this is exactly why I was here. I might as well wait it out and take it like a man.
The doctor walks in. He gently looks around, shakes my hand, and tells me that he’ll see me in six months. “Do you have any questions?” asks the savior of a dentist.
“Yeah. What about my receding gums, five bothersome teeth, and my “quite a bit of gingivitis”?”
The dentist looks directly at me and shrugs his shoulders. “Meh. She’s a temp.”