8:50 p.m. - August 25, 2005
Also known as my six-month checkup at the dentist.
No matter what I do – no matter what I try, everytime I get my teeth cleaned, I bleed like a stuck pig.
This time I flossed more than normal, I brushed regularly, and tried to make sure my gums were nicely taken care of, yet the minute they started the scrape, scrape, scrape on my teeth, the ol’ red river started.
I’ve always had a loathe / hate relationship with the dental profession, though.
The first time I recall going to the dentist was when I was around six. I had these toothaches and Mom finally consented to take me to the dentist.
I believe I had six cavities. Not quite a world record, but I definitely paid the down payment for his brand new Corvette that year.
So from the get go, I was subjected to the needle and the drill, and the odd sound of your teeth being filled with silver or whatever they fill them with nowadays. It could be Plutonium, for all I care.
I went to the dentist regularly after that, and only had a cavity or two more in my baby teeth phase. I do recall, though, that the dentist was rather non-plussed when I told him how I got my loose teeth out of my mouth.
I used to buy Sour Apple Now ‘N’ Laters and chewed on ‘em until they lifted the tooth right out of the slot. (I swear, those things could stick to anything. I think they made Super Glue out of the same stuff!)
(Oh, and I bet you were wondering when my first parenthetical thought would occur. Winning bets may be collected at the window.)
My dental hijinx didn’t stop when my permanent teeth came in. Almost immediately, it was determined that I would need braces, and when I was 13 appointments were made to see exactly what kind of orthodontia I needed, lest I walk around with teeth sticking every which way out of my mouth.
I recoiled in fear when it was explained to me that I would need two sets of orthodontia. I would need braces, for sure, but I had something called “bilateral crossbite”, and first I’d need to have my upper jaw expanded, then I’d need to have my bicuspids pulled, THEN I’d get to wear braces.
I’d be seeing this guy for about 23 years, or so it seemed.
To correct the crossbite, the first phase was to have a metal rod put into my mouth. This of course, was after the wonderful impressions that they take of your mouth. They basically act like you’re a damn stoolie for the Mob – and fill your yap with cement. “OK, OK! I didn’t tell ‘em nothin’ Furio. I swear!”
This metal rod was no ordinary metal rod. It had a little slot that a crank fit into. Every night, and every morning, my mother had to turn that crank about three turns. That expanded the metal bar, which gradually expanded my jaw.
First off, it did not feel pleasant. Having your upper jaw forcibly moved every night was a different kind of pain. It wasn’t North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war pain, but it was seemingly close to it.
Second, and even worse, what this did eventually was open up a huge gap between my front teeth.
So imagine this – you’re 13 years old. You wear glasses. You are the skinniest boy in the class. Your hair is oilier than a fast talking used car salesman. You had one girlfriend in seventh grade, and that lasted about 58 minutes by your watch. So now you’re going to walk around with a three inch gap between your front teeth?
Hello, ladies. Smed is on the prowl!
Eventually, the gap grew together and the bar was removed, and my upper jaw was magically bigger. How the hell did that happen? Was Doug Henning and his world of illusion involved? I just find it hard to believe that modern orthodontia can push around your teeth and jaws like they were the Yippies at the ’68 Democratic Convention in Chicago. (Though my orthodontist was as ruthless as Mayor Daley, and had the exact same chairside manner.)
So after that, and the pulling of the bicuspids, on came the braces. By this time I was a freshman in high school, and not only did I have those same problems as before, I also was starting to get some acne.
The braces weren’t really that bad – until they had to be tightened. All around school, you could tell the kids who just got their braces tightened. They all walked around with a clenched jaw, and ate milkshakes for lunch. One time, Mom forgot that I had my braces tightened and made Swiss Steak for dinner. Yeah, what I need right now is some chewy meat, Mom. Thanks. I’ll remember you at Christmas.
As I said, the orthodontist in town was well known for his gruff. Actually, I think he dressed up as Mengele at office Haloween parties. If he or his nurses saw you out eating popcorn, or chewing gum, or eating an apple even, you WERE going to hear about it. I got a cavity during my treatment, and I think he tighetend my wires extra tight the next time he saw me. And heaven forfend, you should ever break a wire. He’d come close to sewing your mouth shut with the speed and anger he put the new wire in.
But fortunately, by my senior year, the braces were all gone, and I thought I was free and clear. Well, I was, except for the fact my wisdom teeth were growing in all crazy-go-nuts. One, even, was growing sideways. So they had to go. For two days I looked like Chumley, but I wasn’t up to telling riddles to Tennessee Tuxedo or Mr. Whoopie.
I still kept my dental appointments regularly until I switched jobs. At the new job, they had no dental insurance. I liked to eat, and drink beer, so I just stopped going to the dentist.
It was about six years before I went again. I don’t know why I didn’t go – I just didn’t pick up the phone and call for an appointment. By then, I had met Liz, gotten married, and moved into a new house. One day, though, there was an ultimatum. “I’m paying for dental insurance,” she said, “and if you’re not going to go to the dentist, then I’ll cancel it for you.”
That worked. In I trudged for an appointment. The dentist took one look at my mouth and smiled, as he was thinking of the new set of golf clubs I was going to buy for him. I needed four additional appointments. They were going to clean my teeth in sections, using a very high tech ultrasound (I believe) method that was going to be painful. They were going to have to shoot me with novacaine in order to do it, and they would only do a ¼ of my mouth at a time. On top of that – I’d have to use this prescription nasty tasting blue liquid to kill the disease in my gums.
Clearly, the dental gods were laughing and pointing at me.
I went through that hell, and went to the dentist regularly for a while. But I didn’t like him, and one day when I had a lot of meetings, I cancelled my appointment that was scheduled that day.
I waited another two years to go see another dentist. Which, as you may know, is called being a dumbass. With a capital “D” and “A”.
Because I’d have to go through the exact same thing again, with the ultrasound high-tech cleaning method to extract all of the gunk off my teeh. But it was only three appointments this time. Yeah, bonus!
Plus, this time, the new dentist dropped another bombshell. After cleaning up the superfund site in my mouth, she looked and saw I had cracked a filling. She asked if I ate any hard candy.
“Well, I have a jar of atomic fireballs on my desk.”
Crowns! Not those! Insurance doesn’t cover them in full! Aaaah!
(Goodbye Atomic Fireballs. Much like the caffeine, they are a pleasant, yet distant memory. Sniff. All hail the Terra Pan candy company, who had this slogan on a box I once saw: “Candy is good food. Eat some every day!”)
So now I have learned my lesson about dental care. When I moved back to this town I made sure I got a new dentist. In fact, I’ve known him for years. He’s cool, as he has TVs in each room and allows you to change the channel. (Today, when I walked in, the Tony Danza Show was on. I asked if I could change it, because I’d rather have all my teeth pulled without any anesthetic than to watch that drivel.
So I got my teeth cleaned to Sportscenter.
However, even though I do go regularly, I still have issues at the dentist. They can just wave the pointy thing in the direction of my teeth and I’ll start to bleed. The hygienist says that’s just the way I am, my saliva does that to my gums and it’s OK. Yeah, whatever – it still feels weird and oogy and so reassuring.
My mouth also collects tartar like HBO collects Emmy nominations. No matter how much I brush and floss, the hygienist is going to spend a lot of time with both scrapy, pointy things (technical term) trying to get the gunk off my teeth. (And that was after just six months – you can bet what it was like after I went seven YEARS since seeing the dentist! I didn’t quite resemble Shane McGowan of the Pogues, but there were some interesting hues on my teeth back then that not even Crayola could replicate. Why was I such a dumbass? Oh yeah, I had no insurance, and then was lazy.)
So after about 45 minutes fighting my mouth to a bloody draw, the hygienist tells the dentist I’m ready. He waltzed in, asks me about the Wabash football team, spends three minutes poking my teeth, and says “you’re free to go.”
I hope they gave the hygienist battle pay.
Now my mouth feels clean, but the teeth are still sore. But I can tell that they’re tartar and plaque free.
For the next 6 minutes.