I haven’t been to the dentist in four years. Now, I realize some of you just read that sentence and went slack-jawed and wide-eyed as if I told you I grind up puppies in a food mill. I’m quite aware that in some social circles, missing four years of dental appointments is akin to setting libraries on fire. But in my defense, I don’t particularly care for dental exams, which I feel is reason enough to let my teeth rot-out. That, and my mom is dead and isn’t around to nag me about tartar build-up. Silver-lining people, silver-lining.
O.K. grinding puppies in food mills, burning libraries and dead moms. Anyone still here?
Yesterday afternoon, I had an appointment with a new dentist, and by 10 a.m. my eye began twitching to the beat of Ava Maria in anticipation. Naturally, I tweeted about my anxiety and updated my Facebook status to reflect it, because this is why they made the Internet. Other than a portal for porn, the Internet exists so that the Universe’s streets can be kept clear of the World’s neurosis.
Now I wrote PORN! Come on now, who’s still with me?!
After posting my angst, the Internet suggested I take a Xanax prior to my appointment to help me relax. Although Xanax might be a viable option for a manicure, I wasn’t sure of its appropriateness given the situation. Also, I wanted my wits about me. I was seeing a new dentist and thought it good sense to hold off with any drooling and rolling of the eyes into the back of my skull until after he poked my gums until they bled.
The whole appointment started off nicely enough. I checked-in and then found my way to a seat in the waiting room where I began filling out the new-patient paperwork. The first form was straightforward, but then I got to the second form, and after reading it three times, I stood up and informed the receptionist I would not be answering any further questions until my attorney was present.
The legalese and jargon, which had been gathered-up and jammed into this document until it was the legal equivalent of a paper bag of dog shit, really stunk. And then, at the very bottom of the form I read the small print: Prepared by the law office of: The-Herculean-Fire-Breathing-Monster-and-Associates. One of Milwaukee’s biggest, baddest law firms had whipped up this tangle of doublespeak. This is the kind of form that makes me want to crawl up onto my attorney’s lap and suck my thumb.
From what I could decipher, this consent form gave the dentist permission to review his dental patients’ mental health records. I’m at a dentist’s office, right?
Time to root around the bottomless cavern of my purse for a stray Xanax.
Oh, also, I’m going to mention this now; the entire office looked as though it had its ass handed to it by the 1960's...dental chair and equipment included...and that’s wrong. I want shiny chrome, high-tech gadgets and beeping sounds at my dentist’s office. I don’t want brown wall-to-wall carpeting in my exam room. I don’t want golden-yellow exam chairs. And I certainly don’t want the lead blanket, which serves as the sole barrier against any radiation emitted from the x-ray machine [the one purchased the same year the Atari 2600 game console hit the market] to be fraying at the edges.
So, when the dental hygienist informed me she’d be taking a series of twelve head x-rays, I took pause. As apologetically as I could, and as to not insult her deep, vast knowledge of radiation’s long term, cellular effects, I explained that I’d be passing on the x-rays...but thanks for thinking of me anyway.
But, by the look on her face, you’d think I’d told her The Real Housewives of New Jersey had been cancelled, and Nabisco had stopped making the 100 Calorie Snack Pack. She looked at me like I’d just stuck my hand down my pants and pulled out the last crumbs of a low-cal Ritz Snack Mix cracker.
Then she said, “Well, then, Doctor [but really just a dentist] won’t give you an exam.”
“Seriously, he won’t do an exam? Why? For liability reasons?”
“No, he just can’t see in between your teeth.”
Smiling through my neglected, gritted teeth, I told her I wouldn’t hold the dentist’s lack of x-ray vision against him. THIS TIME. Although, his lack of design sense was a whole other matter..
“Well, if you’re not having the x-rays, you have quite a wait ahead of you, because Doctor [again, he’s a dentist] has just started with another patient.” Which was just great news, because he’d already kept me waiting forty-five minutes.
And on that note, I undid my drool bibb, stuck my anxiety back in my pocket where I keep it handy, and made my way out of the Brady Bunch’s house. Rotting teeth and ALL! patients’ mental health records. I’m at a dentist’s office, right?