Thursday, July 26, 2012

Castles and Moats - Adventures with a New Dentist 

I don't like dentists, I don't like the hospital (if I am in it) and I don't like physicians.  I like to be in control all the time and would like my body to be perfect.  OK, now that you have stopped laughing I have to tell you this is the truth!  

Yesterday I went to a new dentist.  I have been OK with my current dentist but he's well over a 1/2 hour away and his office is in a different state, near a university I have long ago extricated myself from.  Plus, I think his techniques could use some updating and I don't see that happening as he is about to retire.  I asked around at the gym and got a referral to a new dentist,  located in my own state, just 15 minutes away.  After morning yoga and meditation I felt ready for my first visit :P  

The ride to the dentist was quick.  There was very little time for me to obsess over what pain and suffering I was sure to encounter as I drove along tentatively trying to listen to the "navigator" on my phone commanding me to, "Turn right, turn right.  Bear left, bear left," all the while being mindful to not jump the curve.  When I entered the building, the office women were very friendly; the waiting room very small; and the 3 dental spaces were of the open-space concept model (a little curious but it didn't bother me).  In short time I was called to the blue, chaise-like dental chair to meet my dental hygienist.  Although she spent most of the time talking about some crazy bat flying around her home at 3am the night before and her 90 year old father trying to harness it, she was generally very calm. Importantly, she gave me what I needed, information.  When I am at any doctor's office, to be as calm as possible I need to have the facts, just the facts.  I don't respond well to, "Just sit back and you'll be fine, dear."  What works and always has, is lots of detail about what's happening.  I love my gynecologist because she used to be a research scientist.  Once she pulled a Nabothian inclusion (a once and only random cyst of no concern) out of my netherlands and promptly showed me what it looked like, with a full description.  Nothing calmed me down more than to see and learn all about that curious blob.

In response to my immediately telling my 57 year old, curly headed hygienist that I was a bit nervous as I settled into the ominous blue plastic lounge chair, she stepped back against a cabinet and began a speech that I know she has given over and over and over again to nervous patients.  "OK," she started, "I want you to know that if something falls out while I am cleaning, it's probably ready to fall out."  I nodded.  That made sense to me.  This lady understands that what I fear the most is her inadvertent popping out an unsuspecting filling with one little tug of dental floss, causing me serious and unexpected pain and suffering.  "If anything pops out it is probably loose already and has bacteria under it and you are better off that it comes out while I am cleaning," she went on in a matter-of-fact tone.  I was being managed but it was OK.  I got it and I liked this lady.  

Next she started to tell me about my teeth with surprising enthusiasm, "Well, I like to think of teeth as little castles and the spaces around them as moats."  Lady, we are on the same team.  Not only do I like lots of information, but I respond to visuals.  Castles and moats, OK, a little strange but OK.  Her love of teeth made me feel comfortable.  I work with troubled kids and love my work.  She works with teeth and is genuinely intrigued by them, gets excited when she finds some "debris" in between teeth 29 and 30 after I told her I had already flossed.  Castles and moats....who other than this somewhat odd, most likely germ-phobic woman who appears to absolutely love teeth would refer to my pearly whites as giant structures encircled by protective water?  This is going to work for me, yes indeed. 

As we settled in, she handed me my sunglasses (I have to grin when I put these on, feeling like I am in a scene from Men in Black) and began to ease me back in my blue lounge chair.  And, back and back and back I went!  At any moment I felt I was going to slip right off my chaise and into a head stand.  "Excuse me, but am I supposed to be back this far?"  "Oh my God.  I am so sorry. I had my foot on the pedal!" she apologized as she reversed the direction of my slippage.  "I was wondering what kind of position you people put patients in," I laughed. 

My hygienist went on to poke and prod in my mouth, find a place where a molar left a space with the depth "score" of 9 when it should have been 1, 2, or 3.  "9!" I yelped, feeling like I had failed an exam.  "What are you, an over achiever?" she asked.  Lady, you have no idea, I privately smiled.    Having a gum "hole" with the depth of 9, the dentist later told me, was because I had my molars removed when I was nearly 50.  Past 30, apparently, most bone does not grow back in to fill up that big open space left by the absent molar.  His exact words were, "Most old farts, not that you are an old fart, but most old farts don't grow bone to fill up the space left when molars are removed."  Not inspiring confidence, he went on to tell me he's not sure how the periodontist will handle that.  Oh boy, another fun dental appointment with uncertain results.  I remembered my morning yoga and took 3 slow and deep breaths in.

My hygienist continued to scrape and clean, and even took a panoramic photo of my teeth at one point (never had that done before), as we chatted away for 2 hours.  At the end of my marathon cleaning, my new quirky but kind, intelligent and well-tanned, if not handsome, 40ish dentist donned a pair of silly-looking nerd exam glasses with little black magnifying tubes extending out about 6 inches from each lens.  He pointed and laughed at the glasses as he put them on and then commenced to poke and peer around in my mouth, even having me open and shut my mouth while he felt my jaw bones and neck.  Needless to say, I felt very well and fully inspected as we finished up my appointment.  We set up a future session for a broken tooth and a tiny, tiny cavity on another tooth (seen, I am sure, only by the mini microscopes that protruded from his special dental exam glasses).

I think for the first time ever, I will not be managing a panic attack as I drive to my next dentist appointment.  Castles, moats, and nearly slipping backwards off my blue lounge chair notwithstanding, I think this new dentist will be just fine for me.  

No comments:

Post a Comment