“You don’t look like you’ve had a lot of dental attention,” he said, tapping one of my molars.

“Yrrch,” I agreed, drooling slightly and wondering if anyone had ever bitten him by accident.

“I’m going to need a peri probe over here,” he muttered.


After a bit of poking and prodding which included being gouged in the gums with what felt like a toothpick, he pulled his hands out of my mouth. I’m not really sure what the etiquette is here, I mean do I leave my eyes open and gaze blankly at the ceiling, or do I close them demurely while the dentist plunges around in my mouth? And why do dentists talk to you when you can’t respond?

“Well, I don’t see any problems.”

That’s right, kids, apparently when you don’t go to the dentist for a decade…nothing happens. But seriously. I still think regular dental care is a good idea, and I’m really pleased that nothing is going on in my mouth that shouldn’t be. I also appreciated the fact that the dentist didn’t harass me at all for not going for over a decade. The dentist recommended a cleaning, and he seemed slightly astounded that I didn’t have suppurating ulcers in my mouth or something, but apparently my teeth are a-ok. My father, of course, pointed out that his teeth didn’t bother him until he was 40 when I smugly called him with the news, implying that the best is yet to come.

Not so pleased with the state of dental x-ray technology, however. I feel like x-rays weren’t very pleasant when I was a kid, but perhaps the dentistry industry might have developed, you know, a better system. Apparently that is not the case. The dental assistant took 18 films of my teeth, and I gagged and drooled through pretty much the entire process. Apparently I’m the worst patient she’s ever had; I heard her say it in the hall. I think she might have said that because she thought I was going to vomit during film 17, though. Which I would like to argue was not my fault, since my tongue was trapped under an incredibly sharp piece of x-ray film and I had snot pouring down the back of my throat and I was drooling, and I defy you to not at least gag when that happens.

I would recommend that the American Dental Association consider investing in some research and development to create smaller, padded x-ray films. My mouth feels like it’s been sliced apart by a rabid sushi chef.

4 Replies to “Office”

  1. Congrats on getting away with ten years of neglect! I did that (and got away with it) when I was your age (about half a lifetime ago). I think it has something to do with a combination of college, then a post-college period, often, of being in a new city, out of reach of the family dentist (and the family kindly reminders), no references for a new dentist, and low motivation for the chore of finding one. As to the x-ray issue, my oldest daughter has a gag reflex such that she literally had to be aneasthetized to get any x-rays a few years ago. BUT a new day dawns on the x-ray front, I am told by my husband, your father’s age, who is also enduring (unfairly, for he has always taken scrupulous care of his teeth) several rounds of painful dental insults. There is a machine that just scans you from the outside, while all you do is stand there, gently biting on a mouthpiece the function of which is merely to keep you standing in the correct position. Unfortunately, the nearest one of these magic machines is apparently in Santa Rosa, but if you want a referral, let me know.

  2. Want a referral?!

    I want the name of the product manufacturer, so that I can buy one for my dentist’s office! I don’t care that they are probably tens of thousands of dollars; something this cool must be shared with the world.

  3. If you have a sensitive gag reflex (as I do), the dental film in the mouth is, indeed, difficult. Panting (breathing fast the way a dog would) helps a fair deal. It also helps if you tell the tech taking the film that you have a sensitive gag. Then they will put the film in last and be quick.

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