"Just a friendly reminder..."
I got to thinking this morning about going to the dentist. No reason in particular, it jus came to mind.
What is it about going to the dentist that really freaks everybody out? Most of the time they count all your teeth to make sure you haven't lost anymore since your last visit, and if you have, they just clean any that remain. So what's all the anxiety about?
Well, when I was little, I went to Dr. Griffith. I considered him to be sort of an odd man. His uniform always consisted of a tight white dentist shirt cover that had buttons running diagonally up from waist to collar with a pair of plaid pants. I'm not sure if they were the same pair of pants, but all plaid kind of looks the same.
He was thin and tall and didn't have much to say. Any time my mom took me to see him, his wife/receptionist would always lead my to a back room with a brown vinyl reclining chair, open a drawer, and take out a peice of paper towel and a chain with two pincers on the ends. She'd clip one end of the paper towel and run the chain behind my neck and clip the other side, making a bib. I always wondered what the point of that was, why a chain and paper towel? Why not a terry-cloth bib with velcro, or maybe one of those plastic ones you get at a restaurant when you eat lobster- maybe instead of a lobster there could be a characature of a big healthy tooth holding a toothbrush and wearing sunglasses...or something along those lines.
Anyhow, it was always the norm. Every single strange ritual that was preformed didn't seem so strange. It was the same scene everytime. It was worse than deja` vu, only because there were weird things happening, but I never bothered to question it. Until now.
Why the paper towel and chain? Why the scary looking drill with a rubber suction cup bit on the end? It's pretty frightening looking. And how exactly does it clean your teeth? They've always got that little tiny paper cup, it looks like the same ones that you squirt ketchup into at Wendy's. And in that little tiny paper kethcup cup, there's about a teaspoon of grainy blue paste. They scoop it out with the little suction cup drill bit and turn on the "vibrate" and rub it all over your teeth. How's that going to do anything? Seriously, everytime I leave the dentists office, I've got all that blue grit stuck in between my teeth. My mouth does not feel fresh and clean, it feels like a bit into a big blue sand sandwhich and I really ought to go home and floss. There is no way to rinse that stuff out enough, even with the dixie cup that automatically refills itself with water. You need a hose with a power spray, or you might even need to break open a fire hydrant and stick your face in the geyser.
Whenever Dr. Griffith finished up with me, he'd either call my mother back into the room or he'd lead me out to the waiting area. I never knew which was coming. If I had a cavity or a clean bill of health, he never gave me a clue. But I do know that you always feel like you're in a little bit of trouble when you go to the dentist.
I mean you're in that chair, laying back, you've got people shoving their big hands into you're mouth. You have to remain submissive and let them do it, there's no choice in the matter. Where else in life do people make you lay back, crack your mouth wide open, stick wads of cotton in and then shine a big hot light in your eyes and force you to answer questions? Then they start in with that evil hook and scrape around your teeth and no matter how "careful" they say they'll be, they always catch your gums and cause excessive bleeding. You feel like you're being interogated and tortured with midevial instruments and then obligated to thank these people and come back for another round a few months later.
I need to make an appointment. Really, my six month checkup has come and gone, I should go. I've had that postcard pinned to the fridge for a while now. You know the one. The reminder card. "Just a friendly reminder..." it says on the front. I also recieved a reminder from my OBGYN's office, although that came enclosed in an envelope and read like an old wired message, "Our records show that you are due for a Pap Smear [STOP] Please call to make your appointment [STOP]" That's not one to look forward to either, but I must say that a gynocologist tends to be a lot more gentle and sensitive, a dentist knows that you know what you're in for and you anticipate pain and dicomfort, he feels under pressure to deliver. But at least there's no paper bibs and chains.