You’ve Got To Be Crazy To See The Dentist…
[My apologies to dentists everywhere if I scare future patients away, these of course are my perceptions of events, and I may be embellishing or skipping over steps]
So, I popped a filling a few weeks back. It just came out one morning while I was having some scrambled eggs. I guess I shouldn’t put walnut shells, taffy, and peanut brittle in my omelets… Well like any “normal” person who is blessed with health insurance, I immediately called the dentist for a visit to see what could be done to fix the problem. Unlike most normal people, I don’t have “A” dentist.
I have a doctor, I have a mechanic, I have a tax accountant, and I have a vet, but I don’t have a dentist. Maybe it’s because as a kid I was forced to see low rent dentists who would drill first and ask questions later. Growing up poor, my “Parent” would take us to dental schools for our checkups, which isn’t the best place to get quality oral care. Maybe it’s that as an adult I haven’t had many needs for dentists, try to keep my teeth in good working order, and for the most part have the attitude of “you don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you”… (and an agreement with my teeth, I’ll treat you right, and you don’t force me to have a dentist drill holes in you).
So, I called a dentist. A pretty upscale one. One that, when you walk in, they ask if you want a paraffin hand soak while waiting. Each member of the staff has on a radio or walkie talkie allowing them to communicate with each other and for calls to be transferred easily, (this, is an important piece to remember for the rest of the story). A fancy dentist such the like, that snazzy sunglasses, headphones and music for patients, state of the art X-ray hand guns that can take your teeth’s picture faster then you can say “alginate impression”. A dentists office with hip attractive dental assistants, but most importantly a dentist that takes my insurance. Did I mention attractive dental assistants? (Because if I didn’t let me take a moment to say that the dental assistants were quite attractive… I’m sure this is done on purpose, and honestly I didn’t care, because I’m a guy and they were pretty).
The initial exam was a simple one. The “attractive” assistant seats me in a comfy recliner, uses a Star Trek-ian hand held device to snap a few x-rays, sets me up with a paper bib, gives me some hot shades, and for the most part melts away any nervousness with a cute smile and reassuring calm demeanor. The dentist then comes in, takes a look at the broken filling, and gives me the news I was dreading… “You need a root canal…”
For those not in the know, a root canal consists of the following. (those who have oral issues, get squeamish, or are dentists may not wish to read the numbered section, and skip down past the numbered steps).
- Shots of Novocain directly into your nerve. I say “shots”, because it’s never just one.
- The drilling out of your tooth. That’s right, they drill the bastard out. It’s hollowed out like some pumpkin around Halloween, minus the creepy eyes and mouth. But drill out they do.
- Tearing out of roots. Now maybe I’m being melodramatic, but when the dentist starts to use gauge wires to determine nerve canal thickness, and then starts to use a small wire that is like sand paper to file out your roots of your tooth, well that’s tearing out of roots. The drilling isn’t over either, as once the roots have been gauged, a drill is used to get down deep, to hollow out that part of your tooth also.
- Fill’er up. Now that you have a gaping hole in your tooth, that goes all the way to china, that has been vacated of any semblance of a nerve, it’s time to fill the hole. The dentist will take a wire, about an inch long, and slide this down into your tooth, then, using some tool designed by the Marquis De Sade, heats and melts this wire so that it flows down and fills the root of the tooth. This will also kill off any remaining nerves that exist.
- The remaining hole is then filled with some epoxy. If a crown is needed the outside of the tooth is then shaped.
- Crowns: A temporary crown is made for your tooth. And glued in place with some paste that has the flavor of a robots metallic oiled ass.
Now that we’ve discussed what I think about root canals… on with our tale
So after the Dentist informs me that a root canal is needed the cute little dental assistant comes back and takes some impressions of my teeth, and then reschedules me for a weeks time, for me to get my estate in order…
The week goes by, and I find myself once more in the recliner, with a pretty eyed assistant (behind a surgical mask this time), making sure I’m comfortable. I hear in the back ground murmuring of other patients and as the dentist sits down to start my root canal I hear one of the lovely assistants say “Dr., the patient in room 4 has elevated readings”. Now in my mind, I’m thinking, wow she’s under and they are monitoring her vitals… fancy. The dentist replies “give her 15 more minutes and then take her readings again”. No stress, all calm.
My face in numbed… my tooth is drilled. Now at this point, an appliance that I’m not familiar with is placed over my face, (the closest thing I can compare it to, is the alien sheet used to cover DB Sweeny in Fire in the Sky).
Now, at this point, I start to pay attention to the people talking in the background. And really, what else can I do? I’m in a chair, mouth open, trying to ignore the fact that someone is about to reenact a scene from Marathon Man on me. (I actually told the dentist that if he asked me “is it safe” I was out the door… he didn’t get it, which ruined the line).
So here are the background conversations that I heard…
Receptionist: “Hello, how can I help you today”
Crazy woman 1: “I need my tooth pulled” (in a pleading, I’m in pain, crazy voice)
Rec: “I see, let me get some infor… (cut off by CW1)
CW1: “No one will pull it, just pull it… I just want it pulled, I hate this tooth. My insurance won’t cover any other work. Just pull this tooth!”
Rec: “Ok, lets get your name”
CW1: “ I just need it pulled, can I just go back and get it pulled?”
Rec: “Ma’am, for you to see the doctor, you’ll have to fill out these forms, and I’ll need your insurance forms. Would you like a private office to fill those out? A bottle of water?”
CW1: “paperwork? I just want my tooth pulled, no other dentist will pull it… I need this pulled so bad”
Rec: “are you in pain? Which tooth?”
CW1: “No, there’s no pain, it just gets in the way while I’m kissing… and my boyfriend hates it because it catches while we’re….”
At this point, my pretty eyed dental assistant, who was leaning over me with the water and the suction, made a wide eyed look, and I could tell she was holding back a very loud laugh.
The drill started up at this point, but I distinctly heard someone explain to the lady that she could make an appointment for cosmetic work, and that the dentist would work with the insurance company, but that he wasn’t in the habit of just “pulling” healthy teeth.
Not long after I hear another patient come in. This we’ll call Crazy Woman 2.
Receptionist: “Good morning, how can I help you”
Crazy Woman 2: (in a whining, victim voice, which gave me the image of someone looking over their shoulders and wringing their hands). “I have an appointment with the dentist. I’m sorry I had to change my appointment twice, but my ex-boyfriend broke into my trailer and I had to get a restraining order. He’s being violent and robbed me. I just don’t know what to do. He said he would come back, so I had to change my appointment. I’m still scared, I mean he broke into my place and took my TV. I can’t watch TV now, and had to cancel the dish people… “
This went on and on, on how her “ex” is a drug user, and how when she broke up with him, because he cheated with multiple people (girls and guys), how he would abuse her… and finally robbed her “blind”.
CW2: “ He broke in the other day and robbed me blind! He took my phone, and my TV, and he even “stolt” food from my “fridgerator”. I had to call the police twice because they wouldn’t’ come. I told him (the ex) that if he didn’t get out of the trailer and put my things down that the police would take him to jail”…
Ok, now at this point, I’m choking because I’m laughing, with my mouth propped open and a drill in my tooth. My eyes are completely wide from sheer shock, and in my mind I’m thinking… “am I being played? There’s no way this is happening”.
The drilling stops, and the dentist tells his beautiful assistant to “prep the area for the crown”. This involves the removal of the “dental dam” re-hinging my jaw, a staple gun, hot glue, spackle, and the use of vice-grips. So as this masked vision of loveliness goes about to prep my tooth, I hear the dentist get up and walk down the hall.
Dentist: “How is she doing?”
Lovely assistant 2: “Her vitals are still off.”
Dr: “Thank you, I’ll go in and talk with her”
Dr.: “Hello, how are you today?”
Crazy Woman 3: “I’m not sure…”
Dr.: “Well it seems your blood pressure is a bit high, dangerously so for the procedure. I’m going to take it manually and see what the reading is. Your heart rate is also a little fast, and we need to see if we can bring that down.”
CW3: (in a nasally voice, quivering as if she’s terrified for her life): “Ok, I wonder what the problem could be.”.
Dr.: “No problem, just relax, it’s only a blood pressure cuff.”
Dr.: “Ma’am, you need to try and sit still, this won’t hurt, its only a cuff to test your blood pressure…”
Dr.: “Ma’am?… are you ok? You need to hold your arm out and still, we need this on your arm. Ma’am, if I can’t take your blood pressure, we can’t do the procedure.”
CW3: “I’m sorry, I have “White Coat Syndrome!”, I can’t do this alone. Can you give me something?”
Dr.: “Ma’am, it’s only a blood pressure cuff, there’s nothing to give for this.”
CW3: “Please, I can’t do it. Just knock me out.”
Dr. : “Ma’am, you’ll need to calm down so I can take your blood pressure. If it’s elevated, I can’t use the nitrous. I need to look out for your health.”
CW3: “Please, just hurry.”
Dr.: “Ok… just a moment… ok we’re done. Well, it looks as though your blood pressure is high. We can’t do the procedure without a risk. I’m going to send you to a specialist, who can help…”
CW3: (interrupting) “Please!!!! I just have White Coat Syndrome, I’m fine, just fix my teeth. Give me something to knock me out. This office. Doctors set me off!”
Now, I don’t like dentists, but this woman was now yelling and panicking. It was as if she were a 10 year old, and the dentist was drilling her teeth with no painkillers at all. She was beyond over reacting and was in pure terror mode. I looked up “White Coat Syndrome” and it’s a condition which causes patients to exhibit elevated blood pressure in clinical settings only. (meaning they have normal blood pressure while doing normal things). It’s thought that anxiety about the doctor visit sets the blood a-pumping. It’s also called White Coat hypertension, and is the opposite of “Masked Hypertension” (which is an elevated blood pressure during normal conditions, but lowered during the doctor visit).
Dr.: “Ma’am!” (losing his composure for a moment, and raising his voice), “if we continue with the procedure, you risk complications. It’s my job to make sure you’re safe, and I’m trying to give you life saving information. I’m going to refer you to a specialist, who will be able to work with you on your high blood pressure, and also set up a time for your dental work.” (back to being composed).
I lost track of the rest of what they were saying, as the dentist and patient went into a private office to discuss options.
Hope, my beautiful and bright eyed dental assistant then utters, “My it’s crazy people Thursday!”. Looking her deeply into her blue gray eyes I counter, “gee thanks!” She goes on to tell me that she didn’t mean me, that I was completely normal and not at all crazy or creepy. “That’s only because my mouth has been both propped open and full of fingers, a saw, Black and Decker drill, jack hammer a construction worker, and cement mixer” I reply… “it’s not like I could actually utter anything, let alone something manic.”
I made her chuckle.
I then heard the sound of some guy chatting with the receptionist… It confirmed what Hope said not moments earlier… Crazy People Thursday.
Crazy Man: “Hi, I just broke a tooth, can the doctor fix it today?”
Receptionist: “Oh I’m sorry, lets see what we can do about fixing it. We can see you in about an hour, the doctor has a patient right now, and another waiting.”
CM: “An hour? He can’t just give me a cap to wear?”
Recp: “No I’m sorry, the dentist will need to see the damage to best tell how to fix it.”
CM: “Well the last time I was in a dentist he just gave me a shot and I got better.”
Recp: “He gave you a shot…”
CM: “Yeah, like I was in pain, and he gave me a shot, and I got better. Can this dentist give me a shot?”
Ok, at this point, I was questioning my choice in dentists. This one was rated as one of the best in Portland, but I’ve heard a bit more crazy talk then I like to hear. Hope, with the eyes of an angel, put me at rest by saying… “What is up with today?”, then looking me straight in the eyes and assuring me that “This is not normal, I swear”…
Oh Hope, you had me the moment you looked into my soul with those gorgeous blue-gray eyes…
Wait, where was I…?
So the dentist comes out of the counseling session with hypertension girl, and talks briefly with Mr. I Need a Shot to Fix My Tooth… of which I missed everything due to the sound of Hawaiian music playing over the speaker system (it relaxes the mind body and soul… or so I’m told), and the high pitch scream of a drill.
Dr. Dentist then comes back to the cubby where I recline, and checks the work. He finishes filling the hollowed out husk of a tooth with what I’m sure is some form of space cement, developed by NASA to hold tiles onto the space shuttle… at least that’s what it tastes like, and had Hope, (ah Hope), place the temp crown.
I was asked to come back in two weeks, to have my permanent crown fitted, and Hope asked quietly, “When you come back, can you have some crazy stories? It’s a bit quiet here most days…”
Sure it is Hope. And I’ll do my best.
Now, about this Novocain that’s leaked into my brain….?
And with that, I leave you with some dental work everyone can get behind.