Wednesday morning is coming up fast. A little too quickly, if you wanna know the truth.
That is when I have an appointment -- no, a rendezvous from hell -- with the dental chair.
August 30 of this year marked the first time I darkened the door of a dentist's office in more than 10 years. Okay, 12. From 1995 until 2007. That's a long damned time to go without any kind of formal maintenance of the ol' tee-fees.
A little background: since I finished my course of orthodontia (I had braces from October 1978 through June 1980), I had no further appointments with a dentist. I don't know why. Okay, yes I do. It's 50% my mother not taking any kind of initiative to get me there (for part of that time, I was a teenager and still, ummmm, a dependent). And 50% MY not taking the initiative upon such a time as I was able to make appointments of my own volition.
Fast-forward to 1990. I moved to Troy, Alabama, and had the much-ballyhooed 'reunion' with my grandmother. And when Gran Lera found out that I hadn't been to a dentist since 1981 .....
The woman, feisty and ornery lady she, supposedly lit into my mother like neon on an old motel sign. And then she turned to me ... and, with the persuasion of a cattle prod against black angus bottom, told me in no uncertain terms that I was to make an appointment with a dentist five minutes ago.
So which dentist would have the honor? My options were limited. The dental plan (using the term loosely) which Troy State offered at the time was very convoluted, and had no provisions for "PPO", "in-network" or other such tedium. Basically, your DDS and DMD folk didn't wish to deal with Blue Cross' dental plans. Which left one to write a check for the entire procedure, and then file ones' own papers with the insurer. 6-8 weeks later, one would get a check .... often for far less than what one might've hoped.
Except for one. This one dentist, who'd practiced in Troy for eons (he still had his office in a very dated and dank '50s-era hole-in-the-wall on North Three Notch), filed BCBS for their patients and would balance-bill for the remainder. Just one. So I had little choice in the matter.
That first visit was a cleaning. Not too bad, although it was a bit rough .... this dentist made John Wayne look like John Ritter. Remarkably, I had just one (1) cavity after nearly a decade's worth of neglect. However, his chairside manner -- or lack thereof -- kept me away from the chair for several more years.
I managed to keep my stalling under Gran Lera's radar, but then she died in 1992. Off the hook! Yeah, right. I began having a small toothache along about early Summer 1995.
Then, as before, only one dentist was "affordable." So back to "Dr. Allen" I went. After getting "The Royal Bitching-Out", he performed a filling on the recalcitrant molar.
But wait, there's more.
I needed another cleaning. But this time it was worse. I had to have what's called a "root planing and scaling." Google it, if you wish, but for this session we'll call it "The Cleaning From Hades." It would be done in two (2) separate sessions -- two quadrants per sitting.
And in July 1995 I went in for Part One. I wasn't all that anxious -- just a bit, ohhhhh, nervous. Well, I hoped that I might have a little 'sedation' for this (cue up The Ramones!). Oh noooo, Dr. Allen don't do no steenkin' nitrous. "You're grown, you don't need nitrous," he said, with all the warmth of both my mother and my ex-wife.
The next ~20 minutes of my life following his flippant remarks echo to this day. This is when my mouth received more novacain shots than should be humanely possible! Ohhhh, he was a 'painless' dentist, all right. He sprayed a topical anesthetic in the area where his big-ass needle was fixin' to take its plunge. But did he wait for its effects to begin? Nope, he started poking nearly immediately after he sprayed.
Lather, rinse, repeat. 12 times. 12 doggie-style butt-@#$%ing times.
Did it hurt? Did the severely dented chair handles answer his question? Nope -- his next words were classic. "Aw come on, that doesn't hurt."
After I was uncomfortably numb, the worst was over. The sore teeth after the novacain wore off was kind of anticlimactic. But nothing compared to what was still hanging over me: PART TWO. Quadrants three and four. Or is that two and four? One and Three? (like some bass-ackward two-LP albums)
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 12 more times. Hell, I think Dr. Allen might've given me a Dentist's dozen.
And that, friends, takes us to 2007. Is it any wonder that, given the choice, I'd rather stand outside in a summer thunderstorm in Orlando, Florida instead of seeing another dentist? (yes, lightning is a phobia of mine - didn't used to be, but then came two occasions when I've been indirectly struck. Long stories, I'll tell on request. But I suspect lightning pales when compared to dentistry.)
Incredibly enough, my teeth have held together fairly well, considering. But this past Summer I began experiencing sensitivity on a couple of back molars, one of which also gave some intermittent light pain. I sucked it in, and made an appointment for an x-ray and 'checkup.' They did the x-rays, and while the damage isn't as bad as I feared (one cavity, one cracked tooth and one 'leaky filling' -- requiring one filling and two crowns. Uh-uh. One filling, one crown and one extraction. I'll be golldurned if I'm gonna crown a back-most molar. Pull the fucker yesterday!).
Anyhoo, I'm looking at a little bit of dental work. But 12 years' worth of neglect has built up a lot of gunk, tartar, calculus, trigonometry, and remedial math on my teeth.
That's right, gang, another Root Planing. Two visits, two quadrants. And part one is Wednesday morning.
Now, this dentist has nitrous as an option. Trouble is, insurance doesn't cover it. And the gas carries a stiff price tag: 100 sugarless smackers. The dentist (whom I don't think I'm that crazy about, either; the assistant who did the x-rays, on the other hand, I liked. Very good and calm demeanor about him.) Anyway, the dentist wrote me an Rx for a handful of Valium®. Take one (1) pill before bedtime the night before, and one (1) pill in the morning. One (1) pill to make me larger, and one (1) pill to make me small. But the one (1) pill that Seraphim gave me doesn't do anything at all.
Why does that dentist look ten feet tall?
Whooookay, so here I am, armed with Valium®. I've never taken the stuff (although I'm sure a few people probably think that I could use it regularly), so I'm a little uneasy about whether this will take the edge off me.
As I said to the assistant back in August, as I regaled him with the tale of Dr. Allen, he is the poster child of why so many people have a phobia about dentistry.
I know I do.
Go figure -- I can go to the doctor and get poked and prodded for blood work, and it doesn't faze me in the least. Poke me in the elbow. Poke me in the finger. Hellfire and damnation, poke me in my pimpled white ass. But the idea of multiple injections in my mouthparts turns me whiter than my former boss in Troy when I turned in my resignation. I can barely take one novacain shot. Maybe two. But I'm not ready for six (as they told me it'd take).
Alas, it has to be done. My teeth aren't gonna get any better by abstaining any further. And just because I'm from Alabama does not mean I want to contribute to the corporate balance sheet of Poli-Grip, Inc.
Then again, the idea of dentures looks awfully good along about now.
Well, shit. I'll be glad when this is over with.
Ciao for niao.
--Ol' Gingivitis Gleck
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