Terror at the Gumline
Last week I went to the dentist for my semi-annual checkup and cleaning.
My dentist's name is Dan, as is the guy who cuts my hair. And of course, the guy I married is also Dan. I like to joke around that if I need someone to do an important job, it had better be a Dan.
Dentist Dan used to be the sort of sidekick dentist for Dentist Susan, who owned the practice. He helped her out part-time, and then he spent the rest of the year in Peru, traveling around and providing free dental care for poor people in some Dental Peace Corps type project.
Then Dentist Susan was killed in a horribly tragic private plane crash with her father *and* her young son. No joke. It was awful and shocking. After a suitable mourning period, Dentist Dan bought the practice and took it over.
Anyway, I had a few crown replacements and a cracked tooth and a root canal a few years ago, so I was seeing a lot of Dentist Dan. But once I got all that taken care of, it has been smooth sailing ever since. Now I mostly just see the dental hygenist, and Dentist Dan comes in at the end, pokes my teeth, gives me a clean bill of dental health, and sends me off.
SInce I only see him every six months, there's some major event each time I see him. First it was me having a baby, then it was him getting married, then it was Julian's first birthday, then it was his anniversary, now he's having a baby with his wife. Needless to say, he no longer lives in Peru half the year with poor people. He lives here with his wife. But he's still a nice guy. The office is closed on Friday, and they all take a week off every now and then, so they can have vacations and private lives.
Anyway, like I said it's mostly me seeing the hygenist now. He has two hygenists, and one of them is out to get me.
His old hygenist, Amy, was wonderful. She was very chatty (in a nice way) and very gentle, and my teeth shone like pearls when she was done. But she had a second child and had to move to Arizona to be closer to her parents. I was sad.
Then there were a series of temps. They all sucked. Once practically just brushed my teeth a little and then kicked me out the door. She was in a huge hurry for an appointment or something. Not impressive at all.
Finally he got two permanent hygenists to replace Amy. The first one was Vicky. Very nice woman. I liked her fine until she began scraping my teeth with the metal probe. On almost every single tooth she caught the gum with the sharp pointed tip of the probe. Paaaaaaaainful. I felt like my gums were being shredded. THEN she got to the left side of my mouth and started scraping near my gumline.
All of a sudden a bolt of lighting struck me in the chair and sent a jolt of 10,000,000,000,000 volts through my body. I screamed, levitated out of my chair and almost bit off her finger.
"WHOA! Hey, don't ever do that again! I could have really hurt you!", she chastised me.
Could have....really....hurt...me? I was still fuzzy from the lightning strike, and dizzy from leftover pain. I didn't even know what had just happened, except that it was the most instantaneous wallop of intense pain I had ever experienced. It was like having a wire stuck in my brain, directly zapping my pain center.
I just lay in the chair, sweating and shaking, while she chastised me for almost biting her finger off. She phrased it as a concern for *my* well-being, she wouldn't want to poke me with the probe or anything by accident.
What the...? What in the HELL had she just done to me? Whatever it was, I had absolutely no control over it at all, so telling me to cut it out was pointless. Tell a headless chicken to stop flopping on the floor, why don't you? I explained to her that whatever she did, it HURT REALLY BAD, and I couldn't help jumping and screaming like that.
I was still dazed, but she started in again. About a minute later, same thing! A freaking ZILLION volts of electricity blasted through my head, right through the nerve of my tooth. I leapt up again and screamed spontaneously, and again she chastised me.
This time I was really freaked out. OK, this had now happened twice, and it had better not fucking happen again. What the HELL! She said she was done scraping. The gritty stuff went on my teeth, and she polished them, and that was fine, but I was definitely giving her the fish-eye.
I noted Vicky's name and the days she worked, and asked for the other hygenist the next time. I forget her name, but she was great. Very gentle. I told her about my sensitive spots at the gumline, and she stayed completely away from them. She just polished the teeth, but that was it on that side.
"No use risking pain with those sensitive teeth. They're in fine shape, there's really nothing to scrape off anyways. We'll just polish and floss over there."
What a novel idea! I loved this hygenist.
Six months went by. I had arranged my next appointment with the Gentle Hygenist, but then I had to reschedule over the phone when Julian came down with a cold.
I forgot to say that I didn't want Vicky.
In I walk, and there's Vicky. She starts making small talk, but she hasn't seen me in a year, so she doesn't remember me. I remember her though. I'm sweating bullets. The memory of the pain comes flooding back. I try to chat with her, but I'm freaking out a little. I try to reassure myself. It can't happen again. I'll warn her this time.
"My teeth are *really* sensitive at the gumline right here, and right here too," I point out to her. "Be really careful when you are scraping."
She starts in scraping with the sharp metal tool and shredding my gums. I know I'm fucking in for it, but I hope against hope that she's going to be careful this time. As she creeps closer and closer to the danger spot I start pouring sweat. She's there. She's doing OK. She's.....AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHMOTHERFUCKERFUCKWHAT THEFUCKOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I levitate screaming out of the chair and almost bite her finger off. NOW does she remember me? I am LIVID. "I TOLD YOU MY TEETH ARE SENSITIVE RIGHT THERE! DON'T SCRAPE THEM AT THE GUMLINE ON THAT SIDE!"
And then I burst into tears and begin sobbing uncontrollably. The blast of unbearable dental pain has unhinged me. I lay back in the chair with tears running out of the corners of my eyes, sweaty and shaking. She is floored. She apologizes, but yet, unbelievably, she starts to go in AGAIN with the fucking metal probe!
"No, NO! Stay away from my teeth with that thing! I can't take it anymore. I don't even want it near me! Let's just polish them and be done with this,OK?"
"I won't touch you, I just want to inspect that side"
"Fine, but just look and don't TOUCH."
She *does* touch. Luckily it's on the biting surface, which doesn't hurt. But still, she broke her word. I don't trust her at all anymore. What the hell is she trying to prove? Get that goddamn metal probe away from me! I fight the urge to slap it out of her hand and run as fast as I can.
"It's all OK, your teeth are in really good shape. You take great care of them. No tartar or anything like that."
Well why in hell was she scraping them in the first place then? Just for the pleasure of tormenting me?
She polishes my teeth now. A jet of air hits the spot and makes me wince. It's enough to make me start silently weeping again. She hands me a Kleenex. I feel totally traumatized. I'm embarassed for being such a baby, but that flash of searing, electrifying pain was so awful that I can't even stand to think about it, and I'm in a blind panic that it might happen again. She distracts me by telling me that Dentist Dan's wife is expecting a baby.
Dentist Dan comes in while I am still snuffling. I say "Congratulations on your impending baby" and wipe tears away. He looks pissed that the news has been broken to me. Vicky the Dental Terrorist tells him that she had to distract me with some good news. "Yes," I sniffle, "We just had a Very Bad Experience. I'm still trying to pull myself together."
Dentist Dan looks puzzled. "It's Number 54," she tells him, or something like that. "She's very sensitive right there."
He comes over to examine me and he has a METAL PROBE in his hand.
"Noooooooo! NOOOOOO! Don't touch me with that! Please, I'm all freaked out. I'm having an anxiety attack. That pain was so bad. Please don't touch me with the probe." I'm a mess now.
"OK, I won't," he says. "I promise."
He takes his index finger and runs it around my teeth one by one. As he gets to the spot when I was just blasted by Vicky, I feel a little tremor of pain and I start to freak again.
"Ahh! Don't touch there!!!!! Just LOOK. OK?" I'm a total basket case. I know they think I'm insane. I swear, I'm not. I'm really good at dealing with pain. I am a CHAMP at the dentist. I always have been. I never complain, I do what they tell me, I hold my mouth open wide even when my jaw is breaking and my tongue is dry as the desert and the corners of my mouth are cracking.
But I've had it now. NO MORE OF THAT BULLSHIT.
My departure is totally awkward. Vicky feels bad that I cried and that she hurt me, but I can tell she thinks I'm a nut, and she would start picking at my teeth with the metal probe again in an instant if I would just let her. She hands me my new toothbrush (which I won't use, I have a Sonicare) and suggests toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
"I've tried at least five different brands. They don't help, they irritate my gums, and they leave a weird scummy residue on my teeth."
"OK." That was her only suggestion. We're done.
On the way out I make my next appointment for six months later, but I know I won't be back. Sorry Dentist Dan. Vicky has just given me a major dentist complex.
I need someone with lots of nitrous oxide, a metal-probe-free office, and headphones playing my chosen musical selections. This being the Bay Area in 2006, I can have that. I know a dentist who can accomodate me. Well, maybe not a metal-probe-free office, but she doesn't use metal drills, she uses lasers instead. I don't think nitrous will be a problem. She's supposedly very gentle, and was recommended as a wonderful dentist for kids who have major anxiety about dental pain.
I need to make an appointment.
Bye Dentist Dan. I'll miss you, but I can't take it anymore.