I knew that I would always be my mother’s child regardless of how old I was, but at a little over 40 years old – okay – a lot over 40 years old, I never thought that I would have been scolded by my dentist.
I don’t know if you’re one of them, but I know that there are lots of us who don’t go to the dentist until absolutely necessary – which is what happened to me a few months ago.
What do you do when you can’t chew certain foods on one side of your mouth? You chew on the other side, of course. What do you do when consuming an ice cold beverage? You tilt your head so that the liquid flows to the other side.
Fast forward through several months of oral gymnastics after which I finally end up in the dentist’s chair. For reasons that I won’t get into here, I ended up going to a dentist who was totally new – but had been recommended – to me. My last visit (to a previous doctor) was not as long ago as you might think, but that too had been a matter of cure not prevention.
I wasn’t able to reach the dentist by phone, but assuming his office to be a busy one (and being within walking distance of my location) I decided to hoof it over there to see about an appointment. After climbing a flight of stairs to the office, I was met with a closed door, a “CLOSED” sign, and no information regarding office hours or any explanation as to why they were not open on a perfectly good day in the week.
Maybe I should have taken that as a sign.
Nonetheless I was determined to see the good doctor, so I called and left a message requesting an appointment, or a reasonable facsimile. Happily, my call was returned and although expecting to be classified as a walk-in with the lengthy wait time that was usually required, I was given a time for the following day.
Maybe I should have taken that as another sign.
My appointment was around 11am. Now I’m not saying that I live for food or anything like that, but thinking that the dentist might have to get right down to business when I explained my dilemma, I decided that I should probably eat my lunch before I got there – since I didn’t know when next I’d be able to eat solid foods.
I climbed the stairs again. This time the door was open and I was transported back in time. To several Christmases and Easters ago. The waiting room was cheerfully decorated with plastic flowers of every hue and it was clear that Christmas was celebrated every day of the year, because a few ornaments had never made it back into their boxes.
The single patient in the waiting-cum-living room was occupying herself with one of the fairly current magazines that were placed on a coffee table. I identified myself to the receptionist who greeted me and after selecting some reading material, I scanned the walls that contained (as one would expect) information relating to teeth, annotated diagrams of the mouth, diseases of the mouth and a published article of a study conducted by the doctor who was about to look at my teeth. All were several years old.
I didn’t actually get a chance to flip through the pages of my magazine because I was called into the inner sanctum. The dentist’s chair and equipment seemed fairly new and modern, and unlike the waiting area, the office was blessedly cooled with air conditioning. I could see the familiar street outside the window – of course from a different vantage point, and the dentist busied himself while the receptionist culled from me some information for her files. When she was through with her clerical duties, she took up her doctor’s assistant duties and I was invited to sit in the chair and to explain my problem.
He sat next to me and listened intently. He asked several questions – actually he asked lots of questions including some about my general health and lifestyle choices – well habits, really. His face hid nothing and after the interrogation (including a joke at my expense, which the receptionist/assistant found incredibly funny as well), I got the distinct impression that I had done something wrong – and he hadn’t even looked in my mouth yet.
That came next. He took one look and could tell not only that I had recently eaten, but also what I’d just had for lunch, so a mouth rinse was in order. Out came the grains of quinoa that hadn’t quite been washed away. Good thing I couldn’t see the look on his face because I was spitting in the sink. After that bit of distatsteful-ness, he dove back into my mouth, admonished me while he was in there and read me the riot act when he came out.
The issues were many. It was at that point that I realized that this was purely an exploratory session to determine what needed to be done, the options for doing what needed to be done, and how much it was going to cost for it all to be done. He seemed eager to help to get me back on the straight and narrow and advised of his surgery dates, payment plans and a pending relationship with an insurance provider that didn’t apply to me.
I left the chair, assuring him that I would look at my finances and make that treasured appointment as soon as possible. Since the pain that had led to this visit had subsided long before, I was thinking that maybe I’d wait to see if my teeth would appreciate the effort I’d made to have them looked at. ‘Cause I wasn’t really in the mood to be taken to task again.