By ALEXI VENICE
Why did my cell phone go to the dentist? A: Because it had a Bluetooth. Haha. Clearly a first world joke and sort of lame—all right, REALLY lame—but apt for this post. Not because this post will be lame—you smart alecks who are listening to Colleen read this aloud during cocktail hour—but because this post is about my dental office.
A year ago, my dentist of 20+ years retired. I was shocked even though he’s 20 years older than I am. I just expected him to be immortal, still talking to me in his rich, baritone voice, looking at me through his Loupe lenses (a new word for me), and nursing my pearly whites along with porcelain fillings. I can still hear him saying, “Hmm, yes. You’re taking good care of your teeth. I think these will work very well for you.” I guess he needs to live a life, too, so I hope he’s happy on the golf course, but I’m still kinda pissed at him.
The new guy pictured in the feature photo of this post took his place. We’ll call the new guy Dr. Derek. I was very cautious about letting him do anything to my teeth because he looks so young. Just doing some rough math here: My old dentist probably gave 100,000 shots of Novocain and did an equal number of fillings. The new guy? Maybe 100 shots during residency? Now that he’s been at my dental office a year, however, I hope he’s well above that number. I read a book once—can’t remember the title or author—that described a person as an “expert” in his/her field after doing 10,000 repetitions of it. So, I was hoping to wait until Dr. Derek did 10,000 fillings before I needed one.
I also was skeptical about what type of personality Dr. Derek has, so I was standoffish at first. (We introverts can put up walls when assessing someone new.)
Several months ago, my first dental need wasn’t exactly an emergency, or even an urgency, for that matter. It was more of a paranoid sensation. I developed a toothache in my upper molars—both sides. (I know right?!) I made an appointment, and they did x-rays. Dr. Derek told me my x-rays looked good, so we talked about jaw-clenching or tooth-grinding. He advised me to open my mind to the possibility that I was clenching. Unaware that I might be doing this, I committed to keeping a lookout, unless I was sleeping, in which case, I asked Bill to keep a lookout for me.
Low and behold, I discovered I am a jaw clencher. Only at certain times, though—like when I’m blow-drying my hair; riding my bike down a steep hill; talking to my boss and trying to hide something from her; driving to work; and writing blog posts. The point is: Dr. Derek gave me some good advice and didn’t charge me for his time—just the x-rays. I immediately changed my behavior to STOP CLENCHING, and was so grateful for that free therapy session from Dr. Derek. It was a real breakthrough in my meditative journey. I wonder if I could see him weekly. Baby steps, baby steps.
Back to the point of this unlame post. Recently, I developed an acute toothache in my upper right molar after I ate some peanut brittle, chewed on some ice, ripped off a chunk of beef jerky, chowed on caramel corn, and topped it all off with candy-coated macadamia nuts.
An x-ray and Dr. Derek’s exam indicated I needed a new filling. I opted to have it done on the spot. Why put these things off? To my delight, I discovered that Dr. Derek had a light touch with the needle and worked very efficiently. I was extremely pleased with how the Novocain poke didn’t hurt like holy hell as I expected it to. He also must have small fingers because he didn’t claw at the corners of my mouth to get access.
And—bonus—the cool new feature about my dental office is that they have a drawer full of headphones that are Bluetooth compatible. So, before Dr. Derek brought in the heavy equipment and started drilling, I connected the headphones to MY OWN cell phone and cranked up my workout playlist as loud as possible to drown out the massive BIG DIG going on in my mouth. Jason Derulo, Moses, Pink, Lucius and Pentatonix were a welcome distraction from the jackhammer in my mouth. The only downside was when Dr. Derek needed to talk to me, I was in lalaland with my eyes closed. He just sprayed water in face to get my attention (not). #valid.
I know what you’re thinking: “Who takes a selfie at the dentist?” My answer: “Who could ask for a more authentic look?” (I know. Just like a lawyer to answer a question with a question.) Seriously, no makeup, hair pulled back, bright light shining on my face. I took the pic because it’s not about me—or how glammed up I am—it’s about the story. I’m willing to sacrifice vanity and cast aside aesthetics for a good, unlame story. #ShamelessBlogger
Another new piece of technology (to me anyway) is a bite spacer that they placed on the opposite side of my mouth from my needy molar. I was able to bite down on it, but it’s as large as a jaw breaker, so kept my mouth open. Hence, my jaw didn’t go into tetany from keeping it open for 40 minutes.
Let’s face it, I’ve been living in the Midwest for 53 years. We open our mouths as wide as the side of a nickel when we speak. (Basically, the opposite of an opera singer or porn star.) Through that tiny slit between pursed lips we can enunciate everything we need to. This conservation of energy is especially necessary when talking outdoors in the winter. The cold air can sting your gums and teeth if you open your mouth too wide.
Anyway, Dr. Derek also inserted a little shield against my inner cheek on the side where he was excavating. The net effect of these two devices was to provide a lovely foundation for a water fountain every time they sprayed water in my mouth. From my angle, it looked like the fountain at the Bellagio at the end of Ocean’s 11 when Clair de Lune is playing in the background.
Dr. Derek’s assistant, Laura, was really quick to vacuum up all that water splashing on my face, though, so I want to thank her for being so conscientious.
To sum up, I like the new guy. Even though he doesn’t have a baritone voice, he has a nice touch and has proven himself to be patient with introverted, bizarre patients. Also, the dental office’s investment in Bluetooth headphones was a wise one, making the experience richer, more sonic, more colorful and exciting than the last time around. PS-New Guy: I always got a free toothbrush from the old guy. Hint, hint.