Saturday 03 Dec 2016

Open Wide
Jennifer Flaten

Tipped back in a chair that resembles something from the Starship Enterprise, I attempt to answer the hygienist’s questions. Of course, that is next to impossible because her entire forearm is in my mouth. She is wielding a device that resembles a medieval torture device and she is using it to gouge my gums, or so it feels.

Since my mother raised me to be polite, I attempt to answer her to the best of my ability. She smiles and nods. I can’t believe she understands my answer, when even I think I sound like a walrus stuck on an ice floe.

I’ve always wondered if dental hygienists are required to take a special “Understanding someone with a drill in their mouth” class. As you have probably guessed, I am at my long, long, long overdue dental appointment. Just that we’re clear, I haven’t avoided the dentist because I don’t like the dentist I like the dentist fine: it’s the dental procedures I don’t like.

It’s been awhile since my last cleaning and I am at a new clinic so the hygienist orders a complete set of X-rays. After securing me into the machine, hey, watch the head clamp this is an x-ray not electroshock therapy, the tech drapes a lead vest over me before scurrying into her concrete bunker. After reminding me not to move, how can I, I’m strapped in like Hannibal Lecter, the tech starts the machine. 

I watch in amazement as a full size picture of my skull materializes on the screen. Huh, look at all those fillings! I bet I put my childhood dentist’s kids through college with all that silver.

After the x-ray, the tech assures me I don’t have to worry about glowing in the dark, that’s why I wore a protective vest. Then she tethers me to a chair and leaves me to wait for the hygienist. I am considering making a break for it when the hygienist arrives.

After adjusting my fancy chair, she flips on a monitor mounted above the chair. Oh, how cool is that, a television on the ceiling. I look for the remote, but the hygienist informs me we will be watching something special, the inside of my mouth. As I open my mouth to decline this dental tour, she sticks a pen-sized camera in mouth and begins narrating the various tour stops.

Here’s the erupted wisdom tooth, here’s the mercury filling. I’m just kidding, in a mild way. I squint. This is worse a “Saw” movie. I have absolutely no desire to see my tongue on the big screen.

After Cecil B. DeMille finishes with filming “Gums: One Woman’s Fight Against Gingivitis,” she gets to work cleaning my teeth. There is much cursing and crying. The hygienist is having a hard time, as she attempts to restore my pearly whites, but I’m calm.

Finishing the front teeth, she heads for my molars. Suddenly have a whole lot more sympathy for fish on the hook. She is stretching my jaw so much I expect to leave the clinic looking like the joker from Batman.

Finally, after much tsk-tsking and a lot of rinsing and spitting, I free to go. I take my complimentary toothbrush and floss. I beat a hasty retreat.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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