Monday, May 16, 2011

Dental cleaning confessional

The view from the dentist's chair is not so bad, big clouds blowing past in a light blue sky.

I've been here for an hour now. My doctor had to step out for a consult, so I am enjoying the respite from the drill, writing this post, looking at National Geographic, tripping out on my very numb face.

Also thinking about what an exercise in enforced relaxation sitting in this chair is, how I have to repeatedly notice and unclench my clenched shoulders. If the novacaine didn't work, how is being tense going to be better than responding to the pain from a relaxed place. How?

Years ago I wrote something about how getting my teeth cleaned was like confessional, absolution of my sugary non-flossing sins, leaving me at a new beginning, filled with a resolve to do better, make changes, develop good habits. The thing about confessional, I suppose (only having done it a few times), is that you know you can always do it again, so the door is open in case really you don't mend your ways.

Before these last two appointments, I managed not to get to the dentist for 4 years, pretty much the exact duration of my last job, yet another way in which it was bad for me. Not getting to the dentist for four years is a small-scale disaster for someone with my particular mouth. So now here I am, back again, in some ways starting over, with a filling and a deep cleaning.

The dentist is lovely, small hands. Dental technology has advanced an absurd amount in my lifetime. It's so sweet to have the application of topical anesthetic, digital images of my teeth, young female doctors who explain everything as they go and apologize at the mere suggestion of pain. Progress, indeed, and a soft touch.

Better music too: faintly I can hear The Pretenders. Duran Duran. Elvis Costello. I am entertained. I am, finally, relaxed, confident that really truly I can't feel a thing.

When the appointment is over (resuming the post from home now), the right side of my face is so numb that I really can't speak. I am sent to the bathroom with some antibacterial mouth-rinse and instructed to perform the rinse bent over the sink -- no facial control. And it's true.

When I mention a meeting in an hour, the charming dentist offers me the injection of a reversing agent, a magical substance which shortens by 70% the duration of the numbness. It's a new product, so sci fi (Administer the Reversing Agent!). Faced with the very real prospect of hours of involuntary drooling and leering, I jump back in the chair and off we go.

Now I'm sitting here in my kitchen, taking a breather before heading in to the office. Reversing agent or no, I rescheduled the 11:30 meeting and will make it up later in the afternoon. It's beautiful to be here right now, extending a little bit the weekend feeling and experiencing these strange sensations on the right side of my head. And no coffee for an hour.

When everything's back to normal, for reals this time I'm flossing my damn teeth every day. This morning's appointment was a pleasure compared to others earlier in my life -- so much more humane. Still, the less time I can spend in this chair the better, kind feminine hands notwithstanding.

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