Three Hundred Forty Five: Dental Damn

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”  – Ernest Hemingway

Friday, December 12th

I went to the new dental office for my cleaning today. It was a prospecting mission to see if this office was worthy of switching to from my previous dentist which is across town. The dentist and dental hygienist were very competent, perhaps a little too competent.

I’ve been happy with my yellowed incisor and brace-defying crooked teeth, just as long as I have a healthy set of chompers. I don’t want my teeth bleached. I don’t want braces again. I just want proficient cleanings and my cavities filled when necessary.

The first warning sign was the multitude of snowmen gracing every possible surface in the waiting room. I like winter and I love to play in the snow, but I don’t want the holidays shoved down my throat. Next, I caught a reflection of the dentist’s portrait in the fishtank. It was on an adjacent wall, behind it a multitude of framed über-white smiles staring down at me, and I could see them from the dental chair where I was seated.

The office used all the latest technology. I like seeing what the hygienist and dentist are actually looking at, and I had far more photos taken of my mug in that hour-and-a-half than my mother had taken in my complete childhood. I learned I had a fragment left behind from my wisdom tooth extraction, and that I have a funky twisty root on one of my teeth. Personal dental trivia! 

The cleaning itself was intense – at least 20 minutes of scratching away at the plaque that had accumulated on my teeth. The hygienist really went overboard on one of my molars, and scratched my gum line. Her job is one that requires a firm hand but also detailed finesse. When she was done, my teeth felt much cleaner and the dentist came in.

He had aged and greyed from the hung portrait, and spoke with a confident authority. He identified where I had cavities and other spots to watch. He looked at the alignment of my teeth and identified where the click was in my jaw that I’d been complaining of for years. Finally! It was a revelation to know that I hadn’t been making this up over the years. He manipulated my jaw and called out measurements of over-thises and misalligned-thats. He mentioned braces and I went into a momentary stupor. Braces? Hell no!

I guess the only thing worse than my friendly sufficient dentist across town is an overly-accurate dentist down the block.

What type of care do you prefer – detailed and clinical, or friendly and sufficiently competent?


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