Digging for pain and finding a vein

Whining about your dentist is a blogging stapple. Lucky for you, I’m pro-staple.

“Are you ok?”

This is the great rhetorical dental question of our time. I love it.

No offense to any women dentists out there, but this is the point in the post where I pretend to be something I’m not, and slip into the vernacular of the “real man.”

I love it because I think it takes some real stones to ask it. Sure, you’re lying prone with sharp – and often powered equipment in your mouth – but they don’t know you from the criminally insane. That question, under the wrong circumstances, could be a real problem.

Alas, I am not criminally insane, though I am reminded of something Salvador Dali said: “The only difference between a madman and myself is I AM NOT MAD!”

Back to my dental encounter…

Oh yeah. The veins in my neck bulge out like this all the time. My lips and jaw quiver like they have a life of their own sometimes. I have no idea why.

Of course, that’s not what came out of my mouth. I was counting on it. I’m non-confrontational by nature. Instead, a series of grunts and seemingly random noises on the low end of the register came out of my mouth (along with a slurry of drool, chemical run-off, and blood). Folks in the biz call it “chair-speak.”

Although I wonder, have dentists and their minions (aka hygenists) evolved the ability to understand chair-speak? Is it like the way parents learn to understand their children’s early attempts at communication, long before others can? Or is it a more innate ability of the species – like a mother’s ability to interpret a baby’s cry and instantly know what’s wrong.

Either way, I was obviously not relaxed, and I owed it to the latest quiver in my dentist’s arsenal.

I don’t know what it’s called. I think of it as “Satan’s Pickax.” Think of a combination tool of discomfort, a Swiss Army Knife of dental torture if you will: a razor-sharp pick, high-pressure washer, and a carpenter’s router. Plus, it also comes with mood music… it wails like a banshee who stole your coach’s wistle from high school phys-ed.

Good stuff.

To their credit, they did try swathing my gums with a numbing gel. To their discredit, they used a little extra elbow grease. It reminded me of folks who eat food with “half the calories,” but eat four times as much of the stuff.

Step right up folks! We’re offering one half the sensitivity while achieving two times the pain!

Otherwise, it was a routine visit. I don’t need major surgery. In fact I was congratulated on my superior brushing technique – which almost masks the fact I don’t floss enough.

I’m a big fan of the backhanded compliment, so I can appretiate it when someone works at their craft.

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Another sign of madness

I have the day off today. The day had many possibilities, until I felt guilty about taking so much time off for doctors’ appointments during work hours. This guilt made me schedule an appointment with my dentist for a filling this morning.

Worse, I made it for early in the morning. So now I have the rest of the day off, I’m tired, my jaw hurts from the constant requests to “open a little wider,” and I have a drinking problem.

In a way I’m lucky though. Unlike my wife, I’m not immune to the effects of painkillers. My dentist has this great stuff he swabs on the injection site that makes the novocane shot almost bearable. I’d be fine if I could just resist the temptation to look at the needle. Morbid fascination always wins out, causing a brief pause in my heart rate as the dentist prepares to go fishing for a rib, casting his LONG line into the soft tissue between my cheek and gum.

But even the big ass needle doesn’t do me in… ruin my façade.

I have a little bit of guy in me. He tries to play the part of cool customer, even as he’s hanging vulnerably from “the chair” (his feet several feet above his head). All pretence of coolness is lost when he’s made to open his mouth like a cartoon character, his jaw working at angles clearly well beyond factory specs, his mouth feeling like it’s approaching the same diameter as his head.

“Sir, are you ok? Are you in any pain?”

“Ugnh… nawh, eye feygnh.”

“Are you sure? You feel like you’re trembling.”

Yep. The gig’s up. I’m officially not cool.