Thoughts from the Dentist’s Chair

Approaching the dentist’s office, I practiced being cool, calm, collected. Greetings around. That sort of thing. I mean, when you go to the dentist and the ‘office’ people ask you how you are…do you brightly say, “Fabulous”, while at the same exact time wonder what on earth just made you say that…or do you know fess up and say, “Horrible. I’m here aren’t I?”. Or how about, “I’m scared you’ll hurt me and charge me a bundle of money to do it”. Or something in between?

I may have said that I was sad that I was going to lose my $10,000 tooth. Much time and expense had been contributed to the saving of this tooth. Tooth 31. Lower right (looking out of my mouth). Next to the last in that chain of teeth. It started years before. First cavities filled with a mercury cocktail paste. Then it advanced to a crown, perhaps. Then there was the root canal years back, followed by the crown again. Then suddenly last summer, the tooth turned on it’s host. An abscess had formed around the root. X-rays were taken to confirm the worst. That’s when I learned that a tooth once ‘rooted’ could be ‘rooted’ again in certain cases. An appointment was secured with a specialist. He confirmed what the other dentist thought and recommended a second root canal on tooth 31.

The specialist dentist wasn’t hard to look at but I didn’t like what he said. There were no guarantees. The root canal procedure might not work but all things considered, he recommended that I give it a go. At this point, if I knew then what I know now, I would have told him to pull it. But, oh, not me. Save the tooth, I said, gazing into his big blue beautiful eyes.

For such a good looking dentist, his staff was not much to look at. So, when I visited him a second time to confirm that one of the roots had a fracture, I wondered why he didn’t fill his office with terribly attractive assistants. One of my random thoughts while sitting in the chair. Then he hurt me taking X-rays. Somehow his attractiveness wasn’t so, well, attractive. Then I tried to tell him the story of my Australia dental experience and he showed no appreciation of my attention to details in foreign dental offices…like the TV monitors provided to the patient for the purpose of entertainment during whatever procedure the patient was undergoing. They could watch DVDs, TV programs. The only thing lacking, really, was warm booties and a cookie on your way out. But this dental specialist in San Luis, CA, wasn’t so interested. Regarding getting to the bottom of my root, he interrupted my story and never said, “And you were saying”. No. Dr. Blue Eyes was too cold.

But I digress. The tooth had to go. It was a fractured tooth, brought on my lack of blood supply, age, and in all probability…a bite on something hard. Dr. Blue Eyes offered to pull the tooth at no charge and begin the implant procedure on the same day. Before leaving the office, I booked an appointment.

In October I had purchased tickets to see Woody Allen’s New Orleans Jazz Band in San Francisco on December 28th. This came about because I in looking for the soundtrack to Midnight in Paris, Woody’s latest movie. The music was fabulous. The soundtrack was nowhere to be found. So, I decided to do some research on line and that’s how I discovered Conal Fowkes. He played with Woody’s band and his name was mentioned by another person on the internets. This person also mentioned that Conal had a website. and that’s where I learned about the concert in San Francisco. Conal and I emailed back and forth and became fast friends (my interpretation as a star-struck blogger).

But I digress. I talked my cousin, Susie, into going to the concert too and as part of the deal, Ray and I would stay at her place in Sunnyvale. Well, my cousin does not suffer fools gladly. And she is a specialist around healthcare and regulatory issues, a job she retired from at Kaiser. When I mentioned the implant was projected to cost $5,000, she became agitated that dentists can continue to rip off people with bad teeth. And that got me to thinking that she had a very good point. So, in the middle of the night I awoke with an idea that perhaps teaching dental schools might have a program. And Susie came up with the exact same idea overnight. We are genetically very close to one another, my dad being her mother’s brother. Upon returning home, I called the Univ. of San Francisco and secured an appointment for an initial visit to see if I qualified for the opportunity to save about $3000, their service costing a mere $1900. So, we’ll see. The saga continues. Oh, and I cancelled my appointment with Dr. Blue Eyes.

Laying and lying
I provide a reference for those that are curious about my grammar:


Myself, I didn’t bother to proof my work with it. I just use whatever I feel like at the time. If Dylan can do that…so can I.

But back to the dentist’s chair. There I was with my bad tooth listening to my dentist tell me everything that could go wrong with the extraction. Fractured teeth are harder to pull. Complications can arise because he is performing dental surgery in the dirtyest place in my body…my mouth. OMG. That little talk catapulted me back to the time when I discovered my grandmother had most of her teeth extracted on the same day. And implants weren’t a option. It was false teeth or gums. (Must have inherited her bad genes in the teeth department.) So, the disclaimers having been recited, the chair went back and I found myself laying down…, mouth open and a needle about the size of the state of Montana approaching my gum. OMG. At this point my thought was to “just relax”, breathe deep, try to slow my pounding heart down. To no avail. My heart pounded with an intensity that made me worry. I mean, what if it stops? What if it speeds up? Then the numbness started enveloping my face, my tongue, my gum. No mamby-pamby shots here. Three shots. Ugh.

I regard those “instruments” they use in the dental office (any dental office) as bordering on neanderthal. They take on a particularly onerous look when approaching one’s mouth. It occurred to me as I lie there with my mouth opened wide that the instruments resembled picks, pliers, hammers and vices. No pretty pink handles. No handsome blue handles. These things looked way too industrial for my liking. Why don’t they design beautiful instruments? I could visualize these same instruments at Oil Changers or Jiffy Lube. It would make things a bit more comfortable for the patient. This is what I thought about as he grabbed my tooth and tried to wiggle it for the first time in probably 60 years. Nothing hurt really. The pressure that came to bear was another matter. Where did that root go? It felt like he was going to push through to the back of my head. Was he drilling to China? How long was that root? Opps. Roots?

It occurred to me that the drill sounded like R2D2 was in my mouth. Then it sounded like a high pitch squeals. That combined with the sucking sound of the grey tube that hovered over the tooth, was not music to my ears. So…what I did was try to divert my thoughts to something else. Relax. Wiggle your foot I said to myself. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Quit flexing your muscles. Nothing was working. In and out the instruments went. What else could I distract myself with besides deep breathing and thoughts of relaxing that weren’t working the way I thought they might?

Well. As luck would have it, I did have one distraction. Golf. My dental appointment was at 3:00 p.m. At 8:37 a.m. I was teeing off at Morro Bay golf course from the red tees. And this was quite momentus. Match play is an annual tourney at our club. Additionally, our club has men and women members which I have enjoyed. Until today. Today my male opponent chose to play from the red tees. For those who don’t play golf, red tees are the closest tees to the hole. White tees are usually 50-100 yards farther away from the hole and traditionally men play from the white tees. But not today. My opponent chose to play from the red tees. (The picture at the top of this post illustrates Ray, playing from the white tees with the red tees in front of him.) So, what that meant is that it took the only advantage I had as woman player away from me. I cannot hit the ball as far. I was toast. Was his move legal? I guess so. Was it gentlemanly? Highly doubtful. Good sportsmanship? Not too sure about that. And may I add that he has a 13 handicap. He is a very good player. On many par 4 holes, he used a driver and a sand wedge to get on. It generally took me a driver, a fairway wood, and a wedge to get on. Game over. So to avoid the viewing of instrumentation entering and leaving my orifice, I tried to noodle through what had just happened on the golf course.

Last year a woman won the tourney. The men in the club were very upset about the outcome. She beat all men to secure that title. The men were sore. So perhaps it was just coincidence that the format of the tourney was changed this year so the players were grouped in ‘pods’ of four people each. Each four would play one another and one would emerge from the ‘pod’ as the winner and that winner would go on to face the other ‘pod’ winners. And oddly enough, Nancy (last years winner) and I were in the same ‘pod’. They said it was a blind draw. I wonder. Then Nancy lost her first match. I lost mine. Drill, baby, drill. Aspirate that tooth, or what’s left of it. Get rid of those women. Drill, baby, drill.

I ask you. It might be legal to pair a feather-weight boxer with a heavy-weight…but is it right? It might be legal to play a junior varsity player in a varsity game…but is it in the spirit of the game? While mulling this over, I wasn’t sure if the fuming was caused by my thoughts about the golf game or the drilling business. How should I regard this? In trying to figure it out I kept getting distracted by the pressure in my mouth. Would I ever be the same? Would my gum remain permanently numb after this (a possible complication, I was told). When could I eat? I mean, I’m all about eating. And my dentist was left handed. OMG. I never considered that when deciding who would pull this stubborn tooth. Are there special left handed dental tools? Did they come in colors? What was Ray doing? Walking the dog and wondering if I had died in the chair? He drove me to my appointment, dear man. What would I ever do without him? and now puppy Beau? Damn it anyway. I should have brushed more often. I wish I could view (as in watch) this procedure then I could verify that the chisel was not, in fact, going through my neck. Who knew roots were 10 feet long? And how can I manage not to gag? The instinct was there. Dual gagging. Gagging from the dental work. Gagging on the idea that the men were so upset with a woman winning last year that they would go to any lengths to see us defeated even if it meant taking away the only advantage we had…distance. Is this ultimately why women have not been successful breaking through that glass ceiling at work? Because these guys work together in subtle (there was rarely a congratulation forthcoming from any of them to last year’s woman champ) and not so subtle (teeing off from the red tees) ways, to ensure men stay on top. Collusion or colliding?

And then to cap (a dental term) it all off, the ex-president of the club described my lost to other members as my “being demolished” . Yes, I was beaten by a man 20 years my junior, playing from the red tees, and riding in his cart (I walked)…and further, the ex-prez told me the only reason Ray won his match is because he got lucky. What was all that about? And what is he talking about…”not grinding away too much bone because of the implant”. Aspirate please.

Oh, and stay tuned. I don’t think you’ve heard the end of the story…yet.

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