Tuesday, August 7, 2012

An Affair (9/16/09)

I decided to cheat on my dentist. I am confessing this to relieve my guilt, at the cost of some judgment. I expect that few have such loose morals, so my confession also serves as a rare glance into the feeling of another dentist's chair.

I didn't have the courage to stray far from what I've known. This dentist, too, was a middle aged Russian man. Ignoring the implications of my visit and judging me favorably, he skipped all formalities but the basic first-visit medical questionnaire. I was the only person in the office (which should have been a sign, I later realized, but one that I ignored in my wide-eyed wonder), so I didn’t get to sit in the waiting room, or to evaluate the comfort of his waiting room seats or the relevance of his waiting room posters.

Easing myself into his chair, my arms fell into an all-too-familiar position. If he intended the experience to resemble that of, let's just call him #1, he would have turned on some classical music and started softly humming along, close to my ear (due to the nature of his task) but not to me. Instead, it was the far more unsettling Russian radio that was audible in the background. The radio must have been located in the adjacent safe room where the doctor goes to flip on the x-ray switch and hide as you lay in the chair with a lead blanket and oddly exposed head.

He held the xrays up to the light machine, shook his head deliberately and professionally, aware of my attention, and poured out flattery regarding the dismal (or splendid, whatever) condition of my teeth. I zoned out, wondering what he looked like under the mask and whether at the end of the day, his trimmed beard suffered from the "hat hair" effect. He brought me back to current events by displaying the x-rays, handing me a mirror, and briefing me on my mouth's internal affairs. I learned a little about reading teeth xrays.

Diligence and stupidity are not easily discernable when it comes to a drawn-out drilling process.

After summarizing my oral situation, he consulted me on our first course of action. I do not expect to act, so the course should not be “ours.” I expect to come, sit, have some decision made for me, and to leave with a sense of accomplishment, with one less problem, and drooling a little from my numb side.

As he started drilling, I realized I was tenser than usual- the chair was far too upright, requiring me to arch my neck awkwardly and unnaturally. C'mon doc, isn’t this the first thing you learn in school? In grade school. The chair should be comfortable. But it wasn’t, and it wasn’t long before I began reminiscing about my old dentist’s hum, his pleasing choice of music, and of course his perfectly positioned chair. I focused my energy on ignoring the Russian radio conversation in the radiation-free room. This helped keep my mind off thoughts about how bad turtlenecks would look on me if my neck stays like this forever. He partially redeemed himself by applying the water suction thing sparingly. The constant struggle to prevent one side of my mouth from drowning and the other side from dryly crumbling into sand disappeared. As did any chance of my returning to him when he accidentally drilled too far. Surprises are good, but I just wasn’t dressed for a root canal.

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