Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Love Going to the Dentist

What? you say, startled, disbelieving. You love going to the dentist?

Yes. I really do.

I not only have a low tolerance for pain, but I also have a microbe-sized tolerance for the fear of pain. And I don't like being lectured at, which used to happen every damn time I approached a DDS.

I'll admit it: I'm not the most dentally fastidious person you'll ever meet. (OK, fine. Fastidious is not an accurate descriptor for any part of my life. Moving on.) I brush once a day, and occasionally, twice. I hardly ever floss. Every time I went to the dentist, I'd get a lecture about how I needed to brush three times a day and floss at least once a day, and I'd hang my head in shame and confess my failure and promise (i.e., lie) that I'd do better.

Then the hygienist would start in with the scraping and the buzzing and the swearing about the placque build-up, like she's personally offended or something. I hate the scraping; it's not comfortable. In fact, it's dang uncomfortable. My hands would grip the armrests with white-knuckle anxiety, and I'd moan at the slightest hint that there would be a tiny bit of discomfort at some point in the near future.

I'm sure they loved me.

And the x-rays--they make me literally hoo-rawrk. Somebody gets near my back teeth with a hunk of white plastic, and my hyper-sensitive gag reflex kicks in full-swing. Getting a full set of x-rays was majorly traumatic for everyone involved.

And all this drama was even before the dentist pulls out any actual dental tools of torture! If x-rays and cleanings give me fits of blubbering dread, then you can imagine what happens when the DDS actually tries to stick a needle in my tender gums, or approaches me with that horrific instrument of television torture, the d-r-i-l-l! (Hey. I watched Alias. It did not help with my dentist anxiety.)

So I hated the going to the dentist because not only would I gag at the x-rays and death-grip during the cleaning, but any level of discomfort or pain would send me screaming into the waiting room. It was not good for business, or for my personal sanity.

And then I found a dentist with a magic no-more-fear-and-anxiety machine, and the willingness to use it. It's called nitrous oxide, and it has transformed my dental life.

One time the assistant had just finished up my x-rays and cleaned up the hurl, and she said, mistakenly, "OK, the hard part's over."

"Not for me," I said. "I hate cleanings. I fear them. My hands are numb from gripping the armrests after a cleaning. Hate, hate, hate."

"Really?" she said. And then she uttered the magic words that transformed my dental experiences forevermore. "Have you ever considered trying nitrous?"

I had no idea that you could get nitrous oxide just for cleanings. But for the biggest babies among us--and I proudly include myself in that sensitive crowd--nitrous is the savior of my dental health.

So now, I make my dentist appointments, and I even keep them. I even secretly look forward to them. I love nitrous so much that it's really, really good that it's a controlled substance. I'd like to have a cannister in my home, but then my children would be eating mustard for dinner and wearing shorts to school in the winter, and not only on gym days.

I love nitrous so much that I don't even mind that that the mask they use to administer it leaves my face looking like it has a nasty skin condition for several hours, until the collagen kicks in and the indentations smooth out.

I don't mind the scraping, or the buzzing, or the drilling. If I feel a little discomfort, I say, "Glurg," and they immediately adjust the nitrous, or the novocaine, or the crack, or whatever it is that they're injecting into my face, and I'm totally cool with it. There's no fear, no anxiety, no white-knuckle indentations on the armrests. It's all, like, excellent, man.

In case you live on the north side of Chicago, and you want to hook up with my dentist, her name is Dr. Tundi (rhymes with Cindy) Frank. She's located at 4200 West Peterson Avenue, and her phone number is (773) 481-1940.

Just as an aside--because apparently Dr. Frank does not have her own web site--this link will take you a hilarious page from a weird site called ilinius.com, which sounds like it was written in English, translated into Korean, then from Korean into Arabic, from Arabic into Chinese, and then back into English. It says, "Badly with the tooth?"

Yes, definitely call Dr. Frank if you're badly with the tooth. She'll take care of you. And if you have more than a tiny bit of anxiety, like I do, ask her to hook you up with the N.O. I am telling you, it's like having three glasses of Malbec in a row, with no teeth staining. You can even drive yourself home afterward.

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