Apparently I have a nervous tongue. I’m a chronic cheek chewer and I need to be more stealthy when brushing my teeth. These were three revelations made this morning by Dr. Troika, the most invasively thorough dentist I’ve ever encountered.
“I need you to lift your tongue to the roof of your mouth and relax it while I shove this sharp-edged Kitchen Aid mixer attachment as far back into your mouth as it’ll go.”
That’s how Robin, the dental hygienist started the x-ray portion of today’s visit to Hades. She didn’t actually say the last part but would’ve if she’d been totally honest.
“Is that comfortable? Because your tongue doesn’t seem relaxed.”
How can it be relaxed? Those are conflicting demands to put on a tongue. It’s like telling me to do a push-up and just relax while I’m holding it.
“I’m sorry. These bite wing x-rays aren’t very fun,” Robin said, obviously reading my grimace.
“Are any x-rays considered fun?” I wondered while holding the bowl scraper attachment between my molars and trying not to gag.
“Hey kids, grab your coats and get in the van. We’re going out for ice cream and chest x-rays!”
“YAY! You’re the best mom EVER!”
(That was the imaginary conversation I had while trying to take my mind off my tongue’s performance anxiety.)
Robin must’ve taken 47 x-rays. I think by the end, she was bringing in random items from the receptionist’s desk to x-ray inside my mouth for her own humor.
I imagined her thinking “great job with the staple remover. Now open wide so we can x-ray your bicuspids gripping the hole puncher.”
I stared at the posters on the wall most of the time.
I stared at my shoes and decided that they’re ugly and a bit worn out. My friend Gern once joked that I must’ve stolen them from Oliver Twist. They’re super cute with ankle rolled jeans. But with black tights, I look like the wicked witch that Dorothy’s house landed on….and that wasn’t the look I was going for.
Finally Dr. Troika came in and offered me a pair of safety glasses. For a moment I wondered if it was a self-serve dental office and they expected me to clean my own teeth. But it was for safety, in case Dr. Troika’s aim was a few inches off. I guess that happens sometimes.
He and the hygienist left the room for a moment so I did something productive.
“First I’ll begin by examining your throat, glands, neck and facial skin,” he said matter-of-factly while beginning to massage my cheeks.
“Wow, I’ve never had a dentist do that before,” I laughed nervously.
“And that’s a shame,” he replied bluntly. “Every dentist should do this. All of this figures into your periodontal health. There are too many of those “drill, fill and bill” guys out there who don’t take time to do things the right way.”
That made me feel defensive for Dr. Whistle back home. He was a great dentist. Always gave excellent care. And he had an amazing garden that he kept up by himself right outside the exam room windows. There aren’t many tooth doctors who can give you a pain free filling along with tips on getting rid of black spots on your zinnias.
I knew when we moved to Richmond that finding another master gardener dentist would be next to impossible. I wish they listed that kind of information on the dental insurance network website so you could make more educated choices.
As Dr. Troika called roll in my mouth by tooth numbers, he made judgmental comments for Robin to record in my file.
“She has a cross bite between one and 32. Ecclesial (sp) amalgam on three, four and five. 20-percent overbite and she’s a chronic cheek chewer.” (seems like he could’ve at least whispered those things if they had to go in the chart.)
“You’ve got a little tartar build-up on your top left wisdom tooth. Gonna have to make sure you sneak your toothbrush back there more often.”
He actually used the verb “sneak.” As if I should wait until my teeth aren’t looking or have had a few glasses of wine.
Troika then demonstrated the correct sneaky brushing strokes for standoffish back teeth. I hated to tell him that if I haven’t caught onto the proper molar brushing strokes by age 40, showing me again probably won’t help.
But he’s thorough like that and looked at me sympathetically, as if through no fault of my own I’d been under the oral care of a tribal witch doctor all my life.
After two hours in the mauve recliner, staring at the teeth pickle poster, I was finally released….with an appointment to come back next week to have a cavity filled.
Troika will probably make me change into a hospital gown for that.
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But wait! There’s more!
Okay, there’s really not more. I just always wanted to say that.