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Posts Tagged ‘dentist’

  1. I Need a Dentist Who’s Less Anxious Than Me

    November 22, 2015 by Diane

    funny cartoon tooth

    I had a pain in one of my upper teeth on the left side. Thinking I may have developed a cavity—or worse, dislodged one of my mercury fillings and swallowed it—I phoned my dentist for an appointment.

    “Doctor Lu’s office.”

    I recognized the voice; it was Doctor Lu herself. She never hired a receptionist, so she pretends to be the receptionist.

    “I may have lost a filling,” I said. “I need to make an appointment.”

    “Doctor Lu can see you on Wednesday at two o’clock.”

    Wait a minute. You’re Doctor Lu.

    “Two o’clock will be fine.”

    * * *

    When I arrived, Doctor Lu was waiting behind the reception desk. She shuttled me into the yellow room on the left. She hooked a paper bib around my neck. She asked if I had any new allergies, wanted to know how I was sleeping and if I was taking any new medications, and inquired about my blood pressure. She took two x-rays and blew cold air on my teeth and jabbed at my fillings with a sharp implement and asked me to bite down on a piece of rubber and when nothing revealed itself to be a problem, she searched for one.

    Starting with my neck.

    Her fingers probed under my jawline and along my windpipe and then froze.

    “Uh-oh,” she said. “You need to see a doctor ASAP.”

    She probed some more. Dread flooded my body.

    She motioned to her assistant. “How big is this?”

    “I don’t know,” the assistant said. “The size of a penny?”

    “That’s it! The size of a penny. Write that down.”

    Doctor Lu probed some more, then handed me a mirror. “I want you to see this.” She pointed to a bulge in my neck.

    “Oh, that!” I said. “That’s my carotid artery. I had it examined years ago. It’s just a weird part of my anatomy—“

    “Write that down,” she said to her assistant. “Weird part of anatomy.”

    “It’s nothing,” I babbled on, trying to reassure her. “I’m thinner now, so it’s more noticeable.”

    “Yes. You have lost a lot of weight.”

    “I wouldn’t say a lot—“

    She turned her back and consulted a laptop on the counter. “Look at these x-rays,” she said, waving me over. I peered at the screen. “These fillings are old. See how close they are to the nerve?”


    I knew what was coming. We’d had this discussion many times. Sure enough, “You need a mouth guard,” she said, her voice rising. “You’re grinding your teeth at night. If you lose one of these fillings, I don’t know what I’ll do. I won’t be able to FIX it. They’re too close to the NERVE!”

    “Okay, okay. I’ll get a mouth guard.”



    Total cost: $500 for the mouth guard, $10 for the visit.

    “And see your doctor. Report back to me.”

    I need a dentist who’s less of a hypochondriac than me.

    * * *

    I made an appointment with my doctor. Cost: $30. He felt the lump. He suggested that I get an ultrasound.

    “But I’ve had this thing for ten years,” I said. “It’s never gotten any bigger. Isn’t it possible—isn’t it likely—that it’s fine?”

    “That’s a good way to look at it,” he said. “But I want ENT to make that call. Schedule an appointment with ear-nose-throat. And schedule an ultrasound.”

    I need a doctor who’s less worried than me.

    * * *

    Member services informed me that the ultrasound would cost $371.

    “What’s the extra dollar for?” I wondered aloud.

    I canceled the appointment.

    * * *

    Online, I checked the profile of the ENT doctor I was scheduled to see. He had started as a psychologist, then studied to be a surgeon. He also made time to become a photographer, canoeist, rock climber, wilderness guide, sculptor, sailor, chef, and sword-swallower. Okay, not the last one, but he had an impressive list of activities to his credit, in addition to raising three children, which he claimed was the most challenging activity of all. I felt good about this doctor. Maybe I could squeeze in a free therapy session while he examined my neck.

    As the nurse led me down the hall to an exam room, we passed an open door. A man in a white lab coat sat at his desk wolfing down a sandwich, just shoving it in. God, I hope that’s not him, I thought.

    It was.

    Less than a minute later he strolled into the exam room where I sat perched on a giant leather chair. I wondered how he’d found time to chew.

    He offered his unwashed hand for me to shake.

    “So, you’ve got a lump in your neck,” he said. He placed his unwashed fingers on my throat. Felt the bulge. “That’s your carotid artery, “ he said. “Leave it alone.”

    He pulled up a stool.

    “Want a second opinion?” he asked.


    “Nice glasses.”

    Cost: $30.

    I need a specialist who’s less goofy than me.

    * * *

    I went to the dentist to get my teeth checked. They’re fine. But I’m $570 more in debt. It would have been $941 if I’d gone through with the ultrasound.

    I need a new dentist.

  2. You’re Good to Go

    November 17, 2013 by Diane

    dentist chair

    When I sit in the dentist’s chair, that Naugahyde faux recliner that slowly motors backwards until my head is lower than my feet, when I grip the armrests to hold on so I don’t slide into the dentist’s lap, the last thing I want is to realize that the man behind the mask is more anxious than I am.

    I don’t want him to peer into my mouth, pause, and say…Uh-oh.

    Or…Oh my.

    Or…Why are your teeth

    I don’t want him to start prodding my gums with his shiny clawed implements while muttering…Why is this happening?

    My instinct at such times is to hoist myself from the chair and make a quick exit past the potted fichus, snatching a couple of free toothbrushes from the basket on the counter on the way out the door.

    But instead I cling to the armrests, under that bright light, sweating.

    I try to smile encouragingly, but my lips stick to my teeth.

    I shrink as he leans in, sweating behind those giant plastic goggles. And just what are those goggles protecting him from? I don’t want to know.

    This is where visualization comes in handy. I close my eyes. I visualize myself running down the beach in slow motion, twirling in circles with arms outstretched to the heavens, drinking in the sunlight like gentle rain. I try to transport myself to a place other than the upside-down chair and pray that when I come back, when the dentist is done with his prodding and worrying and his running dialogue about the tooth that has twisted ninety degrees—or whatever other paranormal phenomenon he’s discovered in my mouth—I pray that he’ll motor me upright and lower his mask, and with that relieved look on his face, the look that hostages get when they’re released, he’ll say…you’re good to go!

    Good to go.

    Does any dentist say that, ever?

    It’s not that I’m afraid of dentists.

    I’m afraid of what they’ll find.

    I’m afraid of being imprisoned upside-down in that motorized chair and bleeding profusely. Not that it’s ever happened. But that’s the irrational fear I harbor.

    I don’t even mind the needle. I squeeze my eyes shut and focus on my toes.

    I just don’t like the murmuring that goes on behind the dentist’s mask. All that murmuring! What’s he saying? Is something wrong?

    Diane, we need to

    Always “we.” As if I have any part in the situation other than holding my mouth in an unnatural position for forty-five minutes, resisting the urge to chomp through his meaty fingers.

    We need to saw through this area here, and drill down to the jaw bone and extract some

    Okay, I’ve never heard that phrase. But I fear it.

    Like most people on the planet, I don’t enjoy going to the dentist.

    Well…except for the free toothbrush. I take my time choosing. The green? The blue? The pink? The yellow? And then there are all those miniature tubes of toothpaste. Should I take the one for sensitive teeth? The one that whitens? The gel? The cream? And what about the miniature bottles of mouth wash? Should I take the one that promises minty breath for twenty-four hours, or the one that removes plaque?

    I’ve learned that if I hover over the basket of freebies long enough the dentist will give them all to me. As much as I can carry. So I stuff my purse, my pockets, and take two fistfuls and he needs to open the door for me, follow me to my car. Then there’s the matter of the key. The key is at the bottom of my purse. He rummages around in my purse to unearth it and…well, here’s the best part about going to the dentist. He pulls out a tampon. Maybe accidentally sets off the pepper spray in his face.

    Okay, none of that actually happens.

    But I dream about it, imprisoned in that chair under the bright light, my jaw permanently locked in an open position.  And nine times out of ten, because I brush after every meal and floss every night, all I suffer is a little scraping and a good motorized polish with a gritty substance that tastes like warm Orange Julius.

    Not bad.

    Not bad at all.