Adventures at the Dentist

19 Aug

by Rhea H. Boyden

I am sitting in the dentist chair at my dentist in Berlin trying not to
clench my fists. I really am trying to relax, breathe and also banish
the following thought from my head: It was a dentist who invented the
electric chair. I try very hard to forget this fact, but it always
hits me again when I am sitting in the dentist’s chair. The dental
assistant is prepping her needle and I am blinded by the lamp as they
adjust it in preparation. My muscles clench ever tighter. The
assistant hands the needle to the dentist and rests a reassuring hand
on my shoulder to attempt to calm me down. ‘The needle is the most
harmless part of this procedure’ she says. I fail to see what is
reassuring about this statement. I think the needle is the worst
part, in fact, and she has basically just told me it’s going to get
worse. I open my mouth wide and in goes the needle. I squirm and
writhe in nervous agony as the needle goes in. ‘Goodness, you really
don’t like this, do you?’ the dentist says in irritation. ‘Let’s try
the other side, shall we?’ she continues. In goes the needle on the
other side and again every muscle in my body turns to stone. The
needle is discarded as I lie there, eyes shut, waiting. I try to open
my mouth for the next instrument to be inserted and my mouth refuses
to open. ‘Can you open a little wider?’ the dentist requests. I shake
my head. I see the irony of the predicament I am now in. I am
sitting in the dentist’s chair and I am unable to open my mouth. ‘I
think we will leave you alone for a few minutes to relax, ok, and
then we will come back and see how you are doing.’ the dentist
suggests. Fine with me. They exit the room and I lie back and try and
relax my jaw.

A few minutes later the beautiful young assistant comes back into thesurgery and and I open my eyes. ‘Would you like a cup of coffee?’

she offers pleasantly. ‘Sorry, coffee?’ I respond confused. ‘Yes, she
says, it will help relax your jaw. ‘Well, ok, but how am I supposed
to drink it with a numb face without slobbering it all over myself? I
ask stupidly. ‘Just try’ she says as she hands me the coffee. I sit
back in the chair and relax, trying to drink my coffee in as
dignified a manner as possible. ‘Is this a normal practice of modern
dentistry?’ I ponder to myself. ‘offering coffee to make your patient
relax?’. Who am I to argue with it? The dentist and her assistant
come back in a few minutes later to continue the procedure. ‘We are
going to have to give you another injection’ they announce.
‘Wonderful’ I think. In goes the next needle. Presently my entire
face is so numb, that all I can feel are my eyes. They feel like they
are just floating there, detached, but somehow still observing the
world. I finally relax my jaw and they get to work on my teeth.
Somehow my mood is improving I and am starting to see some humour
in the whole spectacle.

When I was 19 I lived in California for a year. One night I was out with
some friends at a concert and when it was over we went down to a
small creek that was mostly a lot of boulders and rocks with a very
little amount of water flowing between them. I scrambled, in the
dark, across some of the boulders to sit on a big one in the middle
of the creek. One of the guys who was in our group then picked up a
large rock and hurled it with all his might in my direction. It
bounced off another rock and then hit me flat in the mouth taking out
5 of my front teeth. He was, he claimed later, trying to splash me.
In a creek with no water? Great idea. An hour later I was sitting in
the emergency room of a large hospital waiting for a doctor to come
see me. Saturday night is a popular night for people to come to
hospital after having had stupid accidents whilst partying. I had to
wait quite some time, I recall. A few smashed out teeth are low
priority.

At the time I was studying at the local community college and I had just
signed up to do a voice training class in the drama department. I did
not fail to see the irony as I went in for my first class the
following Monday morning. You really need a full set of teeth to
breath and do voice projection properly. I sheepishly introduced
myself and explained that even though I currently had no front teeth,
I was planning on getting some soon, and I would like to do the
class. My teacher and my class mates were very supportive in this.
One guy even stood up and pulled out his dentures as a show of
solidarity. The class was wonderful.

So, back in Berlin in the dental surgery, they managed to work around my
clenched jaw and succesfully complete the surgery. I then walked out
of there laughing my head off at the silliness of it all, without
having inhaled any laughing gas whatsoever. Maybe I can keep up this
attitude and try and have a sense of humour about all this teeth
nonsense the next time I return to the dentist?

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