Open Wide

I have amazing spit.  No, really, I do.  You see, as of yesterday, I had the ability to proclaim that at 39 years of age, I had acquired only one cavity in my otherwise pristine mouth of filling-less teeth.  (The only one I did have was waaaaaaay back in a wisdom tooth, so it really wasn’t even my fault; those suckers are so far back there, my toothbrush really doesn’t stand a chance.)  Supposedly, this is somewhat due to my saliva; I have been told that some people produce saliva that helps to ward off cavities.  (Technically, it’s the sugar complexes in the saliva that aid in repelling the cavity-causing bacteria, but I digress…).  Apparently, my mouth is lucky enough to produce said saliva, thus providing me the opportunity to skate by many a year with dental visits that included nothing but a run-of-the-mill cleaning and standard x-rays.

What is unfortunate for me (or fortunate for the rest of the world, depending on how you look at it), is that there have been many advances in the Dental industry in the past forty or so years.  Gone are the days of the routine cleaning with the black and white x-ray film, supplemented by visual cavity checks alone in a stark, white, sanitized office with a small packet of hermetically sealed instruments that double as standard-issue interrogation devices.  Nowadays, you have ‘theme’ offices with tropical fish or rock memorabilia decorating the walls, complete with a flat-screen television for your viewing pleasure while you recline in the exam chair.  X-rays are taken digitally and even projected on the flat-screen for discussion purposes (what, you didn’t want to see your teeth and gums super-sized?  You don’t say!).  Super-saliva alone is no longer the best defense for a cavity-free life; there is now a method of highlighting tooth decay that rivals a military infrared system where the normal surface of the tooth shows up in green, and any decay easily stands out in bright, glowing red.  I was treated to this lovely display on my last visit to the dentist when they helpfully pointed out that there were a couple of shiny red areas of “early decay” that they were concerned about, and recommended I have them filled preventatively so that they would not become full-blown cavities.  Reluctantly, I agreed.

That is how I found myself in the dental office this evening, in the procedure area (an offshoot of the cleaning area, for in this office the procedures are so darn special they get their own separate wing!), smiling nervously as I anticipated the worst.  Did I mention I only have one filling?  One filling.  One.  And it was forever ago, so I don’t really even remember it.  I am not a fan of dental work; I diligently attend my 6-month cleanings because I love my teeth and would like to keep all of the originals, thank you very much.  But I will admit I am somewhat of a white-knuckler with all the picking and scraping and polishing, etc. that goes on with just the cleanings, alone.  I’m not terrified by it, I just don’t like it; it creeps me out.  Looking towards even more invasive work is clearly not a picnic for me.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was when the hygienist blithely mentioned that as soon as the doctor popped in, we would get started on my four fillings.  FOUR!?!?  I thought the loud screechy question was only in my head, but it had actually come out of my mouth that way, because the hygienist calmly smiled and backpedaled in an effort to calm what was obviously the “patient-most-likely-to-bolt” sitting in her chair.  Talking like you would to the four-year-old who is on the verge of meltdown, she soothingly said we could simply wait to talk to the doctor and review her notes to make sure that was the plan, and that we were all on the same page before proceeding.  I just tried to use my best ‘big girl’ voice and croak out ” Uh, okay”.

As it turns out there were four total spots they wanted to fill.  Apparently I have deep grooves in my molars and, after 39 years, even the super-saliva isn’t quite cutting it anymore.  Two molars and two wisdom teeth were on the drill menu for the evening; I prepared the knuckles for a long ride.  I was not relishing the fact that I would now have fillings in all of my wisdom teeth, but what are you going to do, right?  Wimp out and actually BE the patient that bolts?  I don’t think so.  Instead, I said “aaaaahhhhh”, gritted through the novocain shot, attempted to mentally slow my racing heartbeat, and tried to think of other things when the drilling began.  (Of note: you would think that with all of these amazing “advances” in dentistry that someone could invent a drill that was a bit less brain-jarring as they gouge away at your enamel.  I’m just sayin’…)  The flat-screen helped a little, but not as much as I would have hoped.  Fortunately several of the areas were very shallow and only required minor surface fillings, thus shaving much time (and agony and shots) off of the whole ordeal.  I did still go home with my lower right face/tongue completely non-functional, which is a sensation I would have preferred to not remember.  I felt the need to keep touching my chin and lip to ensure they were in the correct position and not drooping on my chest.  And when I said goodnight to my daughter, I had a lisp that would rival that of Cindy Brady.  As I leaned in to kiss her on the forehead, she literally shrank back and looked at me as if I was the most freakish sight she’d ever seen; and, really, who could blame her?  The fun continued about two hours later when I got hungry.  Wanting to eat when your face clearly isn’t planning on helping is really just a cruel joke.  Yogurt?  (I’m not a fan.)  Soup?  (It’s 85 degrees, people.)  Oatmeal?  (Takes too long, per the sound in my stomach.)  I settled on cereal which, while trying to get the first spoonful in, I realized was a hilariously poor choice.  But I was determined to win out over my uncooperative mouth, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t finish the whole small bowl without spilling a single drop.

An hour later, hungry again.  Crap.  Too tired to fight with any new food groups, I’ve decided to sleep instead.  I figure I should be able to eat by morning, right?

Quick aside:  yes, for those counting at home, I do only have three wisdom teeth and they are still very much in tact.  In addition to having super-spit, I also have genetically freakish chompers.  I am missing my adult upper eye teeth, as is my father, and my daughter (take that, Darwin).  Because of the extra space up top, I never had the need to have my wisdom teeth removed, as the braces I wore for four years pulled everything together all nice and neat-like.  I am also missing one of my lower wisdom teeth, as is my mother; as luck would have it, I have somewhat smaller teeth and had room for the other lower one, negating the pulling of that one as well.  One rite of passage I am happy to say I never had to endure!  But I now have passed the genetic teeth mutation on to my offspring.  And as per the new fancy schmancy x-rays tell us, I’ve compounded the freakishness – not only is she missing her upper adult eyeteeth, she’s also missing her lower…so the money I saved my parents in dental work I will undoubtedly spend on her.  Yay!  My only saving grace will be if we can offset the missing teeth with a lack of cavities; let’s hope the super-saliva doesn’t skip a generation…