Monday, May 23, 2005

I never used to be afraid of the dentist: Part 2

I started talking about my dentist troubles in November, and I’ve finally gotten around to Part 2.

OK. So when you last left me, I was right back where I started. Well, almost back where I started. I was still dentist-less, but now I had a set of bloody gums to inspire me in my hunt. Despite this inspiration, my search was fruitless. I could not get an appointment with a dentist anywhere remotely close to my apartment or the lab. I finally gave in and called the dental school.

The benefit of using the dental school was the brief wait for appointments. I was able to get one for only a week after I called! The drawbacks of using the dental school, however, were numerous. First of all, before I was allowed to see the student dentist, I had to have x-rays made. Now, in a normal dentist’s office, getting x-rays takes about 10 minutes at the beginning of your appointment. But at the dental school, the student x-ray technician needed an entire appointment to herself. So it looked like I would need at least two appointments to get my teeth cleaned.

Once I finally got to see Dr. Student Dentist, he discovered that I had three cavities. (Look, leave me alone. Some people are just prone to cavities. I brush and floss every day, I swear.) But because he was a student dentist, I could only schedule appointments between noon and two, which was when they had their clinical practicum. In addition, the teacher had to come check his work after each step to make sure he didn’t drill out healthy teeth or miss any of the cavity or anything. The upshot of this is that it took four more visits to get all the cavities filled, and I wasn’t done for at least another month, which means the whole process of going through my biannual dental appointment took three months, and I was almost due for a checkup by the time I was finished.

So after the second to last cavity was filled, Dr. Student Dentist called me to ask a favor. “Would you mind being my final exam?” he said. “We all have to do a procedure for a final exam, and you’d really help me out. I’ll pay you $50.” Well, who am I to turn down $50 for getting a cavity filled? I had to get it filled anyway. So I agreed.

On the day of the final, I headed up to the dental school. I was almost feeling guilty about getting paid for receiving dental care, but I didn’t realize what was in store for me over the next few hours. Yes, hours. First, I sat in the chair, and Dr. Student Dentist shot me up with novocaine. So far, normal. But then he fitted me with a mouth-spreader and rubber sheet, which exposed only the tooth he was working on. “Because it’s a final, we have to put this in,” he told me. Well, it was mildly uncomfortable, but at first, not that big a deal. But then it turned out that after every step in the procedure, I had to leave the main room with all the dental students, cross a large hallway filled with people waiting to take exams or have their teeth worked on, check into the room with the test proctors, and wait my turn to have my student doctor’s work examined. And I had to do all of this while wearing a mouth-spreader. I was walking around, in front of people, and my mouth was forced open by a huge metal contraption.

The incessant walking back and forth from examiner to examinee made the procedure take so long that my novocaine started to wear off before the cavity was completely filled. But by that point, I just wanted the damn thing to be over, so I refused Dr. Student Dentist’s offer to give me more. “Just finish!” I said. Except it came out, “Yuh yeuh-ueh!” because I was wearing a mouth-spreader.

When he was done, the sweet relief of getting the mouth-spreader removed almost made the whole thing worth it. And I tell you, I didn’t feel one bit guilty cashing that $50 check.

1 comment:

Doktah said...

Aaah, the mouth spreader. The mouth spreader and I had some good times when I was an intern at a company that works on oral care products. Some of the safer tests we would run on people in house. Things like breath fresheners and teeth whitening chewing gum. Well, for some of the studies, you had to wear the mouth spreaders. For some studies, you had to wear it for a LONG time. As the blogger can tell you, it takes quite a toll on your lips and facial musculature. So we were allowed to incrementally build up our time with the mouth spreader. Most people would lock themselves away where no one could see them since it makes you look like some sort of freak out of a Hellraiser movie. Needless to say, I loved it. I wore it everywhere. To meetings, to the in-house gym. The cafeteria was the best. Especially when ordering your meal. "I'd like some peas, please" was such a fun thing to slur from your hideously deformed lips to a horrified cafeteria worker. There's a reason I'm no longer part of corporate America. They don't seem to miss me.