Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I never used to be afraid of the dentist: Part 1

When I got to grad school, I finally had to give up my childhood dentist, Dr. Awesome. I kept going to him through college, using Christmas break and the summer vacation as opportunities to get my teeth cleaned, but in grad school there is no summer vacation, and my childhood dentist was a seven hour drive away, and wasn’t covered by my insurance. So it was time to find a new dentist.

But how do you find one? There’s really no way to tell how a dentist is until you go. So I chose based on location and whether or not I could be seen before I grew old. With Dr. Awesome, I could make an appointment a mere month in advance, so I was unprepared for the typical 6-month appointment queues at most dentists offices, and I was already overdue for a cleaning. Due to these difficulties, I ended up with an appointment with a dentist right around the corner from my apartment.

When I mentioned the appointment to The Doktah, her eyes widened in shock. “You made an appointment with Dr. Pain?” she gasped.

“Umm.. I don’t know,” I said nervously. “Is he at 19th and Pine?”

“Yes!” she said. “I went to him for a cleaning last year.” She gazed at me with pity. “You should go to someone else.”

But I was stuck, because of the 6-month queue everywhere else, combined with the huge hassle it was to get the insurance issue sorted out. Most offices won’t make an appointment until you are listed in The Insurance Binder, and you can only get listed in The Insurance Binder once a month. When you add this to the 6-months, you end up with a 7-month wait to see the dentist. So I could change my dentist right after my cleaning, but for now, I was out of luck.

The morning of my appointment, I approached Dr. Pain’s office with a feeling of trepidation. “He’s probably not that bad,” I told myself. I was further reassured by the patient who was putting on her coat as I was leaving. “This is your first apointment?” she asked. “You’re in luck! Dr. Pain is the best!”

She seemed so pleased and happy, I decided that The Doktah must be pain-sensitive or something. “I mean, it’s only a cleaning!” I thought. “How painful could it be?”

Well. Pretty painful, as it turns out. Dr. Pain spent the next thirty minutes jamming sharp metal instruments into my gums and dragging them back out again, trailing little pieces of my gums along behind. I don’t know what was going on in there, but I was spitting blood for the rest of the day, and well into the night. I was still young enough that it didn’t occur to me to tell him to stop; doctors and dentists were still intimidating authority figures. (That fades a little when you start going out to bars with doctors and medical students.)

But at least I had clean teeth (once my gums stopped bleeding), which gave me a 6-month window in which to find a new dentist. To be discussed in Part 2.


Anonymous said...

Verry funny, Mo! :-B

Dr. Maureen said...

Who is that up there?