I’ve discovered a new mathematical formula today.
Take the number of years between your dental cleanings and multiply it by most annoying number you know; maybe, 97,653 or some other odd, non-prime numbered jerk, and there’s the answer to the question, “How many times will I be lectured about my flossing and lack of dental visits by this hygienist?”
Do I understand that the dentist is important and that I should floss? Yep. Just like I know I should exercise and eat more vegetables. This is knowledge that the majority of us all know, but unless we find motivation that actually matters to us personally, it’s always easier to skip visits, avoid all the bloody gums, and just give the place a call when you get a toothache or a cavity.
The problem is, I haven’t had any problems with my teeth. Sure, I can tell they needed a good cleaning, but the ol’ dependable ivories have been cavity-free and there have been zero toothaches or sensitivities that have been nagging at me to take action.
Yet, here I am. Armed with an HSA account and ready to be a responsible grown up! I make my kids go to the dentist so damn it, I’m finally going to go too! I called back in November to schedule a cleaning. It’s now August and after having to do the whole “X-rays and dentist-gum-poking-pocket torture” back in April, I’ve finally been given the green light to come in.
New-to-Me Hygienist: Hi, I’m (some name I’ve already forgotten because I was too distracted by her lash extensions and super black eye liner that made her look like she was getting ready to be Betty Boop for Halloween.) My sister, (another name I recognized but have already deleted from my brain) had actually been your hygienist here a long time ago.
Actual-Me Response: Oh yeah?
Internal-Me Response: Are you freaking kidding me? Your sister was THAT hoochie-hygienist? Um, yeah. I remember her. She asked my then-husband if he’d be interested in sketching her topless for a present for her boyfriend. (He declined.) Yeah. I remember her. Thanks for the heads up that she was your sister cause that whole “My last hygienist wanted to take her top off for my ex” could have been a logical conversation piece for us. Now I know we can skip it. Are we done here yet and should I expect you to be just as weird?
Sister-Hygienist: Wow. It looks like you haven’t been here since 2009! That’s like…(pauses to count to almost double-digits in her head) EIGHT YEARS! Why has it been so long?
Actual-Me Response: Oh, you know. Life. I went through a divorce, I didn’t have dental insurance, and instead I focused my resources on making sure my kids went to the dentist regularly. Also, I really hate the dentist. For real. I am wishing I was at that dental place where they put you to sleep right now. I mean, I’m sure you’re a very nice person but…I hate this.
Internal-Me Response: Did she not read the patient notes about me where I already shared all of this with the dentist in April? Oh crap. Did he put the part in where I asked, “Hey, not to be weird, but is that old flirty-hygienist still working here? It was kinda weird that she asked my ex to sketch her naked. Can I not see her for my cleaning?” (He assured me she didn’t work there anymore). It’d be really awkward if he had put that in those notes. Maybe I don’t want this new girl to read them.
Raccoon-Eye Lady: Do you floss?
Actual-Me Response: Nope. Well, not unless there’s something in my teeth. Or right before I go to the dentist. I actually flossed over the weekend.
Appalled Hygienist: It’s really important that you floss. It’s also really important to visit the dentist regularly. You should try really hard to do both of those.
Actual-Me Response: Mmm. Hmm. ::offers a closed lip smile::
Internal-Me Response: Lady, I’m freaking thirty-seven years old. Do you honestly think I don’t know the importance of flossing or visiting the dentist? Are there cameras or recording devices in here? Are you not paid your full paycheck unless you give patients that spiel?
Annoying-Hygienist: OK, since it’s been SOOOOO long since you’ve been here and you obviously don’t want to be here (Do I look that freaked out or are you just sensing my annoyance with your childish lectures?) I’ll try and be really gentle but I want to warn you that it’s probably going to be sensitive on those gums since you aren’t flossing regularly.
Actual-Me Response: Yep. I imagine so.
Internal-Me Response: If I have to hear about my flossing and non-visits one more time, I’m going to lose my shit. How can I get her to just stop talking?
Actual-Me Response: Hey, would you mind if I put in my headphones and listened to some music on my own? I think I’d like to just kinda, tune out, you know?
Wide-eyed hygienist: Oh! Sure!
::I put in my headphones and turn on the music::
Same Tooth Lady: She starts asking me some random question about how old my kids are and where they go to school. She obviously must think her voice has magic powers that allow it to permeate through ear buds, the rocking tones of HAIM that I’m blasting into my ear canals in an attempt to cover up the incoming dental scrapings. I fumble through through the layers of spit-bib and ruffles of my dress while also struggling to see through the darkened glasses that she’s put on my eyes to protect me from “all that plaque you have that I’ll be cleaning off”. I hit pause.
Actual-Me Response: I’m sorry. What was that?
Oblivious Hygienist: I said, “What school do your kids go to?”
Fast forward about 40 minutes toward the end of the appointment. My body is like a human rainbow in the posh dental chair, yet the only contact I have with the supple leather-ish material is the back of my head and the back of my heels.
I’ve managed to hear her “close down” commands on the suck-straw through the wight-screeching death-sounds of the water-needle plaque-cannon. It’s like a pissed off bat got lost inside my mouth instead of its nice little, cave-home. It shrieks and bumps into me and continues to draw blood, while all I can do is hold still and just pray it all ends quickly.
I turn off my music because honestly, what’s the point? She’s going to talk to me and nothing–NOTHING–can protect me from her lectures.
Nerve-Poker: I’m going to floss you now.
Actual-Me Response: (My jaw closes awkwardly after being open so long and I feel like I got punched in the face.) Yup.
Ridiculous Woman in Scrubs: Do you know how to floss?
My mouth is open wide but my eyes are, thankfully, closed. She can feel the sigh of my breath leaving me, but is saved from the exaggerated eye roll that I wouldn’t have been able to hide from my face.
Clueless Cleaner: OK, so you do this: You get floss and put it between your hands like this. And then you go between the teeth, alllllll the way down to the gum line or else it won’t work as well. Then you get UNDER the teeth on either side.
Internal-Me: Oh my word. This is really happening. This lady *actually* thinks she will be the one to change my flossing habits. She’s coming at me with her floss-evangelism as if her holy mission is changing my dental habits for good.
IF ONLY I’D KNOWN! What’s that, sister-hygienist? YOU floss all the time, even in the car? Gross. But, hallelujah! You’ve saved me from my wanton sugar-bug ways and now and forever more I shall be a child of the holy Floss. Here, see me as I rise to take the blessed communion of Listerine and remember all the gross things you’ve just scraped off my teeth as I obediently swish and rinse.
Dental Dummy: You know, you have really pretty teeth. You just need to floss and come to the dentist regularly.
Internal-Me ::Nose sighs:: Thank God my mouth is full of Listerine.
Appointment Booking Lady: Let’s see…we can schedule you for your next cleaning but your hygienist isn’t available then. Is that OK?
Actual-Me Response: Yep. That will be fine.