Torture tools from the middle ages?

I hate going to the dentist. And the only thing worse than seeing the dentist is seeing the hygienist. It was my turn in the torture chair yesterday. And frankly, by the end of the visit, I thought for sure I’d be leaving with my teeth in my pocket.

We all know the moment… when you sit back in the chair and the lady puts that ugly bib around your neck. She engages you in small talk to try to calm your nerves… “How are you?” “Gosh, has it been six months already?” “I love your sweater.”  You force a smile because you know there’s no way she’d even mention your sweater if you just happened upon her in the mall or at the grocery store. Why don’t they just say what they know is true, like “You must be a sucker for punishment.” or “Boyyy is this gonna hurt…”

Then she cheerily says, “Well, I’ll just tilt you back now.” And then you start your backward descent to the floor. Back, back, back, down, down, down I went. I was sure I was eye level with her shoes at this point, and I know for certain that my head was much lower than my feet. I could feel my sinuses drain into my brain. She hands me those ridiculous sunglasses to put on so that the overhead lamp doesn’t hurt my eyes. Now, I know the 80s are making a comeback, but the pair of sunglasses were like something out of Top Gun. I looked more ready to be piloting a fighter jet than getting a cleaning. And I’m not entirely convinced that the lamp doesn’t double as a camera. I wonder if these dental people give us ridiculous looking glasses so that they can all laugh at who looked the funniest at the end of the day. I can almost picture them sitting around drinking sugar-free margaritas and passing around the candid shots of each patient… “no, no, no Dr. Smith, I got the sheer winner right here…look at THIS guy!” And they all retreat into laughter.

Back in the torture chair, the hygienist begins her process by sticking the tiny mirror at the back of my mouth and scraping. She takes a quick look around, removes the tools and says, “Have you been flossing?” She says it in one of those annoying, speculating mother tones. The same tone my mom would use to say, “Have you finished all your homework?” I figured at this point, she already knew the answer. There was no point in lying. “No.” I reply.  She gives me a mother look again, “And why not?” I felt like I was 5 years old, being scolded for taking a cookie from the cookie jar. I look at her with big eyes, “Because flossing makes my gums angry.” She gives me a disapproving look. “No wonder you have so much plaque. Tsk, tsk.”  I open my mouth wide, even before being asked and if I were a dog, this would be the point I’d be rolling on my back trying to look cute and gain approval again. She starts with the scraping tool. I think I made her mad with my comment about angry gums because she’s scraping vigorously. I’d hate to see how she cleans stubborn stuck on spots in a pot. I look to my right, her shoes are nice, but those socks have gotta go.

After a few seconds, I taste blood. Yep. Lots of it. I can feel my gums getting angry. She drenches my mouth with the water spray tool, which must resemble one of those super-soaker water guns because my face is now wet, my groovy sunglasses are dripping and I’m sure I felt a stream of water hit my hair and left ear. Thank god for the glasses I’m wearing or my eye makeup would be toast.

She picked one tooth on the right side until it got so sore I was sure she had removed the tooth completely, then she toggled over to the other side and removed a tooth over there. Back and forth, back and forth, scrape, scrape, scrape, grind, pick, stab, then when she was satisfied with the fact she removed all the gum around each tooth she would drench me in water and then use the vacuum suction stick to rid my mouth of blood and any remaining gum tissue. She advised she was going to measure my gum density and jammed what felt like a hot needle into my gums. She did it for each and every tooth. For once in my life I wished I only had one tooth.

I thought she was finished when I caught a glimpse of her pushing the little tray away that contained the tools of torture. Turns out, she only pushed the tray around so she had a full 360 degrees of elbow room when she was ready to floss. She went at my teeth and gums with that floss like my mouth was an excavation site. Surely there were fossils, or diamonds, or even crude oil under there somewhere. She commented that my gums were showing signs of receding. No kidding. If there weren’t receding before today, they sure were after this because I’m sure the floss was cutting down to my jaw bone. That is to say, it was cutting through any tissue that was dumb enough to still be holding on against such a vicious oral attack. I’ve seen people who do pottery cut their clay vessels from the pottery wheel with less force. My gums were throbbing. I envisioned they were pulsing, like in those cartoons when the character gets his thumb hit by a hammer and it turns red and starts pounding. That’s what my mouth felt like.

It was about 30 minutes before my hydraulic chair was raised and I was sitting upright again. I looked like a rockstar who had a rough night of partying and it was suddenly early the next morning at this point. My hair was all full and big from hanging upside down for the past half hour, my mouth was all swollen from the constant abuse, and my makeup was destroyed from the super-soaker water nozzle.

The dentist came in then, said something to me but I don’t really remember because I was concentrating on whether or not I had been drugged and how long I’d been there. Maybe it was due to all the blood that had drained to my head whilst I was reclined upside down, or maybe it was the incredible blood loss from the whole event that made me woozy, either way, she said something. Slash? No, just me after the dentist.I wondered then if she’d be laughing at me later because if I had my nose pierced and was wearing a necklace I’d be a dead ringer for Slash from G’n’R with my dark sunglasses and frizzy hair like it was. Either way, I was far from celebrity status.

She tilted me back slightly, stuck her gloved fingers in my mouth, murmured dental terms, pulled my upper lip up and over the top of my head before letting it snap back like one of those pull-type window shades. She did the same with my lower lip… except I think she tucked it under the bib I was wearing. She pressed on my bottom teeth, said something foreign to the hygienist and brought my lip back to its resting place. She gave me a pat on my shoulder and told me she’d see me in six months.

What's the difference between this lion and me after the dentist? I bite harder.

I took off my sunglasses and took a look at the little tray table. I was expecting to see my teeth neatly laid out on it  and was fully prepared to pick them up and take them with me. I stood up and smiled in the mirror on the wall. My throbbing gums looked like raw hamburger and my disposition was like that of a super pissed off lion. I felt like I’d been eating glass and that my teeth were like loose boards of a picket fence.

“And here’s your new toothbrush and some dental floss.” the hygienist says happily. “Be sure to floss regularly.”

I look at her, and through clenched teeth I said, “Yesssss… I will try to remember thatttttt.”