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Tooth Decay Delay

by Stephen Lautens


April 11, 2003

My dentist is on the hunt for me.

We go through this every six months or so. The dentist’s chipper office manager starts trying to track me down to book an appointment. She calls and leaves messages at all my phone numbers - home, office, cell. I swear, if I walked by a phone booth on the street she’d be calling the number.

It’s all in a good cause, of course. When it comes down to it, I’m a big believer in dental hygiene. Look after your teeth and your feet, my dad used to say. You can tell a lot about a person by their smile and shoes. And the consequences of not looking after your teeth can be pretty ugly.

Still, the dentist is the one place I have to drag myself kicking and screaming twice a year. Long ago it was the job of my parents, but the bad thing about being grown up is you don’t have your parents to bug you into doing the right thing anymore. You’re on your own to make those unpleasant adult decisions.

Of course I don’t make them easily. I always seem to reschedule my dentist appointment a minimum of two times before I finally get my behind planted in the dentist’s chair. It’s my token protest against being forced to act like a responsible adult.

I think I also frighten the dental assistant a little. As soon as I open my mouth, the rest of my body goes paralytic. You could iron clothes on my stomach.

Unfortunately, my face doesn’t do the same. My face has always had a mind of its own, which caused all sorts of problems in school. I’m constantly making faces without even knowing it. Apparently the expressions that cross my face while in the dentist’s chair are quite alarming, since the hygienist feels like she has to stop every once in a while and ask me if I’m okay. I saw my own reflection once, and my eyes had the same darting and desperate look as a cornered squirrel looking for the shortest route to the door.

My problem is I just don’t want to be in the same room while my teeth are being cleaned. The poking, scraping and general gouging sends shivers down my spine and my fingers into the armrests. For the truly wimpy, there are even dentists who will put you right to sleep for routine dental work, although I’m not in that league yet. I’ll settle for the remote to the TV they’ve recently attached to the ceiling.

I did opt for the total knock-out when it came time to have my wisdom teeth out - a decision I managed to put off for only 23 years. The being put to sleep option was an extra $200, but I figured I’ve blown that on much stupider things. The idea of being awake and watching - even if numb from the eyebrows down - while someone yanks my teeth literally out from under my very nose made me reach for my checkbook without question. And you can barely see that footprint on my forehead anymore.

But when all is said and done, it’s important to act like and adult and look after your teeth. Plus my dentist still has three payments left on her Porsche.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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