Dr H has been bugging me to have three old crowns from the ’80s replaced, so I did two today (will do the third late next year). What an experience. I’ve had enough 90-minute appointments there to know what it takes to put in a crown or two. But this time, he had to take off the old ones. Holy hell, I think he used the dentist’s version of a jackhammer. It all seemed like a lot longer than 90 minutes.
Toward the end, he said, “I’m going to put the temporary crowns in, but I have to seal your gums around them because they go below the gumline.” I know that crown go below the gumline, but this sealing thing was new. He said, “I’ll give you a little more Novocaine along the edges of your gums, but you won’t feel that” (I was already full up on the stuff) “and then I’ll use electrical pulses to seal the gums.”
I said okay — what do I know? More to the point, what choice did I have? So he gave me more Novocaine, then said, “This little pad goes under your shoulder,” and slipped a small, thin pad under my shoulder. Hmm. The pad had a wire attached to it. Hmmmm. I frowned. My eyes narrowed. When Pickle got her warts removed, Dr Fitch had been telling me she’d had to lay Pickle down on a special pad so she didn’t get a shock from the electric burning-off of the warts. So there I was, about to get my gums seared, not sealed.
So he does this, and I smell a very slight waft now and then of damp, burning flesh. Gag. But this kind of appointment involves a lot of weird smells: medicinal, mostly, but also the occasional other mysterious, unidentifiable smell. This smell was of the latter category, but it didn’t take long to realize I’d been hoodwinked into having my gums burned off at the edges for some nefarious purpose.
Then he does the rest of it all: cementing, polishing, etc.
During the whole appointment, I feel like it’s taking forever — really, longer than usual. Maybe halfway through, I had asked him if everything was going okay, because he kept stopping every few minutes for maybe 30 seconds at a time. He said yes, it’s going wonderfully, and that he’s just stopping now and then to give me a break because this is a bit tougher than usual.
The appointment turned out to be about 80 minutes. During a 90-minute appointment, I often get bored and sleepy. This time, I was bored, sleepy, and wondering if it was ever going to end — ever. I think the mini jackhammer had a lot to do with that. There were pieces of old crown flying everywhere, even up my nose. I actually heard a couple pieces pinging off of metal objects in the room (the tray, etc.).
So I go back in three weeks to have the new, permanent crowns put in. That’s just a 40-minute appointment, which will seem like 20 minutes compared to this one.
Finally getting up from the chair, I said to Dr H, “That thing with the ‘sealing’ the gums — that’s new to me. That was weird.”
Dr H is a very mellow guy with a wonderfully soothing, melodic voice. Pretty much nothing fazes him. He says, “Oh, we do it all the time.”
“Yeah, well, in all these years, you never did that to me. And, I dunno what all this is about sealing them — you cooked them.”
He gets this reluctant grin on his face, which translates exactly to: We don’t say we’re going to burn your gums with electrodes, because then you would leap from the chair and run screaming.
To that, I reply, “Uh-huh. Yup. You burned them. You seared them. That was gross.“
His grin is huge now. “Okay, well…”
I grin back at him as best I can because the left side of my face has detached itself from my skull and may be on the back of my head for all I know, thanks to Novocaine. I really have no idea what my face is doing, but I know he’s used to that. The hygienist is giggling as she’s cleaning up all the stuff that was flying around the room out of my mouth. Dr H and I start to walk out of the room to the front desk. He had asked me at the beginning if the music was okay — there was some ’60s station on, which I could very much have done without, but I wanted to hear him sing along to it under his breath as he worked (as usual), and I wasn’t disappointed.
So I said, “You know… If the music had been different, this could have been a Marilyn Manson video.”
We’re walking down the hall. He’s musing. “Marilyn Manson… Marilyn — oh! For a minute there, I thought you meant Charles Manson!” We crack up, but I’m thinking: Yeah, that too, maybe. He grins again. “I thought you were insulting me.”
At the front desk, he tells Kathy when the next appointment should be, pats me on the shoulder as always — with a slight affectionate squeeze — and wishes me a great Thanksgiving. He walks back down the hall, shaking his head and laughing to himself: “Marilyn Manson… Marilyn Manson…”
On the way home, I’m thinking how it’s been at least 20 years he’s been my dentist, and as for a happy Thanksgiving, I am so very thankful for him. As a child, I was going to dentists in the ’60s and early ’70s who were the Conan the Barbarian of dentistry (blood on the walls: literally, not figuratively). Dr H has put up with me since the beginning, when I was a whimpering, cowering, crying, scowling, hissing wreck each time I went there. How he got through our first several years without kicking me to the curb is a mystery to me.
He truly is one of the Beautiful People — in the best sense