June 11, 2008

I Have a Feeling It's Going to Be a Bad Day

It's gloomy here. It's all sorts of cloudy, dark and, despite the fact it's sixty or so degrees, chilly. Bleh. (Oh, and it just started raining! Wonderful!) For every good day we get, like Monday, when it was seventy-two and beautiful, we, apparently, are doomed to five crab-monster-inducing days. Sigh. I've really had it with this state and its fargin' weather.

But that's not the reason why I think it's going to be a bad day. Sure, it's an omen, but omens only have weight if you give it to them. I choose not to. No, it's going to be a bad day because I have my first dental appointment in, oh, five years or thereabouts later this afternoon.

I am dreading this.

I've recently decided that it's time I start getting other things, things not related to the rest of my medical woes taken care of. Like my teeth. And my eyes. Both of which have been somewhat neglected in terms of receiving checkups over the last little while. I've been toying with the notion of going to the dentist since last summer, but decided that would be a bad idea while I was immunocompromised from the chemo. I didn't really need a mouth infection on top of all my other maladies. I kept putting it off because, really, the last thing I want is to spend more time in medical offices, waiting for a doctor to show up. But the time for avoidance has passed, and so, today, I embark on a visit to our dentist to get my teeth x-rayed and cleaned. Woot! {insert lackadaisical pumping of fist into air here} They've even set aside an extra half-hour for me because it's been such a long time since I've been in. Joy!

I was actually surprised when I called in to make the appointments for the husband and myself and found out they actually still had our charts readily available. The lady I spoke with pulled them right off the shelf as I was chatting with her. Okedokey, then. I figured they would have long ago been shelved in some archival facility, but, no, that was not the case. Again, joy!

I really do despise having my teeth messed with. Well, let me correct that. It's more the thought of having my teeth messed with that I despise. When I actually get in the chair, I'm as docile as a lamb. I'm used to it, in other words. How could you not be after my childhood and adolescence, when not a month passed without me firmly ensconced in either my dentist's, my orthodontist's, or oral surgeon's respective chairs. I don't know how my mother stood driving me around to all these various appointments. Yea, verily, my mouth was screwed up. Too many teeth and a small-ish jaw do not make for a pretty smile. So a plan was hatched early on: teeth would be pulled to make room for the others to spread out. Then would come the full-set of braces, accompanied with monthly wire replacement/tightenings and rubber bands (which I got very good at shooting across the family room at one of my brothers while we were watching tee vee, just because I knew it would gross him out.)

I had to visit the dentist a lot during these times simply because I had weak enamel at that point in time and had a lot of cavities. I could stand the orthodontist and the oral surgeon: they were both decent guys. I hated the dentist, however, mainly because he started off as such a nice guy when I was little, but really got nasty as I---and he---grew older. My mother hates him, too, because he was the one to pull the first four teeth that needed to go. I saw him coming at me with the pliers (and I swear to God they were pliers---the kind you have in your long-unused, dusty toolbox in the basement) and started screaming my head off. I was six or seven-years-old at the time, and he would not allow my mother to come in and hold my hand. She could hear me screaming from the waiting room and has never forgiven him for this. In fact, the only time I remember my mother bribing me when I was a kid was because of this guy---and that's saying something because my mother did not rely upon bribery to get us to do things; she's above that. Yes, sometimes, there were rewards afterwards, but never did she actually coax you into something. You did it, because you were supposed to and that was that. Anyway, the plan was to pull two teeth one week, then I was to come back and have the other two pulled the next. I didn't want to go to the second visit, obviously, and Mom knew it. She didn't want me to go to the second visit, but she knew it had to be done, so she took me to King's, a restaurant near our house that no longer exists, and bought me lunch out, a big treat, as a bribe before we went to the dentist's. I barely remember our conversation, but I do remember her telling me that I needed to be brave and that it would be over with before I knew it. It must have worked, too, because I don't remember the second episode being nearly as bad as the first. I don't remember the second episode at all. After that, when I needed teeth pulled, I went to the oral surgeon and was sedated properly.

But the dentist was still a thorn in my side. He regularly yelled at me and told me not to be such a baby whenever I flinched as he came at me with a shot of novocaine. It's not like I screamed or anything, but rather expressed normal hesitation at a needle being brandied near my mouth and he couldn't freakin' take that. He had absolutely no patience; he was one of those doctors who hated having to actually take care of people whose mouths were not in perfect shape. I put up with it because my father had expressed that we went to this particular guy because he was a member of the parish, and my father liked him, hence to keep up good, neighborly relations, the dentist's word was law and I was to take whatever he threw at me. (For my red-headed sister, this meant putting up with a very bad sunburn she received in his chair because the lighting was faulty.) The final straw was when I was about to go off to college, and had a very bad cavity. He screamed at me for a good five minutes or so before getting on with the business of filling said cavity. After that, I never went back to him. He was an asshole and I said as much to my father when I told him I was never seeing the guy again. My mother was completely on my side, and when I had my wisdom teeth removed a year later, I subjected myself to the whims of Creighton's dental school, rather than going back to him.

Ever since, dentist visits have been sporadic. Whenever various dentists ask me why I don't keep up with regular visits, I throw these horror stories at them and, surprisingly, they seem to understand, even if they would like me to visit more often. Our current dentist is a really good person, and I like her a lot. She gets in, she gets out, and she chides very little---she leaves that to the hygienists, but I can fight them off. So, it's time to visit. I need to chat with her about how menopause is going to affect my teeth. She doesn't know about the cancer diagnosis, and it's time to talk with her about things. I've gotten a lot of information about how this could possibly affect my bones, and have received recommendations regarding calcium intake, to keep them strong, lest I lose density and start up with the osteoporosis, but I haven't a clue as to what it means for my teeth. It's time to find out.

God willing, there will be no cavities, and I will be set up for an appointment six months from now. We'll just have to see what happens. Then, after this is done, it's off to the ophthalmologist to work on the eyes, which have also been neglected! Woohoo!

This health care business is tiresome.

Posted by Kathy at June 11, 2008 09:46 AM | TrackBack

Don't do it!

I went years and years without visiting the dentist. Finally, I started up again two or three years ago. First they yelled at me about flossing and the eeeeevils of most "whitening" toothpastes. Then they yelled at me because I didn't want a wisdom tooth yanked that's never bothered me in the least. Then we got into a fight because I had to cancel a couple of appointments owing to work deadlines. Finally they said that I had to come in, but that I couldn't come in unless I paid them in advance.

I stormed off in a huff after that and haven't been back.

Just isn't worth it.

Posted by: Robbo the Llama Butcher at June 11, 2008 10:37 AM

I just returned from the dentist's office and sat down at the computer. As soon as I read the title I was ready to concur because I chipped a molar at breakfast this morning...then I began reading your post...

It's been a freakishly suck day...

Posted by: Christina at June 11, 2008 10:45 AM

Robbo, I'm with you. Even though Kathy has set up an appointment for me as well, which is yet to take place. While Kathy may like this dentist, all I get out of her is slavering greed. This takes the form of derision at the fact that I have all four of my wisdom teeth, and they're all out and healthy. I say greed, because of the obvious kick-back involved if she should ever get to set up the appointment with "just the best" oral surgeon she knows to have them removed. In fact, the last time I got the speech about having them removed, she didn't even try to make a recommendation, she just presumed that I'd let her set an appointment with an oral surgeon without giving me any information about them at all.

I brush, I floss. The hygienist's job is to clean my teeth (hence the root word HYGIENE) and the dentist's job is to make sure there is no damage or disease - and if so, to fix it. No lectures, no lifestyle coaching, and no god damned sales pitch about removing a part of my body that is completely healthy, thank you.

Posted by: MRN aka "The Husband" at June 11, 2008 02:20 PM
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