Health Care, Perfectionism, Possibility, Starting Over

Dental Chair Delight: Is it Possible?

I’ve decided to find delight at the dentist

Mostly, I take good care of myself.  I meditate almost every day, exercise several times a week, eat a diet heavy on greens, beans, and grains.  I don’t smoke or drink (coffee or alcohol).  Yet, when it comes to my teeth, I can be a bit of a slacker.  Perhaps this is because, despite a longstanding sweet tooth, I didn’t develop my first — and so far only — cavity-like problem until I was in my 30s, and it was so tiny that I didn’t even notice.  Only my dentist at the time, poking at my teeth with a metal pick, discovered a soft spot which he decided was a cavity.  I prefer to call it a cavity-in-training, or a pre-cavity, so as to not offend my otherwise hardworking enamel.

That dentist, whose office was in a grey historic clapboard house just blocks from Harvard University, had a British receptionist.  Her accent and crisp manner made scheduling a cleaning seem akin to arranging a meeting with Scotland Yard.  One hygienist from Eastern Europe barely cracked a smile and lectured me through pursed lips about the need to floss.  When she had completed the cleaning, the dentist came in to inspect her work.  I lay back, mouth gaping, as they discussed potentially problem teeth, each of which was assigned a letter and a number.  I tried not to drool or gag as they spoke in code and made notes in my file, seemingly oblivious that a human being was attached to the molars, canines, bicuspids and incisors.  The final indignity was a nausea-inducing fluoride rinse that I swirled in my mouth for 60 excruciating  seconds.  While I dreaded being there, I knew they were rigorous, if not anal, so I grimaced and bore it.

In Denver, my dentist’s office is on the garden level of a brick medical building.  The consultation rooms have a window at the top, and people entering can peer down at the examinees, reclining with mouths agape.  The hygienist wears colorful scrubs and sparkling jewelry.  The dentist has a wrinkly hide, as if he’s spent more hours in the sun than the office.  Sometimes he even grabs a snack between patients.  During my first visit I mistook the informality for ineptitude, the joviality as a kind of joke, even though the practice came recommended.   Soon after, I became acquainted with a former dentist who told me that unless you have problem teeth or gums, an annual cleaning would suffice.  So, I delayed my next visit until my teeth started to feel, shall we say, a bit scuzzy.  When I returned, they smiled, told me I had great teeth and reminded me to floss daily.  I was diligent for a time…and then slacked off.

Months later, I received a postcard to schedule my next appointment.  I used it as a bookmark and forgot about it.  When my toothbrush needed to be replaced, I bought a battery operated disposable with vibrating bristles.  Immediately, I noticed an improvement and thought I could postpone a cleaning for a few months.  Eventually, however, it was time to go back.  It had been long enough that, while I remembered the general location of the office, I had forgotten the dentist’s name and the exact address.  Luckily, I found the book in which I had stashed the postcard.

Despite my lengthy absence, the hygienist was cheerful rather than chastising.  Relieved, I complimented her on her magenta scrubs.  Soon, she donned magnifying goggles and got to work, her tools scraping loudly against my teeth.  I tried not to cringe.

“How are you doing?” she paused to ask.

I remembered The Art of Possibility and chortled, “Woo Hoo!  I’m having a great time.”

She laughed.

“That’s what others say during their welcome back cleaning.”

I couldn’t imagine my Cambridge dentist using such a phrase, let alone allowing a client to return if they didn’t appear like clockwork every six months.  Or maybe his Stasi-like assistants forced dental delinquents into straitjackets and administered a flossing so deep the poor souls would never forget.

When she was done, she gently reminded me to floss, and suggested an electric toothbrush.  The dentist came in to take a look and asked me how my teeth were.

“They seem to have survived my recent neglect,” I said.

He chuckled as he poked around, then pronounced my pearly whites to be excellent.  I expect that my next visit, after using my high-tech toothbrush, should be even more of a delight.


About ilona fried

Writer, Feldenkrais champion, Aikidoka and explorer of internal and external landscapes.


5 thoughts on “Dental Chair Delight: Is it Possible?

  1. Good read but unfortunately I have not been so lucky with my visits to dentists over the years……but have hope that this new one I found is so far the answer to all my dental issues…..

    Posted by doreenadamsmosaics | August 1, 2012, 7:52 pm
  2. Phew, I thought you were going to tell us that you had a cavity after you took the advice of your dentist acqaintance :). Sounds like you found a great practice!

    Posted by Cristin | August 5, 2012, 7:53 pm


  1. Pingback: Can a Mammogram be “Fun”? | à la carte spirit by ilona fried - October 2, 2013

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