Your first question is why. It's a fair question, one I asked myself about ten minutes into the ordeal. One answer is guilt. When it gets to be four years between appointments you start to worry that there might be something going on in there that you should know about. Like oral cancer. Which brings me to the real reason I went: fear. Specifically, fear of death and of spending a great deal of money all at once. Fear is a fine motivator. And the logical part of my brain said something like, "You know, Murph, the longer you put off going, the greater the possibility that whatever problems you do have in there are going to get worse. And that means it's going to cost a lot more to fix them, or it might be too late for you to fix them at all and then you'll die. So maybe you should go."
I went. Sometimes I listen to myself.
I had to have x-rays. You'd think this would be the easy part. I did too. But I have a really bad gag reflex. Whenever anyone tries to jam something down my throat that isn't designed to go down my throat, I gag. Crazy, I know. So the dental hygienist almost got barfed on. Three times.
That over and the vomit remaining in my stomach, she proceeded to show me my hard-earned x-ray results. They were surprisingly good. I was expecting the news to be something like, "You have oral cancer," or "we need to pull some teeth," or "you need a few root canals," so when she said, "See these pointy, shard-like things here and here and here and here and here? That's tartar."
Tartar? I laugh at tartar. I mock it in my dreams. I make fun of its spelling and mispronounce it on purpose. Tar-tar.
"We'll do a cleaning today and then another in a few weeks."
Say what? I have to come back? Because of tar-tar? But how can this be?
She started cleaning. I've cleaned things before (The wife may disagree , but really, I have). I've cleaned dishes (okay, not very often), and I've cleaned my car. I've cleaned our hot tub (once) and I clean myself nearly every day. The act usually involves water, some soap, and maybe some gentle scrubbing. This lady obviously had a different understanding of the term. Because never have I "cleaned" something by taking a metal prong and scraping the holy hell out of it for forty minutes. That's not cleaning, that's abuse, brother.
When she was finally done torturing me (I gave up nothing!), the dentist came in. As far as I can tell, the hygienist does all the work and the dentist counts the teeth. I think I could be a dentist. He counted, said some stuff I didn't understand (he's Asian), and then the hygienist said I was going to have to have two cavities filled.
Cavities? There had been no mention of cavities. I almost threw up three times and they couldn't tell I had cavities until the dentist counted my teeth with his bare eyes and a little pointy thing?
So I made the second appointment. It's over Christmas vacation. And I learned some lessons:
1. It's better to be a dentist than a dental hygienist. Unless you're a sadist or can't count.
2. Don't make fun of tartar. It will have its revenge.
3. Cleaning teeth is not the same as cleaning other things. It hurts more.
4. X-rays are nothing compared to the discerning eye of a good dentist.
5. Going to the dentist sucks. Actually, I already knew that. So consider this one a lesson reaffirmed.