Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday is Funday at the Dental School

This whole saga began around Halloween, when I shoved a piece of Trick-or-Treat candy into my pie hole and was rewarded with a dull ache in my teeth that didn't even go away when the last bits of caramel had been dissolved. I figured I had a cavity, and maybe should get it taken care of. In a move quite unusual for me, I called the Dental School and made an appointment. I'm the kind of person who would rather pull her own tooth than go let strangers poke around in there, but I couldn't tell which one was the offending chomper. Also my insurance doesn't cover dental, or self inflicted wounds. So the Dental School seemed like a good option.

Fast forward through to now, about six appointments into our interminable relationship. My student dentist, I'll call her Jennifer, is getting my upper right quadrant of teeth ready for root planing. If you don't know what that it, well, basically they clean the tartar off your teeth - under the gum line. I have been diagnosed with a teensy weensy case of periodontal disease, which I gather means I have a lot of tartar (thus justifying the 4 appointments necessary to do a "deep cleaning"), although no two supervising dentists in the whole time I've been going there have said the same thing about what it actually means.

Anyway, today's Qualified Educator, we'll call him Doctor Sharp, comes over and starts talking. He's telling Jennifer how important it is to sharpen her instruments. He also instructs her that if she isn't making her patient bleed, she isn't doing it right. (Yikes!) He talks for so long, the numbing agents that Jennifer shot into my mouth with a comically large hypodermic needle begin to wear off. That g/d needle makes me want to pee my pants, and I'm a champ at getting tattoos and donating blood. The first time she stuck the damn thing into my palate I involuntarily began to weep. The tears just started rolling out the corners of my eyes, and I think it shook poor Jennifer up a bit. We were both hesitant to give it a second go, but she told me Dr. Sharp was rumored to be rough and I really might need it. Since I was still a little bit numb, it wasn't that bad. But I think it may give me nightmares anyway - there is just something so disturbing about a needle going into the roof of my mouth. GAH!

After my second round of injections, and Jennifer's last little bit of root cleaning, Dr. Sharp comes back to check her work. And he sits down right next to me and starts sharpening the dental tools on a little whetstone. Schick, Schick, Schick... I hear that sound quite often at home, but that's because it's Keith sharpening his pocket knife. Even though these dentist tools have blades shorter than half an inch, the scrapey, grating noise is just as big as that of any Buck knife blade. The mental image forming in my head just isn't comforting at all!

I joke to Jennifer that she should sharpen her tools before the patient gets in the chair, as it is kind of unnerving. Dr. Sharp seems incensed, and proclaims that he sharpens his tools chairside all the time! He then proceeds to go back over my teeth with extreme prejudice. In the process of flipping the double ended tools around like some baton twirling majorette, he manages to catch one on my bottom lip - and man, it certainly was sharp. But he doesn't apologize or anything. Once he is finished, Jennifer hands me a damp paper towel and advises me to wipe the blood off my face, because Dr. Sharp evidently felt that my gums needed a serious shredding. So, that was really fun. And now every time I smile the cut on my lip splits back open. Way to go slicing up my kisser the day before Valentines Day, Dr. Sharp!

I do understand the importance of good oral hygiene, and I do appreciate the fact that the Dental School is just across town and prepared to provide care to me at a relatively low cost. But I have to say, it really sucks giving up my day off to get this taken care of, over and over and over again. I thought I would go in, get a filling, and be done. I'm on my sixth visit now (at roughly fifty bucks a pop) and there is at least one more root planing visit between me and my filling. One teacher thinks I need 3 restorations, while another thinks I need just one, and Jennifer thinks I need 2. How many does it take so I can eat Rollos with impunity again is all I want to know. So far they've tried to talk me into getting my perfectly fine wisdom teeth cut out - to which I said "NO," and now they want to fit me for a don't-grind-your-teeth night guard, which I keep telling them I don't need. Night time is the only time I don't grind my teeth, and it doesn't look like the appliance is something you can wear at work, so I really don't think it will be useful to me. I certainly don't want to pay $250 just so Jennifer can check it off of the list of things she needs to do before she can graduate.

She's nice and all, but I'm already donating so much time! I though about just not going back after Christmas break, but felt guilty. Most of the patients are retirees who have the time to spare, and every single dentist remarks on how great my teeth are. I kind of feel like I owe it to society, lending my mandibles to Jennifer for three hours every week so she can learn to be a good dentist and then pay it forward to the schoolkids of southern West Virginia by providing free dental care (which is what she did over Christmas break, which is one of the reasons why I like her).

Sigh. The perils of having 32 almost perfect teeth!


Prisoner of the Universe #2-16 said...

Dental school supervising Drs have never worked in the "real" world and have generally no bedside manners I am told.
Bravo, young one, for suffering for science.
Happy Valentine's day!

bnicholson said...

I enjoyed you post so much. Guess I identified with the angst. "Real" dentists are no better. If you get a good one, you pray they don't drop whatever insurance you might have that covers some paltry amount on the costs. I watch out for dentists with large hands. Hard learned lesson...

Bryan L. Smith said...

The last time one of the students stuck a needle in me, I saw red. Literally.
She actually hit the nerve directly and for a second there was a red flash and I saw the capillaries in my eyes, which I didn't think was possible. As painful as it was, the benefit of infecting directly into the nerve was that it went numb IMMEDIATELY. Besides that she was a wonderful dentist.