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The Story of One Mouth

Aug 17, 2007
This one's for the dental assistants. In your career, do you sometimes wonder what the public perception of the dentist office experience is? Yearning for a subjective insight, but know the patients you see are too polite to tell what they really think? Let's try an experiment: we'll pull one random friend of the author who's getting dental work and ask them to log the diary of their treatment. Herein, the point of view from the chair:

Day One: The dentist gives me an examination and gasps in horror. Xrays follow. Why is it, no matter how many mouths he's seen, I always feel like mine is the worst yet?

Day Two: Teeth cleaning. The oral hygienist polishes my teeth as if baptizing them for the ritual to follow. I come back later in the day for my first root canal. The dentist gleefully notes that I will be in his office for days at a time. All day long I'm hearing a drill with the "Sunny" radio station in the background.

Day Three: Learned my lesson from the radio station and brought my iPod today. I survive a gum line molar extraction and the completion of yesterday's root canal. I cannot drink from a straw nor smoke, and I must rinse with salt water, lest my wound become infected. I'm not out of the office before I want a cigarette.

Day Four: The dentist starts on my lower right molars. Another root canal today. I watch as they vaccum the decay out of my molar. The liquid that comes out is yellow and then brown. Ugh!

Day Five: One root canal today on the other molar and then two of my front teeth get scraped and resin attached as a temporary measure before their crowning in December. I smile with half my mouth for the rest of the day, the other half being dead nerves and Novocaine. I feel like I need an interpreter to follow me around and explain what I half-drolled and half-mumbled to people who can't understand what I'm saying.

Day Six: My dentist's office assistant calls at seven in the morning to cheerfully inform me that they can work on me today. I resist the temptation to hide under the covers. It's only a post build-up.

Day Seven: Five teeth get a fantastic amount of attention today. A post build-up in a molar, some restoration work on two front teeth, a filling on a bicuspid, and build-up work on another bicuspid. On my way out, the office assistant hands me appointment slips for two different dentists. Yes, my mouth is in so much trouble that it's going to take several specialists to fix it. At dinner, chewing doesn't hurt, but the ice water is murder on this morning's work.

Day Eight: Short day today. Just some restoration work on my canines. Actually, I have no idea what happened. I've been zoning out. For all I know they installed a microwave in there.

Day Nine: I take a short lunch (soup and yogurt!) and then head across town to another dentist's office for a wisdom tooth extraction. This one they had to saw off the crown of the tooth, pull that part out, and then work the two roots out separately. I felt very little pain, but a lot of pressure. It took an hour. As the dentist removed it, piece by piece, he'd display it, sanguine and glistening, above me with a victorious grin. It feels like I have been socked in the jaw for an entire weekend. When people ask what happened to me, I tell them I insulted a crowd of Hell's Angels.

Day Ten: I've begun to show up at the office before the dentist. I feel a small bit of ownership there: my room, my chair, my drill, my tortured screams. Today I received three fillings, and we're not using gold. Not on this bill!

Day Eleven: Some restoration and filling work on my lower front teeth. It is almost painless compared to previous work. My toes actually uncurled.

Day Twelve: My five day vacation from dental misery is over, and it's back to work. I have an early appointment for a root canal with my fourth dentist in as many weeks. He's a gentle man, older, and his waiting room has many books and pamphlets containing bible stories. He said I had bad teeth due to bad genetics, which I agreed with. I'm so glad to have it acknowledged that it's not my fault I have teeth like a bramble forest. Right after my morning appointment, I rush over to my first dentist's for a post and core on the same tooth. Ick. At the end of the day, I'm cashing in prescriptions from both dentists for different pain pills, my logic being that I'm out of pain medication, and, seeing as how I saw two dentists today who were both doing horrible things to the same tooth, I might as well refill my prescription twice.

Day Thirteen: A simple, early morning appointment for another root canal. I'm still shaking off the fog of morning and Vicodin when I leave, so I don't remember much, aside from talking about why HBO needs to bring back "Carnivale". I can drive on Tylenol-3. Tylenol-3 is my friend.

Day Fourteen: The Big One: I arrive at my regular dentist's office at seven thirty in the morning. Three quadrants of my mouth are worked on today. My morning is a blur of words I don't completely understand, even when they're spoken by me. A post and core is done on the root canal completed yesterday, then restoration and filling work on some front, lower right teeth, and then, as prelude to the grand finale, the dentist clears out some decay from an old root canal while pulling a rabbit out of my mouth and sawing his assistant in half. And then he tells me I need another wisdom tooth pulled. So, off to another dentist. While he's in my mouth, he does a crown lengthening. This tooth, seeing as how it's upright and would've grown in correctly anyway, comes right out, but it will still feel like I've been socked in the jaw for the next couple of days.

And this is pretty much the end. I have a couple more post-op appointments, which will most likely be uneventful, but that's about it. I'll go home and get the rest of my wisdom teeth removed, and then come back in a few months for crowns. My life for the next few months will not consist of anything at all related to the field of dentistry, and that's all right with me.
About the Author
Freelance writer for over eleven years.

Dental Scrubs Formal Wear Nursing Uniforms
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