I finally faced one of my biggest fears a couple days ago. No, I’m not talking about bungee jumping or skydiving. Nor do I mean to suggest that I overcame my fear of public speaking. Incidentally, that’s the single biggest fear among adults with death coming in a close second. This means, of course, that at the next funeral you attend you’d actually rather be inside the casket than the person charged with giving the eulogy. Seems a bit strange to me but I digress. Anyway, the fear I conquered that day was far less serious. I went to the dentist.
Now I realize a few of you may be screaming, “You big wuss! You’re afraid of the dentist? What a pansy!”
To which I’d reply, “Yes, I am a tad bit worried about visiting scary Mr. White Lab Coat Guy, but not for the reason you may think.”
I don’t have any reservations whatsoever about pain—not physical at least. Besides, if any serious procedures are necessary, you can bet the first thing Dr. Feelgood is gonna do is jack you up on painkillers.
I’ve also hurt myself severely so many times growing up they gave me a frequent visitor card down at the local emergency room. Sadly, after getting the fifth little skull and crossbones punched out, the receptionist informed us that I was not actually entitled to a free visit. What I could get was two percent off any ridiculously overpriced item at the gift shop. It was a nice gesture anyway.
Needless to say, I’m no stranger to dealing with pain, so that’s not the issue. What had been bothering me was the irrational fear that the dentist (and everyone else in the office, including the patients still waiting in the lobby) would be laughing at my expense. And that would be just awful.
You see, I’d been putting off going to the dentist for a long, long time. It was on the to-do list but just never seemed to make it to the top. And the longer it took, the more I procrastinated. Deep down I knew it was inevitable. Sooner or later I was going to have to face the music. I am proud to say that day did come.
Now I do want to take a brief moment to pat myself on the back. I realize it took Shannon scheduling the appointment for me, driving me there, pulling me out of the car, and helping the dentist strap my arms and legs into the chair. But it was me who resisted the urge to clamp my chompers down on the gloved hand during the cleaning. And I didn’t. I wanted to. But I didn’t. Not even once. I’ll admit it may have had a little something to do with wondering where that sharp metal tip would’ve ended up but I’ll take the credit anyway. I’ve got to hold onto something positive from the experience.
Luckily the dental hygienist assigned to me had a great sense of humor. She cut up with me about not visiting in so long. And she hardly scolded me a bit about the current condition of my teeth. But I knew it wasn’t good when she turned her attention to the tartar.
“Close your eyes,” she said as she started chiseling away at my bottom teeth.
“Close my eyes?” I asked, “What on earth for?”
I soon realized she was simply trying to protect me from all the flying debris. With eyes clamped shut, my mind raced. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. “Are my teeth in that bad of shape?”
The short answer to that question was yes. Apparently, even though I brush pretty regularly, it’s not doing the trick. I’ve heard them say on television commercials that brushing alone is not enough. I thought they were just trying to sell more mouthwash and dental floss. But the truth is, they were right.
At this point, despite how things were going it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. I figured there would be some pretty serious challenges given the enormous gap between visits. But nobody was taunting me in the least. No scolding, finger pointing, or even a hint of name calling. Then the dentist walked in.
He opened my mouth wide with a mirrored device. Moving it around, he started dictating to the hygienist in techno-speak. And although I am not well-versed in their native tongue, I could tell by his tone that things had taken a turn for the worse. The smile had completely escaped her face. He then crossed his arms and turned his attention to me.
“Mr. Basham,” he began, “we are going to need to work very hard on how we take care of our teeth from here on out. This is very serious. We are going to have a deep cleaning done right away, extract two wisdom teeth, and we’re going to need to go by the store and get a Waterpik today. As soon as our gums recover, we’ll need to begin using this device along with a more structured approach to brushing.”
And the metal orthodontic brace I’ve had in my mouth since I was fifteen wasn’t helping matters either. The dentist strongly suggested we also have it removed immediately.
Judging by his use of language, this man was obviously very interested in assisting. I remember thinking, “Well at least he’s going to be there with me every step of the way to offer guidance. Shannon might not like him in the house every morning and night but I find a sense of comfort in the accountability aspect of it all.”
He concluded my scolding that day by turning me over his knee.
Leaving the office, I tucked my tail between my legs and went straight out to buy my new toy, ready to rid my mouth of scum for good. Not exactly the next electronic device on my wish list. However, desperate times require desperate measures.
I am now on a strict regimen of both brushing regularly (24 times a day, including nights, weekends, and the occasional holiday) and blasting away food particles with my brand-spanking-new jet-powered aqua blaster. I’ll admit one of the hardest adjustments for me was buying a new alarm clock every time one inexplicably broke itself against the bedroom wall. Getting up every hour to brush is harder than it sounds.
Besides that, things are working out great. I am proud to announce my dental recovery program is well underway. Now I’m just dreading that fateful trip to the doctor.
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