Sunday, March 23, 2014

smile, darn ya, smile!

My teeth have suffered the fate of a youth spent eating countless Snickers bars and infrequent visits to the dentist. My parents were not diligent in taking me for twice-yearly checkups and they didn't encourage nor enforce a proper tooth-brushing regimen. So, as an adult, I pay the price.

Various employer-issued insurance programs have dictated who my dentist would be. I have had to choose from a list of "in-network" names, purely based on the geographic proximity of their office to my house. I had no loyalty to any dentist and I usually only scheduled a visit when I was experiencing excruciating pain. Otherwise, out of sight out of mind.

As the years went on, the scenario playing out in my mouth didn't get any better. However, visits to the dentist did. Tandläkare is my current dentist. She has been for many years now. Tandläkare is my wife's cousin from Sweden and she is as sweet as the day is long. So, this week, when she was telling me how a reckless childhood of candy bars and poor hygiene has fucked up my teeth, it wasn't so bad. When she explained how she was going to fit me for a partial, yet removable, apparatus — one lined with replacement false teeth and spanning the roof of my mouth, she made it sound almost comforting.

A couple early hours before work, I found myself reclining in an adjustable chair, a paper bib across my chest protecting my shirt from any stray bits of enamel, dental adhesive and saliva. Tandläkare, the lower portion of her face obscured by a surgical mask, began filling a U-shaped piece of stainless steel with a pinkish goop. With the command of "Open wide," she shoved that thing into my mouth and issued another piece of instruction: "Bite down." I obeyed, and my teeth (the ones that are left) and gums were immediately engulfed in a thick, cold, foreign substance reminiscent of bathtub caulk (if one were to sink their teeth into bathtub caulk). I sat for several long, uncomfortable minutes with my teeth in a mini dental version of the forecourt of Graumann's Chinese Theater. Tandläkare tried to engage me in idle chit-chat, but gave up when my end of the conversation consisted only of grunts and throaty gurgles. Soon, the gloppy horseshoe was extracted from my maw. I was offered a mirror and damp cloth to wipe away any excess material that didn't find its way into my mouth.

Satisfied with the impression she got from her little arts-and-crafts project, Tandläkare dismissed me after a quick once-over with a dental pick and a mirror. (Granted, there's not a whole lot to look at in my mouth.) I will return in a few weeks at which time I will receive my new choppers.

Now, how am I going to pay for 'em? That's that part I don't like about going to the dentist!

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