A Visit To The Dental Nazi
A Fairy Tale
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 5/4/03
Thursday I went to a new dentist, near work in downtown Minneapolis, for the 1st
time since switching jobs last year. Having regularly gone for checkups
throughout my life Iíve witnessed the metamorphosis of the profession from
late 1960s old-fashioned machinery to the ultra-high tech gadgets of today.
Still, last Thursdayís experience was something I was unprepared for. Yes,
there have been dental offices Iíve not liked before- but never had I
encountered something so bizarre. Let me just straightforwardly relate my
experience & you tell me if this has ever happened to you.
I sign in & have to wait about 12 minutes before being seen- nothing new; doctors & dentists are notorious for this practice- it softens the patient up & makes them more malleable to the dentistís will. I get in the chair & have the hyperactive dentist & his female dental trainee hovering over me. 1st, he feels my jaw (or, rather, massages it quite weirdly) & tells me I have residual TMJ Syndrome- he offers to operate. I tell him my jaw has not hurt since my teen years. He seems disappointed, & resumes his examination- including feeling my neck muscles & offering up some more pseudo-techno jargoning. Then he finally starts his inspection of my teeth & starts calling off each tooth by #, barking instructions for how each tooth should be labeled. I have a handful of old fillings, & my last checkup- to a laid-back old Japanese dentist last year- resulted in a clean bill of health. However, weíve all been to these overzealous types of dentists before- they wanna drill at the slightest hint of a problem. So, after the inspection he claims Iíve got 2 or 3 possible cavities + an old filling that has cracked- it was, Bah!, 1980s style silver alloy filling! Now, there are new ceramic alloys that are much better, dammit! Then he asks about my front upper left tooth- which is a crown, from when my childhood pal Ricky Gerhardt accidentally crashed his bike in to mine, sent me flying over a parked car, & cracked my tooth on hitting the metal curb. Then he takes a camera on the end of along rod-like device & I can see live photos of my teeth- thereís some plaque- yellowy gunk- about the base of some of my teeth. The dentist reminds me of a man who was a next door neighbor of my familyís when I was a child. He was obviously enthralled with this gadget. How it helps is beyond me, but itís cool. So rapt by his toy is the dentist that he snaps some photos, then shows off its ZOOM device. He zooms in on some of the plaqued areas & I get an up close view of my disgusting oral orifices at about 20-30x normal size. I am not enthralled but the Dental Nazi (címon, you know the Seinfeld reference!) commands me to LOOK, for my own good, for the sake of self-knowledge, at his computer screen. So rapt with his goodies is the DN that as he pokes about my maw he is oblivious to where heís shoving the damned thing. Regardless, I am yet another mere sufferer of proto-cavities, dental pre-scum, & other nasties I never imagined existed. I indulge his wishes but am perturbed.
Next up for check up are my gums- a check for gingivitis. So Doc Nazi pulls out 1 of those pointed, curved metal instruments used to scrape plaque, shouts some #s to the assistant re: the tensility (or some such thing) of my gums, then decides to test for inflammation- to see if my gums bleed. So he uses the sharp point of the scraper to literally dig in to my gums, causing them to bleed. It hurts, & he repeats it 5 or 6 more times. I respond that of course my gums will bleed if you prick them with something sharp- what does that prove? The DN was not amused. I actually thought, for a moment, that he might have leeches in the back room, or subscribe to the old bleeding for healing approach.
He summons in another female assistant to take me to another room, where I will be X-rayed & have my teeth cleaned. Now, the most amount of X-rays Iíve ever had of my mouth at 1 time were 5 or 6. It hurts to bite down on those bite wing doodads. This time, Iím given 28- yes, 28 X-rays! Then she scrapes my teeth. She wants to brush them, but since an hour has passed, & Iíve got to return from my lunch hour, I refuse & say Iíve got to skip it. She summons back the DN. Iíve long since resolved that this is my 1st & last trip to the DN. In July I will become a state, not county, employee & will have a new dental plan. When I relayed that Iíll need the DN to send the X-rays, photos, & info to my new dentist (who I said I preferred to do all the dental work) the DN looked as if Iíd genuinely betrayed him- his smile frowned, his shoulders slunk, & he walked away from me.
As I recall the experience I wonder what the DN is doing at this moment: as his head lays upon the pillow, he stares relentlessly up at his dental chart tacked to his ceiling. As he nods off into Slumberland that old dream of being Periodontal Man returns. He vanquishes tartar, plaque, gingival infections, cavities, etc. with an ease. But, now, there is something in the distance. It is something the DN- er, I mean Periodontal Man- has never encountered. He quickly signs on to his laptop, punches up- but wait! The laptop has crashed, PM is alone to battle the encroaching dental terror. But, he has prepared for years for just this sort of encounter. He is steeled. He is primed. This is HIS time! As the beast, the thing, approaches, PM whips out his-
I told you all it was a fairy tale.
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