Thursday 10.21.10

The Dental Hygienist.

So, I have been going to this dental place for the last 10 years. In that time the original dentist sold his business. The dental place went from local guy who had been here for years to part of some kind of conglomeration. Instantly, there was change. Most obvious was the high pressure sales tactics for extra dental products. Then there were a pile of subtle changes. The hygienists stayed the same, more or less, for a while. New fangled ideas started to pop up… eye protection for me, masks for them, crap loads of papers to “sign off” and more obvious timing conflicts. The dentists were never the same. There was a new guy, then he was gone and replaced by another guy or two and then these guys are gone and they have a new female dentist. The hygienists I’ve been comfortable having in my mouth over the past 10 years have moved on to be replaced with, well, some pretty scary stuff.

Before yesterday, my last check up was about 3 months ago. I don’t recall the waiting time but I do recall there was a waiting time – you know, beyond your scheduled time. Eh, shit happens and people run late. Of course, if it was me running late that’s a no-no. I was introduced to a brand new hygienist that day. She was an older woman of considerable size as well as muscular definition. Not that she was toned and firm and ready to pose for fitness competitions… more like a truck driver or longshoreman. Out the window went the concept of safety glasses. I recall the experience as being less than pleasant and that evening we discussed the idea of possibly looking for a new dentist. Ok, it was the dentist… maybe I was just being a big pussy about it.

Yesterday my appointment was at 9:40am. I received a computer generated reminder call a couple of days earlier. I arrived at the office at about 9:25 thinking that perhaps they would be able to get me right in and get to work. I could not remember what I was supposed to have in store for me – was it just a cleaning or did I need x-rays and/or other stuff. The receptionist (also new) said hello and informed me that I was early (yeah, I knew that) and that I was free to sit down and read a newspaper or magazine. Ok. I was the only one in the waiting area. I picked up a day old copy of The Wisconsin State Journal, read through that then the Cap times. While I was sitting there waiting I was listening to the music that was being pumped into entire building. Soft, mellow tones to keep you relaxed and in the dental mood I suppose. I remember as a kid Dr. McCool (Yep… his name was Van Dyke McCool and I am absolutely not shitting you one bit – the marble sign outside his office read V.D. McCool with the V.D. part really big) would listen to opera music. I figured it was because if he turned it up loud enough you would not be able to tell my screaming from what was coming out of the speaker. Maybe I would even hit some of those notes. His usual statement to me was “This is going to hurt you a lot more than it is going to hurt me.” And, he was not kidding about that at all. I also seem to recall him telling me something about not making him have to slap me back into the chair. Of course, this was a while ago and I may have a somewhat fuzzy memory.

My memory from yesterday is still fairly clear though and I remember listening to the mellow tones of Karma Chameleon by Boy George and Somebody to Love by Queen. This stuff is the new opera?

While waiting, a couple of people started to filter out of the examination rooms to set up their next appointment or complain about something or discuss insurance coverage. I felt my time was almost here as it was now almost 10:00 – 20 minutes beyond my scheduled time. I finished the papers and waited. Then I waited some more. I read something else, and then waited a little more. Now it was 10:13 or so – 33 or so minutes after my scheduled time. There was more activity in the hallway and then my Longshoreman Hygienist woman came to the door to call me back. On the way, she apologized about being late. I asked what I was in for today as I had some other things to do and was concerned now that I had waited for quite a while. She told me it was just a cleaning, no examination. Well, ok.

I suppose each hygienist has their own style or comfortable position in which they work. Hers for me is to lay me ALL the way backwards to the point where I feel uncomfortably inverse, kind of like I’m dangling. No protective eye wear. I did get a pillow. I think that was because if I did not have the pillow, the back of my head would have been grazing the floor. Out come the dental tools, you know, the ones that pick and poke and scrape. For some reason, these now look more like something out of my own tool box instead of some delicate instrument used to do delicate work. As someone who works with my hands often, I feel I have the ability to recognize things like force and pressure when working on some object. In this case, I was the object and a great deal of force and pressure was applied. We did the cleaning, swished maybe three times (who swishes three times? I almost thought that the rinse was an afterthought) did the floss and the polish and we were done. Still feeling bad for the late appointment she very generously doubled my complimentary goodie bag. Instead of 1 toothbrush bearing the name of the dental place, some toothpaste and floss – I received 2. Well, that almost made up for it. Now it was just printing out some other paper for me to sign off and we could then schedule the next appointment.

At this moment all of the computers went down. We went to the receptionist and scheduled an appointment for February. I continued to spit blood for the remainder of the day. I guess the only benefit to this is that each time I do it reminds me that I have until February to find a new dentist.


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