Hey, the GOOD news is that I don’t have any cavities! That’s due to my patented method of brushing often, never flossing, and having good genes. (I should totally write a book. “You Too Can Have Pretty Strong Teeth, Unless You Don’t, In Which Case You Can Suck It, But Hopefully Not Before You Buy This Book!”)
Let’s review: I do not like the dentist, Sam-I-Am. After a long dental care hiatus, my return to the dentist was somewhat traumatic, you may remember. But I soldiered on! I kept up with it! Even when I started having cavities and other problems! I’m like a battered woman who’s CONVINCED that this time, he’s changed. I keep giving the dentist ONE MORE CHANCE and it never ends well, but I just never learn.
You may think I’m exaggerating, but let me put it to you this way: I spent two hours at the dentist yesterday, and THEN I had to make an appointment for a cleaning.
Oh, I was SUPPOSED to have the cleaning yesterday, you know. But I didn’t. Because we RAN OUT OF TIME. I was there for two hours and that wasn’t enough time to do a 10-minute cleaning.
This is a new dentist, of course, because even I am not masochistic enough to drive a thousand miles every time I need my teeth cleaned. This dentist has already seen both Monkey and Chickadee, and he’s very nice and gentle and the kids adore him. I made myself an appointment with HIGH HOPES, you understand, even when they told me they’d be scheduling a 90-minute initial appointment.
So I went in, and I filled out my paperwork (really, someone please explain to me why the dentist needs to know if you experience “irregularity or other issues with the menstrual cycle?”), and instead of taking me into an exam room, the hygienist took me into the dentist’s actual office where he has a desk and everything. We sat and waited for him. Eventually he appeared, shook my hand, and thanked me for coming in.
Dr. Dentist sat himself down at his desk, glanced over my paperwork, and said—I swear I’m not making this up—“Okay, Mir. Tell me about your teeth.”
I bit back the many wise-ass responses which immediately sprang to mind. (“They like long walks on the beach, romantic comedies, and jazz.”) Instead, I floundered around while he made approving noises and nodded. “I… uhhhh… well, I have good teeth. I didn’t have my first cavity until I was in my 30s. And… ummm… well, I have these deep grooves in my molars, that’s where the cavities have all been. And I grind them, so, um, I have some gum loss and some sensitivity from that. But in general… they’re… good?”
We then made deep and meaningful conversation about my gum loss. Which is truly a sentence I never thought I’d find myself writing.
We talked about my adventures in wearing a nighttime bite guard, and after detailing how I TRIED to wear the bite guard—really, I did, but I kept waking up to find the bite guard halfway across the room and I swear I wasn’t doing it on purpose—I had to confess that I no longer do. “I really think I’ve improved, though!” I told him, full of hubris. “I mean, I rarely CATCH myself grinding anymore.”
(In case you’re wondering, if my life were a movie, it’s right THERE that the music would’ve become ominous.)
After our lovely chat about the relative merits of the Sonicare vs. the OralB, it was time to get into the Chair of Despair. Dr. Dentist came in and poked around in my mouth for a while, calling out numbers to the hygienist and assuring me that yes, indeed, my teeth are beautiful.
I really thought I was going to get off easy. Possibly because I have never actually met myself, before.
The dentist gave a little poke to this… ummm… thing… I have under my tongue. “I see you have a torus, here. That’s probably from grinding your teeth.”
I was confused. I drive a Taurus because I grind my teeth? Whaaaa…?
“Huh?” I asked, ever-articulate.
He touched the area again. “This, right here. That’s called a torus. It’s a bony growth that can result from bruxism, or teeth grinding.”
Now here’s the funny thing. I have had this weird lump in my mouth for a LONG time. So long, in fact, that I basically forget that it’s there, right? But once Dr. Dentist starts talking about it, I ran my tongue over it and thought to myself WOW, that feels a lot bigger than I remember it being. Huh.
[Not for the faint of heart: What I have is termed a torus mandibularis, though I like to think mine isn’t nearly so disgusting-looking as the picture provided, there.]
I said something about how OH YEAH, that thing there, I think it’s gotten bigger, does that matter? And Dr. Dentist assured me that no, it’s no big deal, it’s just some extra bone and rarely becomes a problem. He then finished up his examination and told me that he was going to leave me with the hygienist and she was going to take a complete set of x-rays for my file.
Remember those nasty-tasting vinyl bitewing things dentists used to use to take x-rays? They always made me gag. This dentist has a completely digital system, so instead of a tiny vinyl thing, there is a gigantic WAND covered in a condom-like plastic bag, and the film-looking piece goes inside your mouth and then the outside handle has this big attachment arm with a big plastic O-ring, which is what they use to center the x-ray machine on for aiming purposes.
Advantage: No yucky vinyl taste!
Disadvantage: Much larger, pointier device inside your mouth!
The first four or so films went off without a hitch. And then we got to the ones which required said gigantic pointy device to be wedged underneath my tongue.
Hey! Guess what’s under my tongue! Why yes, it’s my lovely little pet torus! Do you know what about tori? (See how I’m hip to the lingo, already? The plural is not toruses, because THAT would just be confusing. It’s tori.) Tori aren’t painful, because they’re just little bits of bone and they just sit there. HOWEVER, they’re covered by an incredibly THIN layer of skin, and no muscle to speak of. And if you’ve ever had pressure exerted directly on a bone, I bet you can guess what it’s like to have ye olde pointy x-ray wand wedged into your mouth such that it’s sitting directly on top of your newly-named torus.
I could tell you what it felt like, but it would involve a lot of profanity.
So the first one she did like that, I think I stopped breathing. By the time the machine went beep-BEEP I was seeing stars. I removed the wand from my mouth and the hygienist checked the computer screen. “Whoops!” she said, cheerfully. “Didn’t quite get what I wanted on that one. Let’s do it again!” She took the wand from me and began to wedge it into the same location. “Close your mouth, hon,” she urged, and as I brought my jaws together my vision started to blacken around the edges.
I opened my mouth and the wand fell out. “Hurts,” I panted. Because I’m eloquent. And was trying really hard not to throw up.
“Oh, is that rubbing on the torus, there?” she asked. I nodded. “Well let’s just try again!” she said, and it was right about there when I decided I didn’t like her anymore.
She positioned the wand and had me close my mouth, again, and I think I was whimpering, and as she moved away the wand pulled a bit and the plate inside my mouth SCRAAAAAAAAPED across the torus and I burst into tears.
Yes, I cried like a little girl at the dentist’s office.
The hygienist gave me a tissue. In return I wisely opted not to punch her in the face.
She gave me a few minutes to collect myself, then we did the rest of the x-rays which did not involve putting anything under my tongue, and then my torus and I made an appointment for an actual cleaning (you know, because all of THAT was so much fun) and went home.
Last night for dinner, I had some lukewarm soup. It was delightfully non-invasive!
By the way, Dr. Dentist wants me to bring my bite guard to my next appointment. I’m thinking I should just ask for one of those wand things. No way I’d be biting anything with one of those in my mouth. Hmph.