There's no reason for my fear. Really, there isn't. When the nice lady sat beside me, held my shaking hand and asked what sort of traumatic dental incident I had experienced as a child, I had nothing to tell her. Dr. Wezeman was a rock star. I survived shaved teeth and sealants, extractions and braces and a torture device they pleasantly called a 'rake' (I'll show you the scars on my tongue from that one sometime). But now, as an adult, I'm a shaking, blithering baby in the dentist's chair.
I was nervous on the drive to the dentist's office, but I was okay. I psyched myself up the whole way. I told myself that I'm a grown woman and I should act like one. I told myself it wouldn't hurt. I told myself I was being ridiculous. And as I gave the receptionist my name, I was okay. I had only sat down for a moment when the hygenist poked her head out from behind the glass door and called my name. I left the neutral-toned comfort of the waiting room, and I started to shake.
As I walked past alcove after alcove I caught glimpses of the tops of the other patients' heads, the blue bibs protecting their chests and the tubes and wires sprouting from their faces making them look like a product of Tim Burton's imagination. My heart was racing by the time I settled into my own chair at the back of the building.
The hygenist introduced herself and attached a blood pressure cuff to my wrist. The tattle-tale digital readout screamed 197/98. Not good. My pulse? Ninety-eight. Definitely not good.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
My lips refused to form coherent, intelligent words and all I could manage to shove out was, "I don't like it here."
"You'll be okay," she comforted. "This is the easy part. It doesn't hurt!" I don't remember her name, but the space next to it on her name tag read Pierce College. Not to be judgemental, but that didn't help.
She chatted about her kids and I don't know what all as she began to poke around in my mouth. I did my best to keep my foot from twitching and I buried my hands in my pockets. I squeezed my eyes shut as she prodded with her metal picks and hooks.
"There's a lot of build-up here," she remarked. "How long since your last cleaning?"
"Four years," I whispered.
"Hmm...I'm going to use the Cavitron. It will cut through the tartar faster."
CAVITRON??? But I didn't have the gumption to clamp my mouth down on her fingers. The instrument was pointed like a needle, but she assured me there was no blade, needle or any other pain-causing feature. The Cavitron would shoot high pressure jets of water onto my teeth. No biggie, right? It's just water.
Wrong. As the high pressure water dashed itself against the build up that caked my enamel, it wailed and screamed just as I would have had my mouth not been filled with water and little pink glove-covered hands. The noise forced its way through my resolved and tapped the irrational part of my psyche, drip, drip dripping like Chinese water torture.
A single tear dramatically coursed its way down my cheek and into my hair. 'It's ok,' I told myself. 'One tear. She won't notice.' That tear was followed by another and another, and before I knew it, my mouth was screwing up in a pre-break down grimace. The hygenist took her gloved hands out of my mouth and patted me, more than a little confused.
"Take your time," she said.
I tried to tell her I was okay, but the words wouldn't come out through the tears. 'This is ridiculous,' I thought. 'Why on Earth are you crying? Nothing hurt you. You're not dying. You're a grown up.'
But I didn't feel like one. I felt like a little kid again, half-stoned on valium and nitrous and clamping my mouth shut against the cold instruments that intruded on my space.
Finally I did calm down enough to lie back again. "Let's just use the manual instruments," the hygenist said. "They take longer, but that's okay. We'll take our time." The poor lady was afraid of me.
I did make it through the rest of the appointment. I did not vomit as I so wanted to when she sanded the faces off of my teeth with that horrid rubber polisher and gritty paste. I shut my ears to the whining noise and focused on the minty taste instead of the gravel textures and sensations. I made it through her guilt trip lecture on flossing, and I even survived the flossing itself, privately reveling in the fact that she could experience first hand the shredded dental tape and close-packed molars that keep me from even wanting to try.
As we walked out, I should have been relieved. I should have been skipping. But that was only part one. "See you in an hour!" the blonde receptionist chirped to my fleeing back.