Yesterday, I got my teeth cleaned. It was a last-minute appointment so I got a hygienist I’d never met before. Let’s call her Mira.
Mira was pleasant but it seemed more important to her to be professional than spend any time getting to know me. That’s unusual for this dentist’s office, since the dentist himself is such a goofy, chatty guy; normally I get a good chunk of life story from whoever’s poking me in the gums, and they at least get the basics from me. But nothing is fine, too, Mira. Poke away in silence! I will meditate upon these ceiling tiles and form my plan for world domination. Bwa ha.
So after a few minutes of poking and scraping, Mira sits back as says, “Do you have trouble with acid reflux?” I say, No, why? “There’s some wear on the back of your front teeth consistent with what we see in patients with acid reflux.” Now, the other type of people who get that kind of wear is bulimics, but she can’t ask me if I throw up to stay skinny, she has to start with something that sounds less accusatory. I get that.
“What’s another way you’d get that kind of wear on your teeth?” I ask, because I want to see if she says “barfing up your guts all the time” or “losing your lunch due to body dysmorphia” or what.
“Purging,” she says. “Or sometimes our pregnant patients get it, if they have extreme morning sickness or acid reflux from the baby –” She mimed having a baby bump so large it pushed her breasts toward her throat. My god! A gorgon baby! You’d never stop throwing up!
She poked around a little more until she found something else to be suspicious about, with her dental forensics mind. I have a lot of crowns due to terrible dental hygiene as a child (and by child I mean the first 27 years of my life), and a typical place for cavities to hide is at the place where the crown and tooth meet. I know what happens when they find a cavity in your tooth: the little probe they poke into it sticks. Cavities are grabby.
Mira stuck her probe in the suspicious spot over and over and over again, but it wouldn’t stick. I knew she was waiting for it to stick, or maybe thinking that if she approached it from a different angle it would stick, but it wouldn’t stick. No doubt she was mentally urging my tooth to crumble in her hands. “Be a cavity, you son of a bitch! STICK, GODDAMNIT!”
She finally called the dentist in to see if he could make it stick.
“Hellooooo!” he said, walking in and shaking my hand. “You look great! Have you lost weight?”
Mira looked at me knowingly. I felt like I was in some sort of Kafkaesque situation where people project their own fears and fantasies onto other people and think they’re real. Oh, wait, that’s called Life.
“I am not bulimic!” I wanted to shout. Instead, I said, “I cut my hair.”
“It looks fantastic!” he yelled, putting on gloves so he could poke my tooth, too.
It turns out I do not have a cavity, but we’re going to put some sealant on the spot as a preventative measure. It also turns out that Mira read my X-rays wrong and insisted for a full minute that I had a crown on a tooth that did not actually have a crown. She also doesn’t like it when people use Glide floss, even if they double it up to make it thicker, like I do. No, don’t do that! It’s bad! Use this other floss that is stretchy and weird that Mira approves of! And not because Mira is in the pocket of Big Floss!
“Mira recommends that I stop using Glide floss,” I said to my dentist when he was done poking my tooth.
“Mira has a different flossosophy!” he shouted.
I scheduled another cleaning in six months, and I hope I don’t get Mira again, but a part of me hopes I do. What other dental crimes will she subtly accuse me of? Vampirism? Circus Geekism? Should I show up with small feathers in my teeth, my breath smelling of roadkill? I mean, I have better things to do than bait an otherwise perfectly normal dental hygienist, but when you’re staring at ceiling tiles having your gums poked, the mind does tend to wander.
UPDATE: So this just happened — I went to CVS to buy floss with Jackson, and as we were standing in the floss aisle and I was explaining to him that my dental hygienist told me not to buy Glide, a woman standing there turns around and says to me, “I’m a hygienist. I hate Glide, too. It doesn’t work.” And then she told me that if my teeth were close together and regular floss always frayed and broke, I should buy satin floss. SATIN FLOSS, FOLKS. Oral-B makes a thing called Satin Tape and I bought it! The end.