The Chair

On March 8, 2012 by Eden M. Kennedy

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.



49 Responses to “The Chair”

  • Bwahahahaha

  • Have a few Oreos before your next visit. That’ll distract her.

  • Popcorn would keep her busy too.

  • Did your dentist really say “flossosophy”? If so, your dentist is the best dentist. My “dentist” is a nightmarish dental compound where you take a number and get shuffled toward whomever is available, up to and including the janitorial staff. A routine cleaning there leaves my face sore for days. As my husband says, “Someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class.”

    (I don’t like going to the dentist.)

  • Hilarious! I certainly wouldn’t want to run into Mira, but your dentist sounds like a hoot!

  • I love you. My dentist is like that too, but his hygenists…well, the same flossosphy.

  • I love your dentist for shouting “flossosophy!” Also, I love Glide floss. It’s not thick enough?

    While feathers would be a delight, I like the idea of showing up with a GIANT fake booger just barely hanging out of your nose. I think oatmeal or play dough would work. Because that way, she can’t just pick it out of your teeth and comment. It’s not in her purview. She’ll have to agonize over it a bit.

  • Just found your blog, and am I glad I did. I hate the dentist.

  • I had a bad experience with a dental hygenist last year and decided to be very brave (usually I’ll just suck it up so not to be a pest or complainer) and I called and requested that I get someone else. I don’t regret doing that for a minute!

  • I love Glide floss and my hygienist hates it. I have crowded teeth (apparently) and every other kind of floss shreds when I use it. She cheerfully tells me to stop using it, and every time I floss my teeth I feel stupidly satisfied that I am defying her.

  • Hahaha, I love your dentist! He sounds awesome. I had no idea Glide was so terrible. Guess I’d better try to find a new floss, for those special occasions when I use it!

  • She sounds a bit like the nurse at the Cottage birthing center that no one warned us about until it was too late. Ew.

  • You. Are. Hilarious.

  • My hygienist gave me a sample of Glide after my visit on Tuesday. I don’t think she would care which kind I use as long as I floss.

    Mira needs to get a grip on reality.

  • So funny! Weird though, I didn’t know Glide was a no-no.

    I go to the dentist on Saturday. Thank heavens for Francine! A wonderful hygienist, and really great with my son (who has some sensory issues).

  • Flossophosy!
    My dentist says “You like Glide? Yes, everyone seems to love it,” in a sort of ruefully affectionate tone towards all of us with terrible teeth.
    I went to one hygienist who said, “Well it wouldn’t hurt so much if you’d take better care of your teeth!” while I cried and let blood run out of my mouth.

  • Oh boy. Thank you for this hilarious post on a topic very close to my heart.

    Mira, meet EDITH…my dentist’s hygienist. I have very sensitive teeth in my billion dollar mouth and Edith (real name) loooooves to clean. It once came to me leaping up from her chair, ripping the napkin from around my neck and shouting at her (for the entire city block to hear) “WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU!!!” This won me a private quasi-therapy session with the dentist in his office with the door closed. PS Now the dentist cleans my teeth.

  • The hygienists are always so judgemental. Flossophy, love it. I was asked one if I had an eating disorder, or had in the past, and my mind immediately went to all my weird fad diets (this was in college), and I could not figure out the correlation and wondered how she knew???. Only later did I realize what she meant, and while living in Japan where I was constantly told in stores nothing would fit me and felt HUGE, I did actually succumb so purging, I would never admit it to her though, only here on this popular blog.

    I’ve never been told the evils of Glide, and I’ve got crap teeth so perhaps I should switch. Thanks so much for the dental education :)

  • Is Glide considered an inferior floss? I mean, in some flossophies? Funny, I’d think the difference between flossing AT ALL (Glide) and NEVER (every other floss ever created) would matter more.

    I mean. If I were sitting in Mira’s chair. Which I am not. I am nine years late for my last dental check-up. (Yikes!)

    • That’s what I was thinking. Isn’t flossing with Glide better than not flossing at all? I have what they call “tight contacts” between some of my teeth and all the other flosses I’ve tried just shred.

  • Hahahahaaaa, what i hate most about the dentist is when he has 3tons of metal and coton and weird sadist stuff in my mouth and he ask me a very profound question, what! He expect me to mime?

  • I got tired of my hygienist telling me to floss, so I started flossing the day before my appointment to keep her from commenting. Works like a charm and I don’t have to feel bad for never flossing!

  • Ha! I recently had a new hygienist and it must have been Mira’s clone. She very pointedly asked, Can you tell me why it is that you don’t floss?? And then sat with her arms crossed waiting for a really good answer. Funnily enough, my dentist sounds a lot like yours too. Maybe they are cloning chatty dentists and accusatory hygienists to work together across the country.

  • I thought Glide was the Cadillac of flosses! Now everything’s gone dark.

  • I had a dentist appointment today. This time, the hygienest only let water run down my face while she cleaned my teeth with the water tool. Which was better than almost poking out my eye with the pick the last time I went.

    @Jessica: Hah! I started doing that too. Haven’t heard a word about flossing since I started doing it.

  • “Should I show up with small feathers in my teeth, my breath smelling of roadkill?”

    I’m trying to figure how I can incorporate that sentence into a conversation.

    I think we have the same dentist.

  • A few years ago my old dentist told me I should really be using an electric toothbrush, so I got one, and use it faithfully, two minutes twice a day, every day. Then I went to my new dentist last month and he was like, “What brand are you using, Oral-B? Yeah, that one is like a sander, it removes too much enamel, I prefer my patients to use Sonicare or just a regular plain toothbrush.” Well I prefer someone else to buy them for me, bucko.

  • You are a terrific and entertaining writer. I mean really, this post is as good as anything I’ve ever read by David Sedaris and he is my most favorite writer ever and so that’s really high praise. Truly brilliant. Thanks for writing.

  • glide really is the worst. glad you went satin!

  • I once had a hygienist ask me with a very serious face “Why don’t you brush the teeth on your left side better ?” I just sat there, stunned. What was I going to say, “My hand is weak from masturbating and it just gives out” ?

    Such a stupid question.

  • Great pre-cleaning therapy! My next appt is in 14 days and I’m already stressing out, actually thinking of buying an electric waterjet flossing doohickey because, ummm, … . In my defense, I had a truly evil dentist as a kid who not only put me on his black list (!) but also banned pirate treasures from the damn chest in the waiting room because of the aforementioned bad attitude issue. I was 4! Y’all won’t mind if I print this out and hand-deliver to the super-friendly staff that day, right? I can redact names if that would make a difference.

  • Okay first, I’d totally pay money to watch you eat something wicked like caramel popcorn in the waiting room of your dentists office when you go back…or taffy…maybe chomping on a tootsie pop! Then hand Mira the wrapper to discard as you walk back… I just want to see the look on her face. I also adore the idea of Oreos. Maybe a meal heavy in garlic the night before? Second – You could be just sitting there reading a book about recovering from bulimia…or ask if you can use the restroom “I just came back from lunch do you mind if I use your restroom…” and then make loud barfing sounds. Just for reactionary purposes??? Sorry…now I’m just on a “poke fun at Mira” mission….

  • I have a dentist I’m not too fond of – I may end up switching shortly. The last time I was there she asked if I’d taken my blood pressure medicine that morning and I told her I don’t take blood pressure medicine. Of course, if she’d read my medical history I’d filled out she might have known it. Whoops! There were other things like that all through the ensuing exam.

  • Mira sounds like a real dick.

  • I apparently am the only person on earth who HATES Glide, for the same reason your hygienist does (because it doesn’t seem to work)! I feel totally smug now because my ex used to use it and I used to tell him it didn’t work. I WAS RIGHT! Thanks, Mira!

  • Oh man, I love a good dentist story! I had to have a root canal a few months back and between my dentist, my endodontist, and all the assistants (and all within a 4 block radius of State Street) I got to hear the most amazing dentist gossip. Those people are weird and they love to talk.

    Of course, my shrink and my therapist are on the same block of State Street, so maybe it’s a Santa Barbara thing?

    And ‘Satin Tape’? So fancy sounding, I must try it.

  • thank you for this entry, you’ve made me feel more normal.

  • I realized recently that I like having my teeth cleaned. This doesn’t rise to the level of a fetish–although I like to pretend that totally ordinary things are actually fetishes just because it is funny.

    However, I could definitely see Mira being a good dominatrix. A small rewrite and this could be a TOTALLY different kind of blog post.

    But it’s really your dentist I’m in love with! Flossosophy! I can’t tell you how much I love that.

  • I just read about your trip to the dentist. And loved it.

    You could write about unloading your dishwasher and I’d enjoy it. You rock.

  • I am just roaring laughing here at your dentist! Flossosophy! I’m changing dentists to him straight away.

  • Just found your blog. This is absolutely hilarious. See you again soon!

  • Isn’t going to the dentist bad enough without accusations flying? I always take a Benadryl before I go to the dentist, but if I were you…I’d slip Mira one.

  • How can floss not “work”? It’s not a complicated device. Also, maybe in the same vein, what observation are they making that leads them to say it doesn’t “work”? Or do they actually quiz you on the brand?

    I cannot imagine any discussion in which I am quizzed over why I do not floss that I have a calm or rational answer. When quizzed, I replied, “Because I’m a horrible person bent on causing myself tooth decay,” or something similar. But then again I’ve had only one cavity in 35 years and I don’t like being told I could do better (at anything, but especially my teeth, when I could and do worry about other things that are actual problems).

  • This is really, really funny. I love that you keep writing here, where I can read you.

  • I love my dentist and my hygienist! He’s so wonderfully gentle and talented but not wussy – he’s gets in and gets the job done and gets out! She does a great job cleaning my teeth. I can’t imagine going to someone I hated or feared, truly. I’ve used OralB Satin Tape for a long time on my dentist’s recommendation. I received a sample of Glide once and because I have close teeth though it would be great. I hated it. I always thought it didn’t work because it didn’t grab well enough to leftovers.

  • I reckon there’s a code among dental hygienists – a) to make you feel irrational GUILT about eating. Anything. and b) to stalk the dental section of the supermarket to reap their own form of world supremacy.

    Yeah, haven’t been to the dentist in about five years. Have serious ‘issues’ about dentists.

    Let’s move on shall we?

  • Great. I have about a year’s supply of Glide from Costco.
    Guess I’ll take up minty macrame.

  • I can’t believe I was so totally engrossed in your story of dental hygiene. Now I’m going to look for an opportunity to use BIG FLOSS in conversation.

  • flossosophy. I am in love with your dentist.