Fiction and filling

Hello, Internet, it’s Friday, November 18th, and according to NaNoWriMo.org, I should have 30,000 words by the end of the day.

Hear that? That’s the sound of my stomach dropping into my feet.

Ok, it’s really not so bad. The thing is, I was All Caught Up on Tuesday. I hit 25,000 words by the end of the 25,000 word day. I kept up with par on Wednesday. And then, yesterday, I spent most of the day studying for my ski patrol exam last night, and now I am behind again.

Life, why do you insist on taking up time that I could be spending writing?

(FYI, that exam? 97%. Cause I’m a rock star.)

Ok, I’m done. This is pretty much all I’m thinking about these days, but I understand that it’s not actually interesting to anyone not attempting to write 50,000 words’ worth of a book this month, so let’s move on.

On Wednesday, I went to the dentist.

It was my second time in a week, and let me make something very clear: I hate going to the dentist. I hate everything about it. The waiting room, the upside-down chair, the bright light, those little paper masks. I hate the fact that, twice a year, I pay someone $150+ to scrape at my teeth, cause me to bleed, poke (correction: stab) at my gums, scold me for not flossing enough and then send me away with a “free” toothbrush. I’d like to think that I would enjoy it a little better if I had dental insurance, but I don’t think so. Four years of braces, a quadruple wisdom tooth extraction and a gum graft (because of the braces – thanks, orthodontia!) later, I am pretty iffy about letting people poke around in my mouth. I approach a dentist appointment with the same trepidation that surrounds a pelvic exam. But the dentist is twice as often and it hurts more.

(Side note: Do you know what a gum graft is? It’s when they cut a piece of skin from the roof of your mouth and glue it to your gums. Yeah.)

So, last Wednesday I went to the dentist for my semi-annual scrape-and-scold (“check-up”) and the dentist came in, poked around a bit and discovered my first ever cavity. And then I had to come back this week for my first ever filling.

I was not looking forward to this.

I ate a giant lunch and went over. The appointment was supposed to be 20 minutes long. I had my doubts.

The receptionist greeted me by name as I came in the door. It was nice of her, but it would’ve been nicer if she hadn’t checked the appointment schedule right as she saw me. It’s easy to know someone’s name when it’s written right in front of you. Sorry, receptionist, but you’re just not as cool as the lady at the gym who knows everyone’s name and will stop and say hello if she sees me on the street.

I sat down and read an article in the newspaper from several days before. I wondered if they only got one newspaper a week. About ten minutes later (and so about 5 minutes late), I was called.

I sat down in that chair that is only upright when you first sit down and when they let you stand up. The hygienist immediately stuck a swab with “the gel” into my mouth, at which point I felt it necessary to tell her that I’ve never had a filling before and could she just explain what everything is? While I was saying this, half my tongue went numb, emphasizing the point. She was surprised (it is my understanding that most folks in their mid-20s are familiar with the cavity-filling process), but she did, and I got a little run-down of what all the little gadgets were and what was going to happen. It was super-interesting, because I am a giant nerd who loves to learn things.

The dentist showed up.

I had a tooth pulled as a kid, just a baby tooth that was in the way and pushing my adult tooth off-track, and when the dentist gave me the local anesthetic, he described what I would feel as “a little mosquito bite.” Now, I really liked my childhood dentist, but let me tell you, friends, That Was A Goddamn Lie. It did not give me confidence that he knew how anything felt ever, which, in turn, did not convince me that he was not going to hurt me again.

But this dentist, the one from Wednesday? He made no bones about it. “Ok, I’m going to give you the local anesthetic now. Open… thank you. Now, remember to breathe. Think about something else. Warm beaches. Sunny days. Keep breathing. Think about the ocean. Think about skiing. Go to your happy place. Don’t forget to breathe. Ok, one more, this one’s gonna hurt, don’t stop breathing. Excellent. You can open your eyes now, it’s over.”

And that was, by far, the worst part of the whole affair. The needle from the anesthetic. Everything else was actually… fun.

We had a conversation about types of fillings. He was all prepared to try and convince me to use the silver filling instead of the white stuff, because it’s less expensive and it lasts longer and this cavity is at the very back of my mouth, at the top. Nobody will ever see this filling. Ever. He was all ready to say all these things to me, but I had done a bit of research on fillings already because, as I have mentioned in the past, I am a giant nerd, and I had already come to this conclusion. From then on, we got along swimmingly.

He explained the effects of fluoride in the tap water, which exists in Ottawa but not in St. John’s. He explained what those little ultra-white specs on my front teeth were. He asked how long ago I had my braces off, and have I noticed any movement in my lower teeth since then, and who was my orthodontist (he was more irritated than I by the orthodontia-induced gum graft). He told me, in layman’s terms, how cavities begin. He explained how my strong teeth are actually causing my gums to be weaker.

After about ten minutes of chatting, he actually filled the cavity, which took about 3 minutes. And he didn’t stop explaining things. He told me exactly what he was doing before he did it, and managed to squeeze in a bunch of stories about other “reconstructions” (this seems to be dentist-talk for fillings and root canals).

And then I was done. Essentially, I’d just watched my dentist geek out about teeth for 15 minutes. Until then, he was just the guy who came to repeat all of the scolding my hygienist had just doled out and then leave the room, adding a $50 charge to my bill. This time, he actually fixed my tooth, and the whole thing cost about $60 less than I was expecting. Plus I had fun, because it’s awesome to listen to a fellow nerd talk about their favourite subject for a little while. Not for hours, but for 15 minutes, it was pretty cool.

And the whole thing took 19 minutes.

And that, friends, is how I got my first cavity filled and enjoyed the experience. Weird, yes. But the best kind of weird I know.