I needed two fillings today. Actually I needed one at first, and then the dentist got in there and muttered a bit and said “You’ve got kissing cavities…they’re right in contact and they’ve both decalcified and you’re already Novocained up, so why don’t I just do this now?”
I, like most people, lived in stark fear of the dentist for many years. Having braces pretty much ensures this. The dentists themselves didn’t help with this much, and having lived much of my life in relative poverty and being in an insurance-free field, I tended not to show up until they had something to yell about. Preventative care is for people who don’t worry where the next check is coming from.
And then Kevin got me on his dental insurance, and found this dentist.
Who is only a few years older than me, who goes to Ren Faires dressed as the Tooth Fairy, who is a huge My Little Pony fan and who spent the morning grilling me about which Wacom tablet to get while shooting Novocaine into my gums.
I went in at first with trepidation. I had not had dental insurance since my divorce. I floss on alternate Thursdays. My gums have been a wreck my entire adult life. (And tangentially, they got MUCH worse when I went off the Pill. Man, hormones do EVERYTHING.)
I went in expecting shame and degradation to be heaped upon my head. I slunk into the waiting room like a criminal.
And she looked things over and said “Looks like you’ve done as good as can be expected, given the circumstances. I’ve seen way worse.”
And scheduled a really serious cleaning and a follow-up exam a bit later when my gums were recovered. And they put that numbing gel they use when they’re going to shoot you with Novocaine on the gums first so the cleaning wouldn’t hurt.
O Readers, it was like going in for confession for the first time in a decade and spilling out your guts to the priest—ALL the sins, not just the skipping Easter mass and the unpaid parking tickets, but the deep meaty ones about envy and lust and despair and what you REALLY think about your sister’s kids—and as you sat there in quivering silence, waiting for the axe of judgement to fall, hearing him say “Is that all? Pfff, don’t worry about it, my child, you’re only human. Say a couple Hail Marys and we’re having a blood drive on Friday if you’re free.”
Some months later I found myself having lost a filling and I went in. Fearlessly. Knowing that there would be drilling. Knowing that there might be big needles. Knowing it wouldn’t feel good. It was about the same level of stress as a pap smear—”Yes, this will be physically uncomfortable, but then it will be over until the next time, and it’s not THAT bad.” I was filled with resignation, not with dread, because however much it might suck, nobody was going to yell at me.
When I think about all the things I would tell my younger self if I could, a lot of them I might wind up not saying, because maybe not knowing at the time was important. I don’t think I’d tell younger me that I would someday be successful beyond my wildest dreams in a field I never expected, because maybe I’d just sit around waiting for it to happen. I haven’t got a clue what I’d say about love. So many opportunities involved being in the right place at the right time, I’d hate to jinx it.
Ultimately I might just go with “Life will be better and stranger than you ever thought, and you really will get over the bad bits.”
And then I’d add in the caveat “And someday you’ll find an awesome dentist and that bit won’t suck any more either.”