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The Titanic Tooth

The Titanic Tooth

Tuesday night I was lying in bed eating a “fun size” bag of peanut M&Ms. First of all, what’s so fun about eight tiny pieces of candy? A fun size portion should contain about three pounds. There is nothing fun about eight M&Ms in a cute little bag. More candy equals more fun. True story.

So I was lying in bed reading and eating my nightly chocolate ration when I bit down and crunched into something very hard. Hmmm. Must be a burnt peanut, an M&M that weaseled it’s way through quality control and into my fun size packet. No worries, work it over with my teeth a little more and I’m sure it’ll succumb to a happy peanut paste existence. CRUNCH. Wow, this nut’s not giving up. A tough nut to crack, if you will. You know what? Maybe it’s not a nut. Maybe it’s a thicker part of the thin candy shell that makes them melt in my mouth and not in my hand. CRUNCH. Nope. That’s not right. I pushed the piece to the front of my mouth with my tongue and removed it like it was a stray dog hair. I looked down at it and realized that this wasn’t a peanut or a piece of the thin candy shell. Uh-oh.

I hesitantly rolled my tongue around my mouth, flicking it over each tooth just to make sure everything was where it should be. Except that it wasn’t. Near the very back of my mouth, my tongue immediately noticed a difference. The next to last tooth on the bottom right side now had a gaping hole in the side. I pushed my tongue as far as it would go into the hole. Compared to the piece of what I now knew to be tooth, the hole was huge. This could only mean one thing.

I ate part of my tooth. It must have gotten mixed in with the thin candy shell and I didn’t even know it.

This was definitely not the highlight of my day because it carried with it several implications: One, I wasn’t going to get to finish the rest of my M&Ms. And it would drive me nuts (pun intended) to know that there were two M&Ms left hanging out in the tiny bag.  Two, I was going to have to make a dreaded emergency trip to the dentist as soon as possible because I definitely don’t want to risk getting an infection in the tooth, forcing me to have another root canal. Three, until I could make the cringe-inducing trip I was probably going to be on a liquid diet, which meant Slim Fast shakes for every meal. And fourth, and most alarming, I JUST ATE PART OF MY SKELETAL SYSTEM.

It’s odd how things that probably wouldn’t frighten you during the day become major catastrophes under the dark of night. A person could easily say , “Oh well. I’ll call the dentist tomorrow and get it fixed in the afternoon and be back in fighting shape by nightfall.” and go back to reading her book. I am not that person. And that is not how my mind works. Especially not at night. After the full realization that I JUST ATE PART OF MY OWN HEAD sunk in, I wondered how I had eaten something like that and not even known it. This just corroborates my recent thoughts that I definitely need to chew my food better. (I realized this when I threw up a hot dog and looked at the size of the pieces laying in the parking lot and my first thought was “I could totally put those pieces back together to form a hot dog puzzle.)

So now my tooth was on a journey that could not be stopped. I’m no doctor so I don’t know the entire medical process of where it was going but I did know where it would eventually end up. And here’s how I am concerned that the journey might go:

I swallowed part of my skeleton. It will journey down to my stomach where it will sway gently among the English toffee cappuccino I had on the way to my appointment this morning, colliding with the white cheddar popcorn that I had during my Mary Higgins Clark movie this afternoon. (It’s hard to focus on a movie while chewing on one side of your mouth with your head turned sideways so that no stray popcorn pieces goes careening over into the cavernous hole.) Eventually it will travel down through my intestines and out of my body among some poop. This is where my concern kicks in. The tooth is all jaggedy. I can tell that by the size and shape of the gaping hole it left behind. This means that it will surely rock back and forth in the stomach juices, threatening to puncture my stomach lining, sending white cheddar popcorn bits and cappuccino onto my organs via my torn stomach. If, by some lucky twist of fate, the tooth doesn’t puncture my stomach and escape into my vital organs, it will travel down through my intestines in a mix of digested stuff that will at some point, if it hasn’t already, turn into poo. (Again, I don’t know the medical process. I don’t even want to know. The less I know about the way my body functions, the less likely I am to faint.)

I texted my fears to my friend Romy, who tends to be the voice of reason when I board my crazy train.

Me: I’m scared to eat. I’m afeared (Yes I use the word afeared.) I’ll eat part of my tooth. (which I had already done.) Literally I could digest part of my skeletal system…

Romy: Then you’ll just poop it out. No problem! (Because it’s normal to poop out part of your skeleton.)

Me: I’ve given this some thought: what if it’s jaggedy and tears a whole in my intestines and poop leaks all over my body? I could die.

Romy: It won’t. It will be so covered with thick gunk that it will just glide through.

Me: I’m an idiot. A hole. (Bet you thought I wouldn’t catch that.)

Me: You can’t guarantee that. It could settle on the outer fringe of my poo and tear me open like the titanic.

Romy: Nope. (Very reassuring. I think this is when she realized that the crazy train had already left the station and the only thing she could do was ride along. Truth be told she was probably checking between her toes for lint at this point. )

Me: You are not a doctor. I know things.

Romy: I know more than you. (This is debatable. But I think she was throwing stuff on the wall to see what would stick and if she could get me on her side, she would win and the crazy train could be stopped before it turned into a wreck.)

Me: Not about me and the way my body works.

Romy: Your poop isn’t different than anybody else’s! I’ve been pooping for 48 years…How about you? (Ah the age card. Normally I play the age card about her being so old and me still being young. Reverse Ageism, well-played, Romy.)

Me: You got me there. You are, in fact, the elder pooper.

I don’t know what made me give up and accept her age answer but I did. For some reason that I now cannot explain, I accepted the fact that because she had been pooping longer than me, that she was more of an expert on the subject of what happens when one’s tooth takes this unnatural journey through the body. So after first accepting her explanation and logic of what would happen to my tooth, my reality has taken back over and I know that right now there is a tooth floating around somewhere in my body, wreaking havoc on my system. For all I know, that bit of denture is somewhere in my intestines, on the outer fringe of my oncoming poo, just waiting to bump into the walls of the intestine and leak poop and toxins all over my body.  It will stick out of the poo and scrape it’s way down the intestine, tearing a lengthy hole in me, which is how my body will then fill with poop. My organs will be soaking in waste and I will eventually die from the poison.  And the band will play on as it happens…

I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon to get the tooth taken care of.  Bad news: another trip to the dentist. Good news: I will probably have more fodder for my blog.

Toothberg dead ahead!

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The Dentist

The Dentist

Going to the dentist, as I have mentioned before, is always a high anxiety experience for me. I go to a dentist in small town in Southern Illinois about two hours from St. Louis every six months. I have a two-hour trip of dread wherein I imagine the worst possible scenario. It’s the same dentist I’ve gone to since I was in eighth grade because I hate change.  I am comfortable with my dentist and I don’t want to have to try my joke out on anyone new. (He asks how I’m doing and I say “I’d be better if I weren’t here” and no one but myself finds it amusing. It’s the same joke I’ve been using since I first went to him. See? I told you I hated change.)  I try to distract myself by singing along with my music but that makes my mouth dry and since I don’t want to screw up the perfect brushing job I did ten minutes before I left, my only option is water so I just stop singing because the water will rinse away the minty clean feeling.

When I leave the dentist, I always tell myself that I’m going to do better between now and the next time I have to visit. I’m going to brush for the full three minutes in a circular motion all over my teeth. I will floss every day. And then about two days later, after the I-just-left-the-dentist clean teeth feeling is gone, I go back to my old ways of not doing as well as I should in both areas.  Then about two weeks before I have to go to the dentist I start cleaning them all crazy compulsively, like the hygienist isn’t going to be able to tell that for five and half months I semi-neglected my duties. Who do I think I’m fooling?

I enter the office by way of the five by five foot lobby and always stop by the bathroom to make sure I am boog free because I don’t want the hygienist looking up my nose in disgust, worrying that with one misplaced jab at my gums the boog is going to fly out at her when I exhale in pain. So far I’ve been lucky enough to never have this happen (the booger flying, not the exhale of pain. The exhale actually happens every time without fail.) I’m not even sure how I would recover from the humiliation if it did happen aside from just getting up and walking out without saying a word and never returning. The lobby smells like a basic commercial lobby: industrial carpet and Pledge. It’s size keeps it from holding more smells.

The bathroom didn’t really have an odor (thank God)  and I was indeed boog free, so I went into the office, signed in and sat down with my book.  I look at the walls to see if there is any new “art”.  What I’ve noticed about every dentist I’ve ever been to is that there are three things that will never change:  Every dentist I’ve ever been to has Norman Rockwell paintings on their wall. Every dentist also has that Children’s Storybook Bible mixed in with their magazines and every dental waiting room I’ve ever been in has Highlights magazine.  And the pages are always scribbled on in blue and green crayon, the hidden pictures are always solved and someone has spilled some unknown liquid on it so that there is no way I’m going to touch it without imagining what kind of liquid it is. Yes I am on the upper edge of my thirties and I still enjoy a good hidden picture puzzle.

The waiting room has that dentist-y smell: It smells like the gritty toothpaste they use to clean your teeth. I think the smell of the gritty paste is less noticeable (but still slightly minty, even though the paste is always pink. What’s up with that?) because of the feeling of biting down on wet sand that you have when they tell you to rinse.

I look around the waiting area and notice a wide variety of people who appear to be from 1995. There is the small town cheerleader and her mom. I know she’s a cheerleader because she always has a high school cheer shirt on with matching shorts.  Then there is the elderly couple, both there for their denture check-ups and fittings. She is wearing sensible flats and he is wearing the old person staple, New Balance tennis shoes. Sitting on the other side of the room is the overly tan biker lady whose cigarette smoke I can smell from ten feet away. You’re at the dentist lady, you should at least brush your teeth before you come in.

I was sitting by the door to the lobby and pretty soon I heard the front door open and the bathroom door close almost simultaneously.  I dove back into my book until about ten minutes later when this older gentleman in a John Deere trucker cap sauntered in, bringing with him the smell of whatever he did in that bathroom. This smell soon permeated the lobby and overtook the smell of the commercial toothpaste.  Every time I looked up John Deere was either heading to the bathroom or coming from it. Sir, perhaps you should have rescheduled if you are having that many stomach issues. 

They call my name just as I am starting to think I might have to offer John Deere some Tums. They lead me back to the cleaning room and I sit down, dreading even more what I know is to come.   I sit down in the chair and assume my normal dental position: legs crossed at the ankles (so that I can press them together in anticipation of the pain)  hands with a death grip on the rests as my knuckles turn white and every few minutes I have to unclench them and do little finger exercises, and my neck so stiff that I am sore from it for an hour after I leave. I lay there in this position, jaw clenched until I’m told to open up, assaulted by even more smells:  the burning of the drill, the toothpaste and someone’s lunch, which while I can’t prove that this is what it is, smells like day old Chinese takeout.

Hygienist adjusts her stool, turns on the light and pulls it closer so that I am now in the spotlight.  Every time I look at this light, while I am waiting, I can’t help but think that it looks like a giant snake falling out of the ceiling. The light itself looks like a giant snake mouth coming at you with big venom-dripping fangs. Look at this light next time and tell me it doesn’t look like a gaping snake mouth.

Hygienist begins her task of scraping my teeth with that sharp pointy jabby tool. I tense even more.  She always starts conversations by referring to whatever t-shirt I happen to be wearing that day. Usually it’s a Cardinals shirt so she will reference the team or tell me that they went to a game a few weeks ago. I appreciate that she is trying to talk to me like a normal person but in this instant I am not a normal person.  I know this because normally I don’t have a stranger’s hands poking and jabbing and shoving their entire fists into my mouth. Every time she talks, I have to respond which means prolonging the time that I am in the chair. I realize she’s probably trying to put me at ease but I’m not there to discuss the National League standings or to hear about her daughter’s first concert experience (Miley Cyrus)  Just keep scraping.  The scraping is the worst because not only can you feel it, you can hear it. The sound of the scraping is worse than the actual scraping.

After much blood loss and rinsing, she draws out a long piece of dental floss.  I’m just getting over the trauma of the scrapey scrape when she starts to floss my teeth really fast.  Obviously she does this twenty times a day but she’s still very rough with it. She’s so rough that I worry every time she flosses my teeth that one of these times she will hurriedly put the floss between my teeth, swish it around and when she goes to pull it out, will send one of my teeth flying out of my mouth.  Again, this has yet to happen but I am sure that one day it will occur.

That takes less than two minutes and then the wet sand cleaning begins.  Before she begins she puts on one of those little rings that has a well in it for the paste. Is that a necessary tool? Is it that much harder to shove your hand six inches further and dab on the paste from the little table? I wonder if a dentist has ever proposed to his hygienist and used one of those rings as the engagement ring. I’ve never seen anyone wearing one outside of the dentist office, so probably not. 

She finishes brushing my teeth and gives me the little Dixie shot glass of water to rinse with. It’s never enough water so I have to do two shots of it just to get the sand out of my mouth and even then, I walk out with some remaining sand in my teeth but I’m afraid if I go for a third cup Hygienist will think I’m questioning the quality of her work and will store away that information and will use it against me in six months. Like it’s going to make her mad and be even rougher next time.

The dentist then comes in to check her work. I guess that’s why he comes in. He trots in whistling his little made up tune ( I wrote about this in the Candy Drawer post if you missed it) and sits down at the stool. He asks me how I’m doing.

“I’d be better if I weren’t here.”  (dead silence. Is this thing on?) 

Smelling like onions from his lunch, I try to hold my breath as he gently pries my mouth open and takes a look-see (his word not mine).  He continues to hum and decides that I have a cavity (even though as he says ” I thought we’d be past that at this point,” meaning “I thought by now your candy eating addiction would have subsided but I can tell by the teeth that it has not.”) Since I live so far away he does my cavities on the same day as the cleaning to save me the trip.

He gives me the shot in the jaw that causes my eyes to fill with tears from the sting. Then he turns off the snake mouth and tells me he will be back in five minutes.  After about five minutes I hear him standing at the desk having a conversation about his weekend and the things he got done on the farm. I am getting peeved thinking that he has forgotten me and that by the time he remembers me the numbness will wear off but he will drill anyway when he walks back in.

He drills and the smell of decaying tooth along with burning plaster pipes up to my nose. At least, that’s what I think burning plaster smells like.  Then he calls off some numbers and the hygienist hands him tools. He pokes and prods and jabs and crams and then tells me to bite down, which I do.  After a few more scrapes to remove the excess gunk, he tells me I am done and that I can rinse the gunk out. I do my two shots again, not taking a necessary third.  The hygienist hands me a crappy little toothbrush with the dentist’s name on it.  With the quality of the toothbrush, they can’t possibly expect me to actually use this thing on my teeth but it will be good for cleaning the grout.

I step into the office which smells like musty paperwork from 1979, scotch tape and dust. My dentist is like no other I’ve ever been to. He has a deer head hanging on the wall of his office. Nothing says “sterile environment” like half of a dead carcass on the wall. I make my six month appointment and pay and the lady hands me the appointment card. 

As I am leaving the dentist, I get that surge of happiness and relief.  I survived and have clean and happy teeth.

This must be how Yadi feels after leaving the vet or groomers. We both have an extra little bounce in our step. Clean and happy because we survived and know that we are going to get a treat when we get home. Hers is a dog bone, mine is a Happy Meal. 

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The Candy Drawer

The Candy Drawer

When Vern says, “If I could have only one food for the rest of my life? That’s easy…Pez…Cherry-flavored Pez,” in Stand by Me, I totally understand his line of reasoning. Not so much that he picked cherry Pez because I think that Pez candies are just Flintstone vitamins without character. The Pez dispenser though, now that is just innovative. But the idea that if a person could only have one food item for the rest of their life it would be candy,  pure Einstein.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love candy. A lot. Maybe a little too much, as will show in my dental records. But I can’t help it. You know the saying that when someone is so excited  they’re “like a kid in a candy store?”  For me, that’s the excitement I get when I’m in a candy store.

When I go up north to see family, we go into Wisconsin to the Jelly Belly “factory” (Read: Distribution Warehouse that they’ve made into a tourist attraction by having a miniature train take you on a “tour” of how Jelly Bellies are made. Basically you get on these little linked-together golf carts, throw on a paper hat and they drive you around to various wall-mounted flat screens that have video loops of what happens at the real factory. I don’t care what they call it, at the end I get free samples so I’m good.) After you’ve been driven around the outer edge of the skyscraping towers of boxed Jelly Belly products, they conveniently drop you off at the exit, which is the entrance to their OUTLET STORE!  You don’t get to leave the factory until you trudge through mountains of colorful candy. It’s pure brilliance! I’ve never made it out of there with less than four pounds of candy. Once I got adventurous and tried some of the Harry Potter beans. I even tried the one that was called “BOOGER” and while I can’t vouch for whether it’s flavor is accurate, I can tell you that it tasted like a sinus infection.

Candy is everywhere. What does every holiday have in common? CANDY. Christmas has candy canes, Valentine’s Day has nasty little nostalgic chalky hearts (that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone actually eat.) Easter is THE marshmallow holiday and the most important Candy Holiday, Halloween. I know some fellow Christians call it a satanic holiday and don’t let their kids go trick-or-treating and that’s their choice. But I was raised by Christian parents who let me trick-or-treat and other than a few unrelated quirks, (Shut it.)  I think I turned out OK. Because to a kid, Halloween is not about anything Christian or satanic. Halloween is about candy. Nothing more, nothing less. MUST.GET.CANDY. And honestly, if I could get by with it, I would still be trick-or-treating. I’d make a great Wonder Woman.

My parents wouldn’t let me get a job in high school because they were afraid it would weaken my very strong B- C+ average. I lived at home for the first two years of college to complete my Gen. Ed. courses and to save money to go to a university to finish my studies, and it was then that I got my first job.

Yay! I would no longer be totally dependent on my parents for everything! I could go out to dinner with friends without asking for money! I could buy my own clothes! FREEDOM!……FREEDOM TO BUY ALL THE CANDY I COULD EVER WANT!

I tooled around in a few jobs and ended up at K-Mart. I started out in the “Fashions” department (Seriously? Why not just call it the “Clothes that either fade or fall apart the first time you wash them” department?) and spent most of my time folding and re-folding sweatpants. I quickly was promoted (to this day I fold a mean t-shirt, retail style) to work checkout. And with that promotion came a task that was right up my alley: Re-stocking the candy at the front lanes. Sweet! Literally!

But still I hadn’t thought of the brilliance of a candy drawer….

So now a professed candy-freak had a little bit of money in her pocket, a backstage pass to every piece of candy in the store and six to eight hours, four days a week in which to eat and buy candy.  Usually working eight hour shifts, I had two fifteen minute breaks and one half hour lunch. So on my first break, I would buy a Mountain Dew and some kind of candy, usually gummies.  My second break was reserved for chocolate and more Mountain Dew. Sleep? Who needs sleep? I’VE GOT CANDY!

I had a desk in my room…why didn’t I think of the candy drawer?

When I went away to college, I worked in the mall. This put me in the same building as a CANDY STORE for thirty two hours a week. When I became a manager, a Dollar Tree moved in RIGHT BESIDE MY STORE. So now, not only could I get candy on my regular lunch break, since I was a manager and couldn’t leave the store, I could send my little worker bees out for candy! For a dollar! And the Dollar Tree has an entire AISLE DEDICATED SOLELY TO CANDY!   I could buy sour gummy worms, Runts, Nerds, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Twizzlers, and Cotton Candy all in one fell swoop! FOR.A.DOLLAR! The Queen Bee was content and slightly buzzed from a sugar high.

I had my own apartment with lots of drawers and access to the cheapest candy ever and still I did not devote a nook to my candy…

I moved on to selling mobile phones with AT&T (And to those of you who wouldn’t spend the extra five bucks on text messaging because you thought it was ridiculous, I say to you in a Nelson-from-the-Simpsons voice: HA HA!)  in a store that was located right beside a Casey’s General Store/Gas Station. Break time equals Candy time. As for the weight gain that took me three years to get under control, I blame the hours of TV Land, Chinese take-out and Little Debbie Snack Cakes, not my beloved candy.

At this point I was making enough money to build my candy it’s own dark cherry humidor, but alas, the thought never crossed my mind…

With a few moves here and there for short periods of time, I have now settled into my current residence. I moved in right before Halloween. As well as having a lot of floor space, my home has surprisingly large closets and drawers.  The first thing I did after unpacking, and getting Yadi…Ok, the third thing I did was to go to Target the day after Halloween.

I may have gone a little overboard. But everything was ninety percent off! How can I pass up such a deal? I walked out with eighteen dollars’ worth of candy: Jack-o-Peeps, flavored Hershey Kisses (the candy corn ones are the best. Caramel apple, meh.) Bags of regular AND flavored Candy Corn, Gummy Fingers and Toes and Brains and Noses, Chocolate-flavored (It bears mention here that Chocolate-flavored and Chocolate are NOT the same thing. Made that mistake once.) Krispie-injected Pumpkins and more Willie Wonka than I knew what to do with. Every holiday since has followed suit.

So if you BUY eighteen dollars’ worth (at ninety percent off, so it’s probably closer to two hundred dollars’ worth)  of candy at a time, it follows that you have to STORE two hundred dollars’ worth (just so you understand the magnitude of this purchase) of candy at one time.

And on this day unto me was born a candy drawer. The potholders would have to shack up with the forks.

By Christmas of the next year, the candy drawer had not only taken on a bigger residence in my home (the dishtowels moved in Three’s Company style with the potholders and the forks.) but had begun to make its importance known to the pot pies that it was slowly edging out in the freezer.

The thing with buying in bulk, is that once I come to the realization of how ridiculous it is to have three pounds of Sour Brite Crawlers, I tend to slow down on the stockpiling of candy. This realization smacked me in the face (more specifically, the mouth) about eight months ago at my dreaded routine dental check-up when Dr. Scrivello and I exchanged our usual pleasantries:

“How are you today, Miss Jennifer?” he says, settling on to the dental stool, letting out a barely heard burp. Onions. Nice. Note to self: schedule next dental exam BEFORE he goes to lunch.

“I’d be better if I weren’t here,” I reply, every time. And every time neither Dr. Scrivello nor his hygienist so much as chuckle.

“Let’s take a looksee, shall we?” he says, ignoring my lame attempt at humor. Despite the classic rock playing over the loudspeaker system (I kid you not, once I was in the chair waiting for a filling and Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” came on. Again, I was the only one who found this even remotely amusing.) he begins to hum something that is not recognizable as he gently pries my mouth open the same way you do a dog when you want to give her a heartworm pill.

“Da dee dee da da da dee dee dee DAAAAA!  (The big finish of his solo hum.) Well kid, it looks like you’ve got a cavity. I thought we’d be past this point by now,” he speaks kindly.

Yes, KID, we probably should be past the point of having a cavity because we are THIRTY SIX YEARS OLD!

And it is with that one statement that my bulk candy days end, as swiftly as they begin although with much less fanfare. I still have the candy drawer and it is still always full but now I don’t spend a dime over ten dollars at a time.

But I still buy it for ninety percent off.

 

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