“Your old mercury filling is leaking”…….
If you hear that from your dentist, then be prepared for some fun. You see, your old mercury fillings will eventually shrink and start to eventually allow food and other nastiness down into your tooth causing all kinds of unpleasantness. I was told this about 6 months and scheduled to have two of my old fillings replaced. That day came yesterday.
I’m not a big fan of going to the dentist. I’m also not a fan of rotten teeth, so I go like a good boy. Besides an earache, a tooth ache is one of the more annoying and painful places to have issues. I’d rather just get punched in the neck than have mouth pain. And fortunately for me, I’ve never really had any issues with my mouth. Or gotten punched in the neck. You see, I’ve always done pretty well at the dentist. When I was in the 6th grade, I got braces. This was in 1986. I don’t remember too much discomfort, except for the whole gagging thing when they stuffed what felt like a linebacker’s fist into my mouth filled with goo to take a mold of my teeth. The only other really uncomfortable thing with braces came in the form of the ‘tightening’ of the braces. My appointments were usually on a Friday afternoon. By 6pm when my parents and I were eating pizza my teeth were in the process of ‘moving’ and to chew took great concentration and the pain tolerance of a Marine. By the time I was in the 8th grade the braces were off and I was using a retainer only at night. My teeth have remained pretty straight ever since.
So, yesterday’s appointment was something different. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a great dentist. He numbed properly and I didn’t feel any ‘pain’ persay. It was more a mental pain. Removing the old mercury fillings required A LOT of drilling to get them out. At one point I thought my dentist had gone from my tooth up into my skull. A feeling of motion within my head caused such disorientation that I felt I was going to pass out. And the hovering…I’m not cool with things over my head. I can’t do Halloween masks anymore. That’s why I go as a mime every year. Or a dad. Yesterday it felt like I was being smothered under the swift elbow on my dentist’s left arm. Pulling my cheek back like I was a trout on a hook, the drill digging deeper and deeper. I swear it felt like that drill was going to drill out of the top of my head. And the numbing. Listen, I don’t want to feel a damn thing when he’s rooting into my upper jaw line, but this numbing was so intense that I felt like I couldn’t even swallow. Like my throat was numb. My right nostril was numb. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to open my mouth at all because of the numbing. Then while waiting for the numbing to take full effect a ‘dental hygenist in-training’ was coming in checking on me. I guess to see if I’d choked on my own tongue. But she kept asking me what was going on on the news. They have flat-screen TVs in every room for the convenience of the patients. My head is numb and she’s expecting audible, understandable responses from me. “Thaa gurrwl wasth kidnoppped outh uv herrrw bedwoom.” I imagined my mouth looking like some sort of perverse claymation figure. “Oh, that’s terrible. Just terrible,” she said. ”Yeah. Tewibble.” Then, she returned during the ‘procedure’ to watch. Like an audience at the taping of my own snuff film.
Once this was all over and I was home attempting to drink a beer with my dumb, dead mouth, I started thinking about my experience. It wasn’t that it was painful. It really wasn’t. It was uncomfortable, for sure. It was more of a mental discomfort. As I’m getting older my tolerance level for stress has waned incredibly. I think it’s also a control issue. I totally felt like I was spiralling out of control, lying there trying to concentrate on the flat screen and not the ‘assistant in-training’ looking into my violated molar wondering what she was gonna watch that night on the Oxygen Network, or if so-and-so was going to call her back. Or looking at my dentist and trying not to imagine him whispering in my ear, “Is it safe?” I knew it would be over soon. But soon felt as if it would never get there.
After drooling through another beer, the numbness subsided. I was feeling normal again, all but for the pain from the injection sites where he shot me up with some anesthetic. There have been far worse and more painful experiences in my life. But not the physical kind. The mental and emotional kind. Seeing my kids in distress. Asthma attack. A broken arm. The death of a loved one. A miscarriage. These are the skyscrapers in my mental City of Pain. Yesterday’s visit? Nothing more than a two-story tenement. A mere mental bamboo shoot under my pinky nail. A mere mental flesh wound. I may have crushed that tv remote in my right hand while he dug for gold in my head, but I survived it. That and a $170 will get you two new non-leaky fillings.
I still hate going to the dentist. No offense, doc.