Thursday, February 14, 2013

Garbage Mouth

I dreamed I had spiders crawling out of my mouth. In the dream, a couple of my back molars cracked and fell out, and from the hole that remained in my gums, a million baby spiders emerged. It was gross.

Dreams about your teeth falling out aren't uncommon, but this one was particularly distressing because of the added arachnid element. I awoke, startled, and made sure all my teeth were still intact. Then I realized something: I haven't been to the dentist in, like, a decade. 

That seems like a long time, and it is, but I take care of my teeth and they've never really given me problems. I always figured going to the dentist was like seeing a doctor—you only go if something's bothering you. Yearly checkups are for children, the elderly, and Kim Kardashian, who gets annual upgrades to her hi-tech prosthetic robot boobs.

I decided it couldn't hurt to at least get my teeth checked out, even though I was sure everything would be fine. After all, my teeth are my third most complimented feature, after my always-trimmed-to-one-fourth-of-an-inch beard and my oddly beautiful eyebrows.


I don't want anyone to think I'm bragging, so for the record my least complimented features are my luscious knuckle hair, gigantic big toes, and devil horns which I file down every morning so nobody suspects I'm actually the Beast of the Apocalypse summoned to Earth by Nazi occultists. 

Because I am poor, I investigated inexpensive options for visiting the dentist. A friend suggested I check out a dental school, but that seemed like a supremely bad idea.


After researching some pricy and unneeded dental plans, I figured the best course of action would be to wait for an appropriate Groupon to come available, because Groupon always has suspiciously cheap deals for medical procedures.


Luckily, I only had to wait a few days for a suitable dental work coupon: $35 for a full cleaning, x-rays, and consultation. Bingo.

I made an appointment and a few weeks later moseyed down to the clinic, which for the sake of protecting the innocent I will call Fartmouth Dentistry, Inc. (spoiler alert: the name applies). I filled out some paperwork and handed the secretary my printed Groupon. Since the facility was curiously empty, I was admitted right away. I was led back to the x-ray room by a hygienist named Javier who seemed like he'd rather be anywhere but work. He had a hairstyle apparently influenced by Rufio from Hook and an attitude apparently influenced by April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation, but somehow without the sardonic charm. I disliked him immediately. He seemed like the kind of person who's "only at this job until my side business selling silk charmeuse harem pants for pugs takes off."

He was not gentle with me.


Afterwards I was unceremoniously shuffled to one of several little cubicles with a dentist chair in it.

"Have a seat," Javier mumbled. "Dr. Landress will be in to see you shortly." He sashayed away.

I looked around my cubicle. The walls were a sort of non-color that might've been white once upon a time, or maybe yellow, but had faded into a dirty shade of custard. The vinyl cover on the footrest of my chair was torn down the middle and nearly falling off. A tiny, ten inch television was affixed to the wall near the ceiling for patients to watch while their teeth were worked on. Dr. Oz was playing on mute. It was closed captioned. Coming here was not a good idea, I thought.

Dr. Landress entered. She didn't introduce herself, and instead sat down next to me and said, "Open wide, please." I obeyed. She reached around my head, a cleaning pick in hand and a tiny mirror in the other. Before she started cleaning, she said, "I can see one cavity already. You should floss." I furrowed my brow at the comment. I do floss. I love to floss. I wish I had more teeth to floss.

For the next twenty minutes, I sat in the chair, uncomfortable wincing in pain each time Dr. Landress jabbed at my gums with her tiny death sickle. The concept of personal space seemed foreign to her. I understand dental work calls for close quarters, but at one point she leaned in so close I could hear her heartbeat.


When she finished cleaning, she polished my teeth with that pink gunk that tastes like expired Skittles, then called Javier in to review my x-rays. He handed her a small transparent sheet and the doctor reviewed it. "Hmm. Looks like you have one, two, three... four, five... six cavities. You have six cavities." She almost seemed impressed.

I stared at her incredulously, my mouth aching dully.


She showed me the x-ray. One of the cavities was in the front, on a tooth that I'd chipped years ago during a particularly heated make-out session. The other five were in the back, between the same two molars. It wasn't as bad as it seemed. I floss regularly, but those two back teeth are always hard to get at, and after ten years of neglecting the dentist I shouldn't have expected to have problem-free chompers. Still, six cavities? I felt like a certifiable Garbage Mouth.

"How often do you brush your teeth?" Dr. Landress asked. Her tone implied that she doubted I'd ever seen a toothbrush. I told her I brush twice a day for a couple minutes, at least. She seemed skeptical. "Well, ok. Just make sure you brush for two minutes every time. It's easier if you think of your mouth as having quadrants, and brush each section for thirty seconds." I felt like a child. I half expected her to follow up with an explanation on how to tie my shoes.


Back at the front desk, the receptionist and I discussed what my next step would be. "We can go ahead and make an appointment to get those cavities filled, if you want," she said. "We charge $275. Do you have insurance?"


"Ok, well, we have a discount dental plan for... disadvantaged patients." She put special emphasis on the word disadvantaged. I narrowed my eyes at her.

"I can pay $275 out of pocket, it's fine," I said.

The receptionist smiled weakly. "That's per tooth. Your total would be $1,650."

I had an aneurism.


"I'll call later about making an appointment," I said. I paused momentarily, shifted my weight a bit, and nonchalantly added, "So, um, isn't there supposed to be, like, a toy situation here? Last time I visited the dentist I got a prize."

The receptionist looked at me quizzically. "We used to have a toy chest for... kids, but that was a while ago."

"So no Spongebob temporary tattoos?" I said, only partly joking. "No Ben 10 pencil toppers? Nothin'?"

"Sorry," the woman chuckled, and turned to file something. Despite the fact that I'm a fully grown adult, I felt shortchanged.


Before leaving, I reiterated that I'd call again and make a follow-up appointment to get my cavities filled, I could tell the receptionist never expected to see me again. She was right. I need to get my teeth fixed, but I sure wasn't doing it at Fartmouth Dental.

And yet, I still have holes in my mouth and I'm not sure what to do. I can afford to pay the $1,650 if I have to, but I feel like my hard earned cash is better utilized on videogames, Thai food, and LeBron X Nikes in multiple colors. I spent the better part of a decade neglecting the dentist, so I suppose I can afford a few more weeks and seek out a more trustworthy professional to drill my teeth.

Until then it's "bah whatever, cavities lol."

I really am a Garbage Mouth.