Until last Friday, I hadn't been to the dentist in twenty-two years.
When I was growing up, I went every six months, because that's what you did in my white bread, middle class world. My last parent-paid visit was when I was nineteen, and that was also when I got my first cavity and had it filled.
Out on my own, as a young
I still think we're too health-obsessed in this country, and we give medical entities way too much authority over our bodies. But I've mellowed in my old age, and am not quite so radically against the medical establishment as I was in my twenties. I've been meaning to go to the dentist for years, really I have, but somehow it kept getting pushed down my to-do list.
It was my oldest daughter who finally convinced me to go. Another confession: she made the appointment for me (and one for herself the same day), and called to remind me about it the day before. I, of course, had completely
So off we went to Angel Fire, because the Taos dentists aren't taking new patients. I'd never been to Angel Fire before, and it had snowed quite a bit the day before. It was one of the most treacherous journeys I've made in a vehicle. The road there is consistently narrow and winding, and the last stretch is the narrowest and most winding, up a steep mountain. At one point, there was a "curve," actually a ninety-degree turn, without any warning at all until you're right up on it.
I have to admit, I was freaking out a wee bit, driving on a slick, unplowed road such as this. I inched almost the entire way. Thank God, at least, that no one was tailing me. By the time we finally made it to the dentist's office, I was sweating bullets, had a nasty headache, and just wanted to take a nap.
We went in the office and were greeted by an undead receptionist with a massive head wound, and I suddenly realized it was the day before Halloween. She was wearing scrubs splattered with fake blood; it was a good costume. A little too good.
I recently went to the doctor for the first time in a while and needed to have my ears flushed out. While not painful, this was an extremely disturbing experience for me, although in a strange way it bordered on the mystical. It made me realize that I've become a total wuss about having foreign objects and substances forced into my orifices. So my already addled state created by the drive to Angel Fire was heightened by the nervousness I felt about having my mouth poked around in. If you can't imagine the state I was in, here's a visual aid.
I look drugged, don't I? Well, I wasn't.
When the dentist appeared dressed as the Grim Reaper, that was the last straw.
No. The last straw was having the Grim Reaper poke an extremely sharp and pointy instrument around my incredibly sensitive gums to clean out twenty-two years worth of nastiness.
To be fair, he was very sweet and gentle (and tall and handsome). He had ski equipment placed decoratively on his walls,
and provided a lovely view from the very comfortable reclining chair I was in.
Plus, he has the coolest name ever: Strider A. McCash (I wonder if the A is for Aragorn.)
But he was too quiet. And that instrument was too much like a tiny scythe. I was too scared of him to ask for a photo.
And then there was the assistant. She too was in costume, which was basically just an orange shirt and black pants and creepy black eye makeup. She proceeded to tell me that this was her fifth day as a dental assistant, and that when she'd had her hysterectomy, she'd almost died of an infection because they left some kind of medical foreign object inside her.
Somehow I made it through all this, with my whole body tensed and my eyes squinched shut, and, lo and behold, it turned out that I have no new cavities. I think Dr. McCash was a little disturbed that I've been such a dental delinquent and still have healthy teeth. I may have detected a note of contempt when he told me, "Yeah, well, you're teeth actually look good." He was probably also wondering what kind of freak takes pictures at the dentist's office.
The drive back was fine; all the snow had melted. When I got home I inspected my teeth in the mirror. They're so clean and shiny now!
And I swear - I'll go see the dentist again in six months, like a good girl.
Well, maybe in a year. Next Halloween.