There’s always a price to be paid for putting off personal medical maintenance. And so it’s come to pass that I’ve spent the past six months seated in a dental chair as kindly professionals scrub, jab, inject, disinfect, drill, prod, and plug my gums, molars, and incisors. Flossing has become the essential part of my evening ritual that it always should have been; my brushing game has been stepped up considerably; and this has been an expensive and painful misadventure.
The latest leg came last week, as my dentist and her assistants initiated a “crown build” on a lower left molar. A great deal of drilling, with a wide array of drills, was necessary. I was ordered to don protective goggles. Have you ever had drills applied to your teeth? It is a disconcerting experience, enough that just knowing that it’s possible should be enough to encourage fastidious dental care in the young and able. Dentists administer numbing agents, but this isn’t always enough to obviate the resulting agony. Case in point? Me, last week. I lost track of how many shots of anesthetic my sympathetic dentist was forced to apply to quiet my squirming.
And even once pain is removed from the equation, someone is vaporizing one of your teeth with a tiny drill. You’re frozen in a chair, contorting your head and neck to the dentist’s will to enable ideal angles as small clouds of you fill the air, engulfing you, the dentist, and the dental assistant, that drill whirring and whining relentlessly. You’re smelling and inhaling the bits of yourself that aren’t matting your shirt or hair. These harrowing moments serve a notice that the passing of elders and idols don’t: from dust we come, and to dust we shall return.