Word Association: Dentist, Dread, Dismay, Decay

Today was my first visit to the dentist in Chicago. I confess, I was overdue. But the regularly scheduled appointment that my Ohio dentist cheerily called to remind me of in April, happened to fall just in the middle of our move to Chicago.
Six months later I was in the dentist's chair. Either dental technology has made some really astounding light-year advancements in these past months, or my dentist is the geek who has surround sound and the fanciest digital camera at home. I guess this because he had a fancy camera in the exam room. He gleefully invited me to look at my teeth with him, and see exactly what he sees. As the camera poked around in my mouth clinically it was likely not too bad. The dentist has certainly seen worse, but to the novice observer it was horrifying. If it had been a Discovery Channel show I might have disassociated and felt a little curious. But I just felt dismayed as my dentist offered the running commentary, "A little decay there, likely need a filling. Here's your existing silver filing; we don't do those any more because of the mercury," he remarked off-handedly.
I am the patient who crosses her feet and folds her hands tightly in her lap during the cleaning. Making quick affirmative noises to the hygienist whenever she asks me how I'm doing, trying to steer her away from conversation and back to an expeditious finish to the cleaning. I dread dental stories, like the one shared by a colleague the other night over dinner, explaining how over time her braces shift the teeth from their positions in the bone. Ugh, my throat felt like it started to close and I swallowed, politely hoping that the story wouldn't progress much further. Where were those entrees?!
Today there was also the part where the hygienist suggested that I might be giving myself cancer with my habit of biting the inside of my cheeks and lips. (Which happens to be twice as prevalent in women as in men. A small fact I gleaned while doing a hypochondriac's googling for "cheek biting cancer." The token of cheer was that you are more likely to develop oral cancer if you are a male over the age of 45. And chew tobacco.) I've had this biting habit my entire life: My mother's journal from our travels in England noted that although I was well-behaved and quiet for the entire flight to the UK, a bright red lip revealed that three year old Claire had been anxiously biting the inside of her mouth for much of the journey. How is it possible that no one has ever thought to mention the perilous side effects of this habit???
And what was that he said about the mercury in my fillings???
Quite a demoralizing and depressing visit to the dentist. To top it off, my next appointment for those fillings is on Valentine's Day.



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