Have you ever heard Bill Cosby’s routine about the dentist?  I’ve always found it funny, but until recently, I imagined dental hi-jinks were just comedic exaggerations.

Last week I went to visit my dentist.  Before I go any further, let me say I like my dentist.  I picked him because he is the closest dentist to my home, and overall I’ve been pleased with the level of dental care they’ve given.  It’s a nice modern office, and I think my dentist seems like a pretty nice guy.  I’ve even had the same hygienist every time I’ve visited.  She seems like a nice lady, does a good job, and does her very best every time to tell me how much richer and fuller my life would be if I would just floss.*

*Do you floss?  It seems like such a disgusting, mildly painful way to spend two extra minutes a day.  How did flossing become a thing?  I suspect that it was originally seen as a way to get corn on the cob out of your teeth, but then the dental community latched on to it as a way of making dental care unpleasant at home as well.

As I said, I’ve always had good service with my usual dental hygienist, but this time I had an older woman clean my teeth.

Imagine your grandma using unfamiliar advanced computer technology and power tools simultaneously.  Got it?  Now imagine her doing it while putting her hands in your mouth.

When this unfamiliar lady (who I am sure is actually a nice lady) called me in, I was immediately apprehensive.  I know and am comfortable with my usual hygienist, she has my trust.  What is this new lady going to be like?  Should I be scared?  Am I being an ageist?

Yes and yes.

Anyway, she sat me in the chair and told me it was time for x-rays.  She proceeded to jam the mouth guard between my teeth, and stepped back to take the picture.  It made the sound which sends radiation hurtling through my face, and then goes to the computer screen.  Lo and behold, she can’t get the image on the screen.  She called my usual hygienist in for assistance.  At this point, I should have cried out for help.  But, my usual hygienist showed her the problem (the screen wasn’t turned on, once again, imagine your grandma), and my new hygienist went on to snap my tooth pics.  Two, count em, two pics didn’t take, and she had to re-do them.  Maybe my head moved, who knows.  All I know is that I got two extra helpings of radiation at no extra charge!

Finally, we get to the cleaning.  Before we started, she asked me, “I see you like the Cavitron, is that what you want me to use today?”  Obviously, I would prefer anything to the small dental pick-ax, and yes, what I usually have is a small whirring machine that shoots out little jets of water that power-wash the tartar away.  I repiled, “Yes, I’ll take the Cavitron.”

Now here is where things got dicey on many levels.  First off, I should have been concerned that once she got me back on the chair, she had tremendous difficulty getting the light that shines into your mouth adjusted.  Next she put the little vacuum hose into my mouth and let it hang there dangling from my gaping maw.  And then I sat and waited.

KKKKKKKKWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWKKKKKKKKKKWWWWWW went the vacuum hose.

And I waited.  Finally, she went and asked for assistance a second time from my usual hygienist, who is next door, having a pleasant conversation with her patient.  How desperately I wished to be on the other side of the divider.  She showed my hygienist how to get the machine started, and went back to her (probably annoyed) patient.

And ready!

So Doris (I think I’ll call her Doris) proceeded to get up close and personal with me.  Let the tartar destruction begin!

Nothing.  No water would come out of the Cavitron.  Doris was confused.  I was still sitting there with a hose in my mouth feeling more concerned and annoyed.  Now one other thing I noticed at this point is that Doris didn’t have what one would call a fresh scent.

So, she toddled off to my saintly usual hygienist AGAIN and asked for assistance.  She came by a THIRD time and showed her that to get the water to flow, you need to use the foot pedal.

I am too polite to scream, “Are you familiar with the Cavitron Doris?”

Probably because I have a bib on and a suction hose hanging from my lower lip.

AND FINALLY WE BEGIN.  But immediately before we begin, Doris turns away from me and sneezes!

OH!  MY!  GOODNESS!  DID YOU USE THE CROOK OF YOUR ARM?  I COULDN’T SEE!  I’M SCARED!  WHY ARE YOUR GLOVES WET?  IS IT THE WATER FROM THE CAVITRON?  MY MOUTH?  YOUR MOUTH????

And with that, Doris finally got her theoretically clean hands in my mouth.

I do like my usual hygienist, but man, she has done some painful things to me through the years.  She goes after my tartar with passion, getting right down to the gums and in between my teeth, occasionally making me wince.  And I’m OK with that, because that’s HER JOB.

Doris, perhaps already a bit nervous about how things were going, was less thorough.  On the bright side, not a drop of blood was shed during this dental appointment.  However, I’m pretty sure Doris was clueless as to what she was doing with the mini tooth power washer.  Now, if you gave her the dental pick ax, I suspect she would have been OK.

Instead, she cleaned my teeth at a leisurely pace, with water sometimes gushing, and sometimes dribbling out of the machine.  Interestingly, she seemed impervious to the fact that I was drowning a couple of times and had to close my mouth round the Cavitron to suck up the water.  Also, there was a lack of control.  I had water all over my glasses, running down my neck, and even had some reach my back.

“You won’t need a shower today, he he!”

Shut it, Doris.

After she finished, she gave me a little square of gauze to wipe off my glasses.

The final part of the procedure is the polishing procedure.  Hopefully, most of you know the drill (no pun intended).  They load up a mini buffer with gritty paste, and polish you up as good as can be expected after 35 years of dental wear and tear.

Doris proceeded to polish my lower chompers.  Everyone knows this stuff is disgusting, and I was waiting for a refreshing rinse to cleanse the nastiness off my teeth once she finished the lower set.

Instead I was greeted by a blast of air on my teeth and gums.

What the hell Doris!

I don’t know if she thought my teeth needed to set in the polish for a bit, but after air blasting the lower row, she set off again on polishing the upper row.  I thought surely we would get a rinse now, but instead she gave my upper row of teeth a blast of air as well.  FInally, FINALLY, after that blast of air, she sprayed my mouth with a trickle of water to remove the polish.

Now, all I had to do was wait for the dentist.

At this point I was not feeling conversational.  I considered ranting about Doris then and there but the problem with dentist offices is that they aren’t private.  Doris was right there, and incompetent as she seemed, would you want to complain about an older lady right in front of her? Or others?  I kept things brief with the dentist, no cavities (as usual), and made a beeline out of there when I was free to go.

After leaving, I called and politely told the receptionist that I would prefer not to have that hygienist in the future, at which point she told me that Doris is just filling in for a few days.

Lucky me.

In all, this did make me appreciate talented dental hygienists, but I’m still not going to floss.

Finally, dear readers, do you have any dental horror stories?  Feel free to share in the comment section below.