The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Saturday, 18 June 2005]

The taste of burning bone

I’ve been a bad, bad boy and haven’t been to the dentist in many, many moons. So finally I managed to make a hole in my busy calendar† to get my pain on.

Went in for a check-up, and things mostly looked good. Bless my strong Viking genes for giving me good teeth. However, according to the dentist, my gums were a bit infected and thus receding away from the teeth, which will lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Tooth loss bad. Prevention good. The prevention consists of having a “deep cleaning.” Deep cleaning is dentist code for them scratching underneath the gums with a sharp instrument.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Two of my teeth also have really old fillings that are starting to decay. The fillings must be torn out and crowns put in. The option to having this procedure done: Wait for the teeth to crumble and have root canals. Not a good option. So crowns it is.

To put the strawberry in the ice cream, my upper wisdom teeth are “decaying” and should be pulled. This is actually not such a big deal, as it’s a straight crank and yank and does not involve high-pitched drills quite so much.

Apart from that, though, the dentist was properly impressed by the ferocious strength of my strong Viking teeth.‡

As I’m on my back in the dentist’s chair and he’s explaining all of this to me, he also says, “And we’ll prescribe you something to help with your anxiety.”

Now, I’d been thinking through this whole ordeal that I’d kept up a pretty strong front, but apparently the sweating, hyperventilating, frequent gag reflexes and involuntary mouth clamping made these guys realize that I’m not exactly comfortable in the dentist’s char.

Fast forward to 9 a.m. this morning, when I’m scheduled for Session One: Deep cleaning the right side of my mouth, having a couple of minor cavities filled, and a crown put on one of the decaying fillings.

Get up in the morning, have breakfast and take two Valium-equivalents. This should put me in a happy place. But it does not. So I take another Valium-equivalent. Feeling a little bit tired, but really not in a happy place at all—thinking it’s just a matter of time before the pills really kick in and I’ll be able to drift away to a happier place where my heart isn’t beating quite so fast and the thought of sharp instruments under my gums won’t be quite so dreadful.

My lovely wife took time off work to drive me to the dentist, as driving on Valium is not quite a good idea, and in the car I felt a bit … detached … but still apprehensive.

We get to the dentist’s office, and the work begins. The deep cleaning takes about an hour and a half—at the end of which the jaw muscle on my right side is starting to cramp and spasm.

The Valiums aren’t doing shit. So I take two more.

At the end of the cleaning, the nurse tells me to rinse my mouth out for a minute. With the right side of my mouth feeling like I’ve been in a bar fight, this doesn’t work out quite as well as I’d hoped, but what’s some dribbling between friends. Shades of Dumb and Dumber here. So with neck muscles crunching from gripping the seat for an hour and a half, it’s time to move rooms and get my fillings and crown taken care of.

Let me pause here to say that this whiny thing I’m doing here is my own damn fault and not at all due to the dentist’s office. They’re being great. Extremely caring and competent. It’s just that some part of my limbic system is freaking out and overriding the Valium, making me retch and want to close my mouth. As well as punch everybody in the room in the face and run down the street. But at least that part is under control.

After moving rooms, it’s time for the fillings and crown. Now there’s the dentist and two nurses. I’m laid down in the chair. The nurse puts protective goggles on me—Oh Holy Shit!—and the dentist tells me there’ll be “A lot of water and noise.” Not comforting, dude, not comforting at all.

Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths, clench and unclench hands, clench and unclench hands.

The drill goes “Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.”

My jaw spasms.

Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths, clench and unclench hands, clench and unclench hands.

The drill goes “Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.”

At this point, for some reason, the scene from Revenge of the Sith where Vader is being rebuilt pops into my head.

Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths, clench and unclench hands, clench and unclench hands.

How can five Valiums not be working? Or, even more disturbing, if they are working, how freaked out would I be at this point without them?

There’s a strange taste in my mouth, and after some thinking I realize it’s the taste of my tooth being ground down. “Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.”

Finally, it’s done.

It’s about noon, and I’ve had my mouth open for three hours. Call my wife, who picks me up. After getting home, I go to bed and fall asleep for four hours.

Soundtrack: “Blackened” by Metallica itunes

† This is a lie. I’ve just procrastinated for years.

‡ At least that’s how my mind is constructing this.

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