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Trip to the Dentist

By H.G. Miller

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind terribly if I rooted around in your mouth for about an hour with some sharp metal tools? Maybe grinded away some chunks of enamel from your teeth and replaced them with a metallic composite that should negate you ever enjoying beverages above or below room temperature? Oh, and I'd like to have a few people stand over us while we do this, perhaps shoving plastic tubes or rolls of gauze down your throat at the times when you are feeling most vulnerable. Would that be okay with you?”

“Well, I'm not sure. Is this covered?”

I've heard people complain, but I think the insurance papers are by far the easiest part of any dental procedure. Name, age, social security number - these are all relatively simple questions. Sure, the part about bizarre STDs I picked up while living in that hippie commune outside of Pittsburgh may seem a little personal, but I can handle it.

Why they need to ask about my involvement with the Iran-Contra scandal on an insurance claim form seems a little suspect, as well, but I guess if it helps speed along the payment process.

All of the other stuff. The… dentist stuff. I'm not so good at that. Even the receptionist seems just a little too cheery when she waves me into the office. “Right this way, Mr. Reagan. You're looking very well today.”

Once they sit you in the chair, the inquisition really starts.

“So, what is it you do for a living?”

“I'm a freeloader, why?”

“That's nice. Do you enjoy it?”

“Well, the hours are good.”

“Oh, I'm sure it will all work out.”

“You're not listening to me, are you?”

“My husband does that all the time.”

“I'll bet.”

After taking ten minutes to maneuver the complicated “chain with clamps” around my neck, the assistant needs a breather, so I am left to ponder life by myself in the cramped office.

Soon enough, the swiveling light apparatus loses its appeal, and my eyes begin wandering around the walls of the room. Ten different kinds of rotting teeth stare at me in every direction. The thought continually runs through my head, “I'm here. Why are they showing these to me? Shouldn't these be out on the street somewhere for people who aren't going to the dentist?”

No, that's probably not such a good idea either.

Finally, the man himself comes into the office. After poking and prodding for about forty-three seconds, he makes a sort of grunting noise and stands up. A nod to the assistant, and the bitch starts in with the scraping and grinding.

“Now rinse” are two of the most welcome words I'll ever hear in my life. And, despite the copious amounts of blood washing away in the tiny basin next to my seat, I am sure progress has been made. I am comforted by the knowledge that in a few days, feeling will return to my gums, and I will once again be able to enjoy the taste of stringy foods only a violent flossing could possibly remove.

I've been told that these procedures are not meant to scar my psyche permanently, but rather to protect me from someday modeling for the posters on the wall. However, I still feel a little suspect at the cost of such visits. I've been to the Home Depot, and I know what a hammer and chisel will set me back.

Dentistry is a racket, and don't you try to tell me otherwise. Sure, these guys go to some kind of “school,” but let's be honest, who couldn't gargle paint thinner for a few minutes each day and get the same results.

(I may be legally required to state that none of the practices contained within this column have ever been scientifically tested, and that the American Dental Association strongly recommends visits to your local hygienist at least twice a year. Then again, what do those bastards know?)

One more thing. Did anybody get the Reagan reference? For God's sake, he was a president, people!