Well, on Monday we had another speaker in my medical terminology class. By the end of it, I wasn’t feeling so smug about my nerves of steel. He was a dentist. I was good with the slides of the fossilized South American teeth encrusted with jewels (not unlike some teeth I’ve seen on the bus). I was cool with the ulcerated precancerous tissue of a tobacco chewer. But when he pulled up the diagram of a tooth I started to get uncomf. It was a cartoon. One we’ve all seen in grade school. The enamel, the dentin and the pulp.
When I saw that picture I knew I was in trouble. I started doodling. As he started talking about people who come in with a little bit of recision of the gums and complain about touching their dentin with a fingernail and it hurting… Yeesh. I started biting my cheeks, which is a habit I guess not everyone has. Enough people have it though, that my last dental hygenist said, “I see you’re a cheek-biter.” I’ve been trying to cut back, but sometimes you need that little bit of pain to get you through.
As he went on to discuss pit and fissure cavities, sealing teeth, fabulous new procedures, baby-bottle-mouth, mountain-dew-mouth, bleaching induced sensitivity and gunshot wounds I hung in there, but it was tough. He said the word root-canal enough to make me actually twitch. The girl next to me, who is usually very queasy about these things was totally casual. Even showing me her capped front tooth. She was ready to tell me all about it, but I had to tell her I couldn’t handle it. If she had a weeping sore anywhere, or macules or papules or endometriosis… Bring it on. But no dental stories. Dental stories are to be told in hushed tones to people who understand the seriousness of the matter.
We had to look at pictures of the stubs of teeth before they put a crown on it, all drilled into a little tooth-pole. We had to look at a photo of a root canal from above. We talked about pulling teeth with plyers, taking grafts from the palate, cold sensitivity. It was like a horror film.
And the thing is, there’s no reason I EVER need to look at that stuff. If I’m interpreting, I won’t need to look in the patient’s mouth. As a patient, I prefer not to watch any procedure. As a polite guest, I won’t be inviting myself into the Dentist’s office with my host. Dental business is serious and private business.