Yay! I can have ice, again. I sit at my kitchen table and to my left is a glass of Strawberry sparkling water floating in ice! It sounds silly over triumphant, I know. I’ve been off ice for close to a decade—not because I was addicted to the stuff and not because I’m a European enthusiast—I am, but not when it comes to ice—the issue was the blunt pain that radiated through my weak enamel and hammered at my gums whenever ice cream or an icy cola entered my mouth.
I was told of my sensitivity condition when I went to a dentist—one who was highly recommended by, I suspected later, people who hated me—to fix a filling in a tooth. I must state, that I have a brother who is also a dentist, a good one at that, however, he lives one hundred miles away from me, and so, I decided to try someone local. As the new guy used a water pick infused with what seemed to be liquid nitrogen squirting my gum line, I howled.
“You have sensitive teeth,” he told me.
I’m always fascinated with two abilities dentists all seem to have—the capacity to understand a patient with tools, cotton balls, and a vacuum jammed in his or her mouth and still manage to carry on a conversation, and how dentists always state the obvious.
“Looks like you have a cavity.”
Yeah, I know, that’s why I’m here.
“I haven’t seen you in a while.”
That’s because you’re a dentist and next to nose-diving towards the earth in a fiery plane, dentists are the next most terrifying things there is—that and sharks.
Besides my mouth, what’s there to talk about with a dentist anyway? Does anyone just hang out with his or her dentist, I mean if they’re not related to you?
While Mr. DDS was testing his theory of whether or not I felt pain, spraying my mouth with cold and the hot water—me, wincing and jumping—he insulted me.
“You know, you should start buying Sensodyne toothpaste.”
Sensodyne—as in old people toothpaste?
“Aren’t I too young for that?” I garbled.
“No, you’re close to forty, right?” He stepped back and assessed me.
“No!” I wasn’t yet, thirty-five!
“Oh, well, your teeth think you are.”
Then, the appointment got worse. As the man was dismantling an old filling, he accidentally punctured my root with one of his miniature diamond pickaxes. I saw blinding white for thirty-three seconds before I tasted rusted pennies on my tongue.
FYI, oops and sorry should never be uttered during any procedure—ever!
He went on to tell me that he wasn’t qualified to perform a root canal, but had a buddy whom he’d call, and request an emergency appointment. Root canal? Emergency appointment? My teeth think I’m forty-years-old? He left.
After a few minutes, the dentist returned.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but my buddy can’t see you for two hours. So what I’m going to do is numb you up real good, and then you can see him this afternoon.”
I have no idea how much Lidocaine the man shot into my gums and cheek, but it was enough to make the whole right side of my face lie immovable.
Killing a couple of hours, I decided to head to a nearby Barnes and Noble. Along with books they also have a place to order a sandwich.
When I got in my car, I checked out my face in the rearview mirror. I was poufy but looked fine—until I smiled. An invisible line seemed to wall off one side of my face from the smiling side. I looked like I had had a major stroke and recently.
I had two choices; I could drive all the way home to wait for my appointment watching daytime television—ugh! And then drive all the way back a few hours later, or I could suck up what I looked like and go to church—aka Barnes and Noble. I reasoned I rarely had the opportunity to do nothing but read in the afternoon, so I chose option B and drove to the bookstore.
At a corner section of B and N, was Starbucks and I scanned the menu items above the barista. As I opened my mouth to order a sandwich and a drink, a thick string of slobber spilled from the sagging right side of my face and puddled onto the counter.
Horrified I snatched a handful of napkins from a dispenser and sopped up my juices. I tried saying sorry, which led to more drool and pitying looks from “Becca” behind the cash register.
“That’s a grilled ham and cheese and a diet coke without ice, right?” she asked, enunciating each word. I nodded and handed her my credit card.
“I’ll bring it out to you,” Becca said, producing a damp yellow rag and mopping up my saliva.
I tried convincing myself to stay, fighting the adrenaline spike prompting me to run out of the building, to my car, and drive somewhere dark—somewhere in the shadows to hide.
To my surprise, I didn’t run. I found a book. I found a table, and I sat down. This is good I kept telling myself, this is a social experiment—what it’s like to be at Starbucks and Barnes and Noble with partial facial paralysis.
After a few minutes, someone other than Becca brought me my order. I popped a corner of sandwich into my mouth and tried chewing off a piece. I bit my cheek instead. I ripped off a section by hand and shoved it passed my lips. The bread slipped out of the right side of my mouth and landed on the table in a wet mess.
Not Becca was watching me from the counter. I felt his stare boring into the side of my broken face. I pretended not to care. I tried taking a long drag on my straw, picturing the dark liquid shooting through the tube like my own stubbornness, but this too just poured out the side of my mouth and splashed onto the tabletop.
Becca and Not Becca hurried to me, holding handfuls of napkins and a damp yellow cloth. I couldn’t handle it. I packed up my things and hurried out to my car vowing never to go to any dentist other than my brother and that maybe I should start using Sensodyne toothpaste?
Today, I sit sipping sparkling water on ice—though it has nothing to do with using old person toothpaste—that stuff doesn’t really work. Recently, I found a toothpaste containing fluoride, and within a week, here I am with an icy drink! Miracles do happen!