KICKED BACK in the recliner, I am mindlessly watching a television news show. This distracts me from the poking and prodding inside my mouth.
But not enough. My shoulders tense, my hands clench tighter together. No matter how hard I try, I cannot relax in the dentist’s chair.
I am due for my five-year full-mouth X-rays. This is not good. My mouth is small (although some would definitely argue that point), so I struggle to tolerate plastic resting upon my tongue and against my cheeks.
Finally, after about a half-dozen X-rays, I ask the hygienist, “How many X-rays do you have to do?”
“Eighteen,” she answers.
I think she is joking. She’s not.
Finally, we are done and then she is measuring the depth between teeth and gums, checking on the status of my diagnosed periodontal disease. The lower the number, the better, and I hear mostly twos. Finally, something positive. She praises me for my good home care. I am grateful for the encouragement because I know the bad news is yet to come.
I am right.
The dentist examines my X-rays and my mouth and asks if I have any concerns. I do. I pull back my top lip to reveal the gum tissue receding from a front tooth. I need a filling, maybe more, she says. Oh.
Then she’s back to the X-rays, commenting about curved roots. My radar is on high alert now. “I hope you never need those teeth pulled,” the dentist says. I think she wishes she had kept this curved root observation to herself. Yeah, me too.
Soon my teeth are clean and shiny. But they are still crowded and in need of braces. I’ve asked my mom more than once if she will pay for the braces I should have gotten as a child. She thinks I am joking.
I am not.
© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling