Friday, March 5, 2010

Abu Ghraib Hygenists and Germs


A few weeks back the older kids and I went to the dentist for our biannual cleaning and checkup. My children leap for joy when they hear we are headed to get their teeth cleaned, namely because they leave with a brand new toothbrush and two or three items from the treasure box. Who knew that 9 and 11 year olds could still be so motivated by small inflatable balls, fake sunglasses, and lip gloss? What I would prefer they hand out to the children are coupons to Wendy’s or maybe even discount coupons for my co-pay. At least with these options I’m not throwing away the grab-and-take goodies 48 hours after bringing them home. But don’t tell my children. They think they just lose them.

I, however, am not such a big fan of the dentist for two good reasons.
  1. The amount of potential germ contaminants makes my stomach churn.
  2. The hygienist I’m always scheduled with is a sadist.

Germs, Germs, Everywhere

Every time I walk back to the cleaning chair I cannot help but think about all the instruments, utensils, and contraptions that touch people’s mouths. Mouths that have bad breath, cavities, rotting teeth. Mouths that do who-knows-what-with-who-knows-who. All these implements are displayed on top a thin paper towel on a fingerprint laden metal tray. I was not allowed to see these devices being taken out of (what I hope to be) sterile packaging. Especially the mouth vacuum piece. How do I know she didn’t just use those same implements to extract a large wad of animal tissue from between someone’s molars? What assurance do I have that the mouth vacuum didn’t just suck out the blood infused saliva from some 65 year old who never flosses? I am also acutely aware of my hygienist and what she’s touching. She has gloves on her hands—presumably to protect my mouth from filth and germs—but then she adjusts the tv monitor, the light, the chair, and the doorknob before grabbing a supposedly sterile instrument and forcing my cheeks open to the walls. Hell, she may as well grab a booger and itch her pits before beginning to clean the tartar off my teeth. The whole event is enough to make me ask for a double dose of Xanax.

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, this last time when the dentist came in to do his five second scan of my teeth, he rounded the corner already wielding one of those tiny metal mirrors, having just left a patient on the other side of the faux walls. As he’s poking his own dirty, latex clad finger around in my mouth, I get a glimpse of the mirror which, I swear…swear had smoodge on it. The reflection in that mirror was not clean and shiny as one might expect a mirror to be; no that mirror had some indiscriminate gack. If I could have receded farther into the chair and away from that nasty instrument coming towards my mouth, I would have done it. Or if I had any cojones at all I would have just asked him, “Hey, does your mirror have crap on it? Because that’s not going anywhere near my mouth, dentist. I want to see you disinfect that sucker or I’m outta here.” But I didn’t say that. I cringed and gagged and rinsed my mouth out with whiskey when I got home. The whole event makes me want to drink.

My Hygenist is a Sadist.

 
My children always seem to get the nice hygienist who takes her time cleaning and flossing their teeth, and tells them little ditties that make them giggle and smile. My hygienist on the other hand, is a twenty-something brunette with large brown eyes. I’ve never seen her nose or mouth, because thank God, at least she wears a face mask. This young woman has previously bragged to me how she can clean someone’s teeth in about 20 minutes. I didn’t know that dentist’s offices operated on a “turn and burn” mentality like a 50’s diner. She also isn’t working on commission as far as I know, earning more for every set of teeth she cleans before kicking people to the curb. Perhaps she is hoping to leave work early and go to the tanning booth. Maybe she has plans with her friends to meet at the local pub. Or is she one of those people who collect notches on their bedpost, hers being the number of mouths she's cleaned in 1,200 seconds? What I can tell you is that the last time she cleaned my teeth I spit more blood than I would have going three rounds with Oscar de la Hoya in a Vegas ring. I also left with a throbbing mouth and a migrane.

The best part about her is that she blames me for all the blood.

“Oh, your gums sure are bleeding. Do you floss everyday?”

Now she’s asking me this while both her hands are jammed into my mouth. It’s not really a yes or no answer, since I floss about 3-4 times a week. All I can do is mumble,

“Uhh fwos here who whore himes a whheek..”
“Well, you should really floss every day. There is so much tartar here it’s tough to get it off. I’m really having to scrape.” What she means is, I’m screwing with her 20-minute average.
 
As she’s scraping she is also constantly nicking my gums, causing me to flinch my body and jolt my head. To which she says, “Sorry about that. It’s hurting because you don’t floss regularly.” And I’m thinking, No, witch, it’s hurting because you are stabbing my gums with a sharp, pointed, metal instrument. At this point I’m positive she transferred from Abu Ghraib prison and is fluent in all forms of secret torture, but I’m not sure what information she’s hoping to get outta me. Is she waiting for me to scream, “FINE FINE! I’LL TELL YOU! SOME DAYS I DON’T GET DRESSED UNTIL AFTER 10 MY BATHROOMS ARE RARELY CLEAN I HATE PREPARING MEALS AND THE P90X MAKES ME URINATE A LITTLE EVERY FEW MINUTES!!” Fine. Those aren’t really secrets anyway.
 
And damn my mouth for salivating while she’s excavating Rome in there, because the second there is a tiny bit of spittle she whisks out the mouth vacuum and jams it all along my teeth, the back of my throat, and my cheeks. I don’t know if this event is for her benefit or mine, but when she finally gives me permission to rinse and spit, looking at the bloody liquid pouring out of my mouth, I’m quite sure I’m going to need a transfusion. I don’t think they do those in this office.
 
As the final act to my teeth cleansing performance, she unspools the dental floss and proceeds to floss the teeth she just cleaned, potentially unlodging bits of whatnot into my mouth. I’m thinking that flossing before the cleaning would be a better idea, but no one asked for my opinion. She’s sitting behind my head, jamming the floss between my teeth and pushing down my gums—not to the side of my gums mind you—but straight down on my gums like 80’s tube socks. It’s a harrowing experience, one that leaves me with more blood in my mouth and a huge migraine. At the most recent visit I had, knowing the mouth torture was to come, I said to her, “Do you mind if we skip the flossing today?”
 
She stopped. Looked at me. Shocked. Had no one dared interrupt the 20 minute routine before? Was she going to strap me to the chair with waxed covered string and do it anyway?

“Why?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”
At this point I could have told the truth, something like, why yes, you sadistic 20 minute obsessed torture freak, thank you for finally asking, but I think Edward Scissorhands could clean my teeth with less blood and pain than your dirty-gloved fingers and I do not want you anywhere near my mouth with your piercing floss! But I didn’t. I lied.

“Ummm, no. Everything is fine. I just have a migraine and flossing tends to exacerbate it.” It wasn’t a total lie. Had she continued I would have had a migraine and flossing does exacerbate it. You have to be careful with young women like her. She’s really close to that dirty metal table filled with sharp instruments.

“Oh. Okay,” she says, handing me my own reel of mouth string.
Well, at least one disaster averted. I was out of there in 19 minutes flat and left with a brand new tooth brush.

 

1 comment:

Fred A. said...

I just had my teeth cleaned last THursday and the appointment went well. The receptionist is a 50's something woman who replaced a long time employee who moved to another state becuase her husband was transferred. When I siad who I was and that I was here to have my teeth cleaned, she yelled to the back rooms- " Fred's here and he sure smells good!" I only used a dab of Nivea mens aftershave balm, but felt like that was too much to go to the dentists office.... but my teeth are clean and no problems to speak of....

Dad