The Broken Tooth

I can’t believe I’ve become a dentist hater. I used to love my childhood dentist, Ira. (We were on a first name basis.) He filled my first cavities in America – all with the help of the snoopy nose, a.k.a. gas. Of course I liked the dentist – he got me high from the time I was 8 years old. He would engage me in conversations about my non-existent boyfriends. For the two decades that I went to this same dentist, I didn’t have any more cavities.
I was so proud of MY dentist. I got him a speaking gig at my elementary school, P.S. 220. Even early on I was Dental Pimping. (From dentist to clowns … so are the pimping days of my lives.) We had a whole-school assembly when Ira came to the school. He gave out toothbrushes and floss and showed us a plaque demo.
But today is a different day and this is a different dentist. I’ve been going to this dentist for about 7 years – he’s OK. I used to think he was better than he actually is; now he’s just another tooth butcher.
Today I sat at the dentist’s office because I broke my tooth about a month ago. It had broke once before three years ago and he put some bonding on it and it held up … until it broke again. He said I needed a veneer. This would be a two-day process – one day to prepare the tooth and the next day to put it on.
I was nervous but tried to remain calm. I brought him pictures of my new baby and he feigned interest as he flipped through the photo book.
First step was to drill down my tooth to a stump (or more like a baby tooth among the grown-up teeth). I saw the dental assistant put the syringe on the stainless steel tray and wondered who it was for since clearly they didn’t mention that I would need a SHOT – only drilling.Apparently you have to get numb before the drilling.

“Oh no, I hate the novocaine,” I told him. “Lets try it without the anesthesia.”
“Well I can probably get all the drilling done in three minutes,” he said and began the noise that would only be tolerable if it was also making ink on my skin.
He drilled for what seemed like three minutes, but I was wincing. I tried relaxation exercises; I was breathing deeply and visualizing the beach in Tulum. I thought of James Frey in A Million Little Pieces and how we went through some major dental work without drugs. Then I realized that his “memoir” was partially embellished.

After a minute of drilling, the dentist stopped and I was glad.

“I guess I need the anesthesia,” I told him. I felt weak. In Russia both my parents had all their dental work with little or no anesthetic. Here I was not being able to withstand three minutes of drilling.
He gave me the painful shot as I winced into the leather chair that still smelled like Windex from the cleaning before me. A tear uncontrollably fell from my the corner of my eye.
He drilled for another two minutes and he was done. Then I had to bite down on something that felt and smelled like silly putty. I had to stay biting for 5 minutes. Of course at this point the dentist left the room and I was left with the assistant.
I started drooling profusely on my blue bib but I couldn’t ask for a tissue since my mouth was putty gagged. She said I could text her – but she meant I could write down what I wanted to say. So she gave me a paper towel and a pen so I could write down that I needed a tissue.
Then the lab technician who makes the veneers came in so he can “match” my tooth. “B1,” he said confidently, pulling out one of the fake teeth from the portable row of multicolored fake teeth. I took it and held it up to my stump tooth to see if it matched my other teeth. I was skeptical.
“Are you sure this is the right color?” I ask this gray-haired technician, who had upper teeth that were clearly dentures or veneers in bright white and lower teeth that were heavily yellowed.
He was certain and tried to convince me. The dental assistant with the bloody tooth tattoo tried to reassure me. “He’s been doing this for 50 years,” she giggled.
“But he couldn’t even match his own teeth,” I told her.
“What does that have to do with anything,” she asked. “He only makes the teeth.”
“Yeah, but if I was a make-up artist and you came to me to do your make up and my face was a hot mess, would you want me doing your face?”
“You have a point,” the assistant gave it to me.
The dentist came in later and looked at the B1 fake tooth. He pulled it out of the row and held it up to my tooth. My lip was completely numb and the dentist kept telling me to smile. I thought I was, but realized I looked like a stroke victim. I wasn’t sold on the B1. Neither was the dentist.
He said he needed a second opinion. He called in the other dentist. She said it was too light – I definitely needed the A1. I looked at the A1 under my paralyzed lip and agreed the grayer version of porcelin was better.
I go back tomorrow at 5pm to get it cemented on.

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