A Valuable Lesson

I learned something this morning that should have been self-evident: don’t ever volunteer information to your dentist. He had just smugly congratulated me for the healthy condition of my teeth and I had just smugly thanked him, when I casually mentioned that my molars are more sensitive than they once were. Whoa. Screeching halt to the smugness. First, he whipped out a little ink-doused sheet and had me bite onto it, so that he could tell from the ink marks on my molars where they were hitting each other. Then he growled over my old x-rays for awhile. He quizzed me on my orthodontial history for a bit, and then…then…the drill.

The theory behind the torture: due to the fact that I didn’t wear my retainer every night for 15 years after I got my braces off, when I clench my jaw my molars are only hitting in 4 places, putting undue stress on those spots. I hereby apologize to Dr. Wyatt, my old orthodontist, even if he did have 6 kids and a Porsche before he was 40. So Dr. Smith, my dentist, reasoned that if he drilled off the most pointy and prominent bits of my molars, they’d hit more evenly, causing me less discomfort.

I felt like I was trapped in that old Bill Cosby “Dentist” routine. As the drill whined and bits of my teeth fell away, the smell of smoke coming from my mouth inspired full-blown gonzo panic. Especially when the drill went a little too far on one tooth — I discovered, like the famous comedian, that I can actually walk with my behind.

All things considered, it didn’t really hurt that much…nothing like having my upper jaw slowly pried apart with a metal stretcher and a key, for example. I wonder if orthodontists still subject kids to that medieval contraption? Anyway, my molars are now unnaturally smooth, so I feel more like a chipmunk than I did even as a little kid with a massive overbite. I know Dr. Smith couldn’t have taken off much, but I still grieve for my little molar nubbins.

The moral: the next time your dentist smugly congratulates you on the state of your teeth, for God’s sake say “thank you” and leave it at that.