Friday, February 2, 2007

Adventures in Dentistry

Yesterday afternoon I had a routine dental checkup. I was already frustrated with this particular office because the week before I showed up for my appointment but wasn’t on their schedule.

I signed in and waited for half an hour. The receptionist then led me back for x-rays and deposited me in an exam room. As always, I had a book with me (my grown-up security blanket), so I waited patiently and read Hugh Laurie’s The Gun Seller (an amusing cross between P.G. Wodehouse and Robert Ludlum).

After I’d been in the room for another half hour, the dentist popped his head in and explained that no one had cleaned my teeth or examined me yet because there was a formidable young man who had walked into the waiting room and, according to the dentist, “We aren’t sure if he’s mentally unstable or a gang member, and we’re trying to decide whether to call the police.” He asked me to wait in the exam room, which I was content to do since the only exit was via the waiting room. I turned on my cell phone, put it in my lap for quick access, and tried to concentrate on my book, but the protagonist had just been abducted by murderous arms dealers, little comforting me. Instead I assessed all the possible hiding nooks in the exam room and pondered the possibility of busting through the front window like the Kool-Aid Man, should the situation call for an alternate escape route.

Eventually the noise from the front of the office subsided, and I could hear the dentist explaining to a patient in another exam room that all his upper teeth would need to be removed and dentures put in. The dentist eventually came in to view my x-rays and poke at my teeth (which still hadn’t been cleaned), and then he explained that he was going to check on his other patient briefly while someone cleaned my teeth.

Soon thereafter I heard shouting from the other room and realized the unstable man had not left, but was actually my neighboring future denture-wearer. The patient had recently had open-heart surgery, and the dentist was trying to explain to him that he couldn’t give him any anesthetic, painkillers, or antibiotics or do any work on his teeth until he had communicated with the patient’s surgeon. At this point the possible-gang-member-cum-lunatic started shouting obscenities at the dentist, threatening to sue, rattling a bottle of pills in a baleful manner, and calling all the dental technicians “broads.” Two baggy-panted young women joined the fray in a hopeless attempt to calm the troublemaker. I peeked into the hall, saw that my avenue of escape was clear, and fled. One of the techs tried to slow me down, but I paused only to say “I’m leaving now and I’m not coming back.”

So I spent an hour and 45 minutes in the dentist’s office without getting my teeth cleaned. Fortunately, I have no cavities…either from tooth decay or bullets. And I’ll be finding a new dentist for my next checkup.

For diverting reading, useful during skirmishes in local dentist offices: Click here to read the first chapter of The Gun Seller, by Hugh Laurie (a.k.a., Bertie Wooster).

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