A dental delight
According to my calendar, I’m scheduled for a dental cleaning this week. Better get busy.I have this thing called a Neti Pot – it’s a small ceramic vessel with a nostril-sized spout. You fill it with warm salt water, insert the nostril-sized spout into the place where it fits best and then tilt your head sideways so that water flows through your sinus cavity and out the other nostril. It isn’t the most pleasant sensation – feels like getting wiped out at the beach – but it really does clear the nasal passages, making the Neti Pot a necessary part of my dental-cleaning preparation. Probably do it twice a day until my visit.Next comes the diet. I’ll need to totally cut carbs and dairy from my meals starting at once; anything that would stuff my nose up. I’ll probably take an over-the-counter decongestant the night before, and a shot or two of a good nasal spray just before I walk through the office door.Because when I sit in that dentist’s chair, I want nothing to come between me and the nitrous oxide.I first discovered that laughing gas is available during a cleaning about a year ago, just by a happy accident. I asked, jokingly, and I was answered, affirmatively. This would be my first time experiencing nitrous oxide in a medical setting, and since it isn’t coming from a balloon I don’t know how to judge my dosage. I ask that we start out slow. My hygienist places the little plastic cup over my nose and I hear a gentle hissing sound. Then she starts scraping. Hmmm … not bad.”Can I have a little more?” I ask after a spit.She turns me up, and soon the intense dental light starts to look soothing.”Can you turn me up a bit more?”She does. The taste of latex is actually quite pleasant.”Can you turn it up any more than that?” Hey, more is always better, right?”OK,” she says, “but that’s all you get.”Granted I’m in an altered state (one supervised by a medical professional, making it OK in the eyes of society, the law AND God), but I’m pretty sure she’s scolding me. Asking for more until I get scolded makes me feel like I’m doing my job, whatever that is.At one point, somewhere around the lower right molars, about halfway through the cleaning, I have a horrible thought: “Oh no! She’s almost finished!”Then I have a reaction to that thought: “That’s not a normal thing to think while someone is scraping plaque from deep within your mouth.”Then, finally, a concluding thought: “This stuff really works. Must breathe deeply.”Oh, and a follow-up thought: “My hygienist is beautiful. And so is that light.”When the session was over I’m afraid I might have professed my newfound love to the hygienist. And, probably even more embarrassingly, to the light. Whatever happened, I was instructed to remain in the chair for a few minutes – without the gas. At the front desk I try to conceal my enthusiasm: “What’s the absolute soonest possible time I can come back? I’m free all next week!”Alas, I have been cursed with good teeth, so a biannual cleaning is all I can secure.For my next visit, an excruciating half a year later, I was a little more prepared, requesting that the gas be turned up to 11 from the git-go and that she take her time.And now, with my next cleaning looming, I must admit I’m feeling a bit guilty. I always leave the dentist so inspired, making all kinds of resolutions, and then I never do anything until the last week, hoping I can fool the dentist into thinking I’ve been doing what I was supposed to all along – yoga, running, swimming, yodeling – all the things that would increase my lung capacity. Oh, well. No point in being down on myself. I’m sure it’ll work out just fine. Especially since I just loaded “Dark Side of the Moon” on my iPod.(Next time: For very similar reasons, Barry gets excited about his visit to the urologist.)Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com
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