Dental expressions

A girl has lots of time to think when strapped into a dentist chair for two hours. OK. I wasn’t exactly strapped in. I was clipped in by a drool bib (not to be confused with “drill bit”).

Either way, I recently had the pleasure of being that girl. Pleasure is a stretch, I know.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who takes joy in reclining in a dentist chair. Not my dentist’s fault. He is a longtime friend who is good at what he does. 

He helps his patients feel as comfortable as possible, and he is multilingual. He is, really.

Why else would he talk with me and ask all kinds of questions as I lay there, mouth numb and open wide, with four sets of fingers probing my teeth with tools?

Dentist: “Are you feeling anything right now around that tooth?”

Me: “Ummph whomp bblahh maaa theeee.”

Dentist: “That’s good. Just let me know if you get uncomfortable.”

Later, my dentist: “What’s Gary been up to?”

Me: “Blaaaa waaahhhhh shaaa ma thaaaa.”

Dentist: “Oh man, I want to try that. We really need to give him a call.”

Think about it. No two dental patients—mouths full of gloved-up fingers, gauze, and dental instruments—speak the same dialect. Yet, our dentists interpret what we’re saying. 

Watch out, Rosetta Stone. Mine could give you a lesson in languages.

My lone complaint is that my dentist has not heeded my years-long request to put something—anything—interesting on the ceiling for his poor victims to gaze upon as they lay powerless with mouths gaping open.

Pointing to the tiles above my head, I reminded him: “Brummph araghh ccccllllllll mmnnnnn.”

“You know, I thought about installing a TV above each chair, but I’m afraid that a TV in every room would create too much distraction for my assistants,” he said. 

OK. I get that.

I’d be happy with a rolling screen to read the latest entertainment, sports or political news, but the rolling aspect may not be a welcome addition for patients who are susceptible to vertigo. 

It might also be wise to block anything political. An alarming news flash might hit an emotional nerve and cause a physical response.

A patient who bolts from the dentist’s chair without warning would not fare well for the dentist, the assistant, the patient, or the poor teeth that are under construction. 

“Baaahhhh wahhh sibbbur roooough,” I said.

“The truth is,” said my dentist, “you are the only person who has mentioned adding anything in a long time. Now that everyone has a cell phone, no one says a word anymore about TVs in the ceiling.”

Patients are so engrossed in their phones that dental assistants have a difficult time clicking them into their drool bibs. That’s my guess.

The mention of cell phones got my mind to thinking, and as I mentioned, I had plenty of time to ponder friends, family, and the state of the world. I considered rummaging for my phone, clicking on its camera, and reversing the screen—selfie-style.

The whole idea was to point the phone to my mouth and watch what my dentist and his assistant were doing in there. In the end, I decided some things are better left unknown.

I spent the remainder of my visit visualizing maps and star constellations from the lines on the fingers and thumbs that hovered over me. When I grew weary of that, I counted the dots on the ceiling tiles.

Whenever I was given the opportunity to come up for air and a rinse, I put myself on the porch by the sea in the picture on the wall in front of me.

“Pktre seaaa murrrrrlllll lddddd rkkkkkk,” I said.

Translation: “A mural on the ceiling would be nice.”


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