There’s a scene in the movie Affliction in which Nick Nolte is experiencing a toothache. When he can’t get an appointment to see the dentist, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Go ahead, take a look, it’s riveting:
I just want to say that Nolte’s experience is in no way similar to my own. Not only was I able to get a dental appointment, I was able to get THREE dental appointments in the span of one month, making me a very lucky guy. And not only that, today’s final visit was even moved up a day, so eager was the staff at Stanhope Family Dentistry to again take liberties with my trembling mouth.
Just like some twisted fairy tale, today’s final chapter starts with an ice storm and ends with a triumphant coronation.
After my usual early morning wakeup, I shot out of the garage and down the hill, discovering when I reached the bottom that it wasn’t rain that was falling, but sleet. I somehow got the car through two turns without wiping out, finally bringing it to a stop just before facing the terror of the one-lane bridge.
After a quick text message to my wife, warning her that it was just a tad slippery out, I continued down the Olympic bobsled run that leads to the main highway. I was driving slowly and carefully now, and had time to think about the day ahead. It was then that I remembered I had to go to the dentist later, so I pushed down on the accelerator a few inches, thinking an icy trip into the ditch might get me off the hook, but I was out of luck because the 4-wheel-drive Subaru simply refused to skid.
Time flies, especially when you don’t want it to, and soon work was over and I found myself back in the dentist’s waiting room, watching the same guppies circling in their never-ending search for an escape.
After passing me back to the main dungeon, the receptionist, Sue, was quickly on the phone with the Rutgers University math department for help in totaling up my bill. Meanwhile, Debbie was getting me comfortable and fastening a new blood bib around my neck.
I again took the opportunity to pump her for information.
“Is this going to be easier than last time?”
“It should be,” Debbie said, “it can be as easy as taking off the temporary crown and putting on the new one, but sometimes they need to do a little drilling or something.”
I was pretty sure I’d fit into the “drilling or something” category, but I didn’t have time to ask more questions because I heard the measured step of Dr. Thompson approaching from behind, her heels clicking like the ticking pendulum on the Dental Clock of Doom.
I even believed her when she said most patients undergoing this procedure don’t have any anesthetic. Sure, maybe it put me under a little pressure, but I wanted to please her. I didn’t want to let her down by being “that guy” who needed Novocain when a 6-year-old girl wearing a lacy pink frock hadn’t needed any the day before. So I swallowed any protest and told her I’d try. For Dr. Thompson, I could be Clint Eastwood if I had to!
First the temporary crown had to be removed, and the doc came in fast with a cotton ball, a mirror and a pair of pliers. She was yanking around pretty good in there, and during a break in the action I asked if she was sure she had the right tooth. She reassured me that she did, and Debbie passed along an even bigger set of pliers. Dr. Thompson went back to work.
From behind I heard some rattling, and I think Debbie was getting an electric winch ready just in case, but after one more Herculean tug from Dr. Thompson, the temporary crown finally yielded its grip. Just like the doctor promised, it hadn’t hurt, but I was secretly relieved we hadn’t needed to go to Phase 3, because I’m pretty sure that would have been excruciating.
It was time for the coronation, and the doctor readied my golden crown.
Usually I can’t get out of the dentist’s chair quickly enough, but this was happening too fast! I thought there should have been some speeches or marching bands, but without so much as a fanfare of trumpets, Dr. Thompson rammed the crown home. The crowning itself caused just a tiny twinge, but nothing for Clint Eastwood to get alarmed about. I just gripped the armrest a little tighter, and soon everything was fine.
I couldn’t tell exactly what was happening next, but I think they had to do some filing and grinding to get everything perfect, and I kept having to “chomp chomp chomp” on a piece of carbon paper (or something like that) so they could see the high spots and grind them off. I was amazed it didn’t hurt.
Finally everyone was satisfied with the fit, and they sealed everything up with a couple squirts of Krazy Glue. After taking another picture to make sure everything was caulked up tight, I was good to go.
I even felt pretty good about paying my bill and heading back out onto the treacherous, icy roads, but after arriving home I had more time to reflect on how lucky I am. I have a new dentist who is every bit as good as my old dentist, and I have the same friendly and competent staff to coddle me when necessary, even going so far as making sure I have a new purple toothbrush.
Stanhope Family Dentistry is certainly not an Affliction, it’s a Blessing with a capital B! I just wish they’d reminded Dr. Thompson to wear her pretty earrings again because I wanted to ask her where she got them.
Better luck next time!