When everything “opened up” this summer I didn’t think it would include my mouth.
But I probably should have perceived that at some point during this pandemic I would have to visit the dentist.
Over the past six months I have gotten used to moving previously outsourced services in-house. For instance, while everyone was letting their Covid freak flag fly, I mastered the fine art of mowing my head with #2 electric clippers.
Tip: It is easier to start with #3 and work your way shorter than to start with #1 and work your way longer.
Tip: You can’t see the back of your head in the mirror without another mirror.
Tip: Gauze pads make better scalp dressings than bandaids.
So when my teeth started to grow uncomfortable a while ago, I naturally considered sanding and power washing them myself. I have never really seen this done since watching someone else's dental procedure is not high on my list of YouTube entertainment. But after years of going to the dentist for regular teeth cleaning, I know what it feels like.
And it feels like someone is sanding and power washing my teeth.
I scoured winter mold and grime from my deck. How hard can it be to power wash teeth?
Tip: It is better to start with fine grit 360 sandpaper and work your way down than to start with 40 grit and work your way up.
Tip: You can’t see your epiglottis in the mirror without a light.
Tip: Turn the water pressure down to avoid drowning.
Which is how I ended up at the dentist office during the pandemic wearing a sheepish smile and a face mask to cover it.
Given what we know about the spread of Coronavirus on respiratory droplets emanating from the nose and mouth, a trip to the dentist would seem akin to putting your head in the tiger’s mouth at a bar in Miami Beach.
And it is not clear who is more at risk, the open mouth patient staring up in fear at the dental hygienist hovering just inches away or the dental hygienist who might be patrolling Covid infested waters.
As much as I consider oral hygiene important, dental detailing is not a process I particularly relish even under safe conditions. I consider myself a private person. The inside of my mouth is not really a place I want people to visit. It is hot, humid, and stuffed with a large tongue muscle that makes Jabba the Hutt look attractive.
There is just enough room in my mouth for food, but not much else. Certainly not picks, mirrors, gauze, drills, bite sticks, floss, cardboard, wax, suction tubes, wire, or gloved fingers.
If it weren’t for the fact that the front of my teeth face people, I wouldn’t be inclined to visit the dentist at all. As long as they don’t hurt when I chew, I am good with a toothbrush, a little Crest Ultra White, and a slug of Listerine. Though lately I have taken to rinsing with bleach and hydroxychloroquine.
But as unsafe and counterintuitive as going to the dentist would seem, there are now CDC guidelines for reopening dental offices. For example, the waiting room is now your car. So you need to bring your own out of date People magazines while you sit in the parking lot.
Fortunately, I am on a first name basis with my dentist. I think it is important to know and trust the person who drills holes and pours molten metal into my teeth. I call him Doc. That is not his first name, but that is what I call him. Doc.
Doc was wearing a gown with goggles and two surgical masks behind a full face shield when I sat down in his chair. At least I think it was Doc, I couldn’t really see his face. He could have been a welder.
He explained the procedures he had put in place to ensure our safety. At least I think that is what he was telling me. I couldn’t really understand what he was saying with all the surgical bling over his mouth.
Then he put a thermometer to my head and pulled the trigger.
At least I think it was a thermometer. He could have been taking bitewing x-rays.
I find that when people are working diligently in my mouth there is not a lot of room for small talk. At least not from me. Doc can talk about anything. Even the state of my bicuspids.
Bummphen he said beneath his masks and face shield.
Tip: It is better to start with open than bite if you can’t decipher what your dentist is saying.
Tip: You can’t see the mirror when it is in your mouth.
Tip: Ice can reduce bleeding and swelling of the tongue.
I am glad I am not in need of a colonoscopy.