I am fortunately the spoiled only daughter of generous and supportive upper-middle class parents, so I’ve always had health insurance. No sinus infection has gone untreated, no blemish undiagnosed. I am prone to tiny, non-threatening illnesses and afflictions: allergies, cysts, rashes, PMDD, etc. My parents pay for my insurance the way they paid for me to have AAA on my 1994 Saturn in college. They know I am prone to accidents, no matter what vehicle I’m manning.
But dental is a different story. I have always had great teeth, mostly from God and fluoridated water, rather than from meticulous dental hygiene. I’ve had a few small cavities, but neither braces nor extractions. My poor brother had braces twice, partially due to a brick-hearth-to-mouth incident from 1988 which still gives me guilty qualms. As grateful as I am to have escaped braces (if you are chubby and frizzy haired in high school, braces are too much for even the greatest of personalities to overcome), I think my metal-mouthed contemporaries learned a level of dental hygiene that I have never had branded into me through fear of bracket-induced halitosis and “Cheetos Mouth.”
So, when I “chipped” a tooth on a piece of particularly hard Kashi Go Lean!, I was unconcerned. It didn’t hurt after all, and without dental insurance, I wasn’t going to just run around giving millions of dollars to New York City dentists to tell me it was nothing. Eventually, through escalating urges from my tooth-conscious roommate, I bought a Groupon and headed down to Tribecca for a cleaning.
On a cool September day, heartbeats away from where I assume Jay-Z and Robert Dinero were sipping on gin and juice, I found myself in the most beautiful office I’ve ever seen. Everything was white and glowing. There were exquisitely tasteful paintings on the walls. The bathrooms had pocket doors. Lucite and leather have never been so glorious. This, I thought, is everything a dentist’s office should be.
After luxuriating for several minutes in the lobby of my dreams, I was called back to have x-rays and a cleaning by someone who I believe is a super-model in her spare time. Her fierce black bob instilled instant confidence in me. After efficiently x-raying my teeth and giving me a basic, drool-free cleaning, super model hygienist assures me the dentist will be right in. As I relax in the chaise lounge of dentist chairs, I wonder why I had delayed in coming here. I wanted to ask if they also did waxing and mani-pedis.
Moments later, my serenity was shattered. A woman wearing what can only be described as the Darth Vader line of dental masks bursts into my room and shoves herself in my face. “Are you in pain?” she shrieks, as my eyes widen to the size of saucers and I wonder what I can grasp to use as a weapon if she tries to take me to her ship. “No, but I’m a little freaked out,” I squeak. “Oh, is that because you don’t like going to the dentist?” she condescendingly asks.
Ok, now is as good a time as any to tell you that I hate going to the dentist. I have always, always hated the dentist. I hate having a stranger put his or her hands in my mouth. I hate the taste of the fluoride trays. Most of all, I HATE the judgmental eye they always give if you are honest about your flossing habits. I have never met anyone who flosses every day. At this point in my life, I do not care to. We would be fundamentally opposed.
I believe my pattern of distaste started with my pediatric dentist who always told me I was so beautiful, he wanted to marry me. Even at five, I knew this was inappropriate, and my ego assured me, probably true. At the end of each appointment, you got to pick out a toy, likely from the still awesome Oriental Trading catalogue, which seemed suspiciously like a bribe to my cynical kindergarten eye.
BUT, my dislike of the dentist is nothing compared to my dislike of people wearing full plastic masks screaming in my face. And also of people who call themselves Doctor First Name. Doctor Carrie. Doctor Bob. Doctor Steve. No. You are either Steve or Dr. Jones. If I am not in pre-school, church, or a children’s television show, that choice is unacceptable.
So, of course, screaming, hysterical, plastic face encased crazy dentist is called Dr. Mandy. Much to my chagrin, Dr. Mandy tells me that what I thought was a slightly chipped tooth is actually a HUGE cavity in my tooth that can only be remedied by a root canal and a crown. Dr. Mandy tells me she is shocked I’m not in agony and that she has never seen anything this bad without excruciating pain. Thanks, Dr. Mandy. Now, not only am I freaked, but I feel like a disgusting meth addict who has been consuming nothing but candy and sweet tea (and meth, obviously).
Dr. Mandy quickly lays out a plan to fix my tooth within about a week. This all sounds pretty good to me. Even though D.M. and I didn’t start out too well, she is winning me over. After all, I’m in the super fancy dentist office. They’re going to take care of me. There’s soothing music and I can faintly hear children laughing. Everything is going to be fine.
Her assistant, who I’m sure is called Ms. Mary or something, brings in some paper work. It’s on fancy paper and everyone’s hair is shiny. I’m pretty sure they are cleaning the teeth of unicorns and hugs in the room next to me. And a root canal and a crown are only $4,000 if you’re uninsured.