Joe Lavin

June 29, 2004

A Sharp Poke in the Gums

Last week, I went to the dentist to have my gums scaled, which isn't nearly as fun as it sounds. For those of you lucky enough not to know, this scaling involved a dentist digging deep under my gums with a series of sharp instruments in a desperate search for tartar. The purpose of this, of course, was to torture me relentlessly until my resolve weakened and I finally revealed the name of our secret operative in the Kremlin. Also, it helps to keep one's gums healthy.

As you can imagine, I was a little worried about all this, although luckily my dentist did ease my mind by carefully explaining the procedure beforehand with a flip chart that featured cartooned pictures of teeth. I knew then that my gums were in the hands of a true professional.

Apparently, I happen to have massive teeth. Sure, they look normal enough, but they are far too big for my mouth. They overhang my gums just enough to create this hidden area beneath where all the tartar in my mouth can hang out. It's sort of like having a highway overpass in my mouth under which all the bad tartar can go to drink beer and buy drugs.

At this point, I would just like to say that I do floss regularly (Really, I do!), but it seems to make little difference. Every single time I go to the dentist, I am given grief for not flossing enough. In fact, they regard me with the same level of disappointment when I do floss as when I don't. No matter what, every trip there feels like going to confession. "Forgive me, dentist, for I have not flossed enough."

This procedure was at least supposed to stop some of the damage, and so I leaned back while my friendly periodontist took a sharp pick and hacked away at my gums. If you ask me, he seemed to be enjoying this just a little too much. Special tip for any periodontists who happen to be reading: try not to look like you're having too much fun. I'm glad that you enjoy your job, but it really doesn't make me feel any better.

Later, he took out an instrument that seemed to be a sharp electric powered hook. "Now, this is a really cool device," he told me, which really is a lot easier to say when your gums are not the ones about to be ravaged by the sharp electric powered hook.

Luckily, I was given some novocaine to ease the pain and also to make me look like a slobbering fool for the rest of the day at work. For the most part, the novocaine did its job so that I didn't feel too much pain. Still, it's quite agitating to watch an excited periodontist probe your gums.

The procedure lasted forty-five minutes, but after a few days of soreness and careful chewing I was back to normal. That's the good news. The bad news is that I have to go back in a month to have the same thing done to the left side of my mouth. Who knows what new toys he'll have by then?

In the meantime, I've been given approximately sixty-seven new dental devices to use on my teeth every night. One looks like a tiny toilet brush that I'm supposed to stick between my teeth. Another is a dental pick that I have to use in case the toilet brush misses anything. There is even a pink tipped instrument with which I must prod my gums. This is called a gum stimulator, and I'm not so sure I'll be using it. Frankly, I prefer to stimulate my gums the old fashioned way -- with tartar.

Finally, he gave me another odd dental instrument called a toothbrush. With all the other tools I'm supposed to use, I'm not sure whether I'll be able to fit this one into my busy dental schedule.

©2004 Joe Lavin

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