I hate going to the doctor but don’t mind the dentist that much. I think my aversion to the doctor has something to do with ALWAYS BEING WEIGHED, even when I am going because of an injured ankle or rash on my thigh. The dentist, while not exactly pleasant, has never, ever asked me to step on a scale and I very rarely have to take my clothes off. Okay never, which is another bonus.
Growing up, I went to the same dentist for ever and ever and ever. I don’t remember NOT going to him; I swam with his oldest daughter and used to go to his house for play dates, my brother took the middle daughter to the prom, my parents were friends with him and his wife. Same dentist, twice a year, every year, for ever and ever and ever, including college. I think the last time I saw him, I had just moved to the east coast and was home for a visit. Eventually, however, I realized that it was slightly impractical to keep seeing a dentist whose practice was 3,000 miles away from my apartment.
I’ve seen a lot of dentists in New York. Since none have the advantage of being picked for me by my mom, I have used the “search-for-closest-dentist-to-office-so-I-can-go-at-lunch-time” method, which isn’t a bad method except that I have changed jobs several times, meaning my 8-block radius of potential errand-running has also changed, thus the dentist search has been oft repeated. Like I said before, I am lax with doctor’s visits but pretty diligent with the dentist and have, for the most part, maintained twice-yearly cleanings, save for a few gaps during which I changed insurance or location or something and just STOPPED going to the dentist for waaaaay too long. And I have never had a cavity or braces or root canals or anything serious, so the entirety of my dental experience is cleanings, which are very, very benign and allow for gaps in dental care without many repercussions. I recently realized that it had been a while since my last dental exam, and yes, I had changed jobs earlier this year, meaning perhaps a new dentist was in order (I had one dentist on lower Fifth Avenue that I liked; I went to him consistently for four years, but the bond was never strong enough for me to use an additional MetroCard swipe to visit him, which in hindsight may have been a mistake). My husband started seeing a new dentist a few years ago, and going to the same dentist as my spouse seemed like something husbands and wives should do, so I asked him for the number and scheduled an appointment.
This new dentist, by the way, is close to neither my office nor my home. And he is not anywhere in between my office and my home. He is both CROSS- and UPTOWN from my office, which is very, very inconvenient. But, Married! Should visit same dentist as spouse, thus establishing long-lasting family relationships, no? And there is one funny aside about this dentist: Years ago, when I was single and still living with my Toxic Friend (she of the unmitigated narcissism and hyperbole), she went to this same dentist, by coincidence. She called me to tell me how hot and sexy her new dentist was, and said it was like getting her teeth checked by Richard Gere. She said he was flirting with her (naturally, as ALL men were apparently powerless to resist her feminine wiles) and went on and on and ON about how hot blah blah blah the dentist was. A year or so later, when Kent first went to this dentist, I told him what the Toxic Friend had said, and he nearly choked. He’s not hot, I asked? Kent, through his wheezing, shook his head. He doesn’t look like Richard Gere, I asked. If Richard Gere were short, Jewish and chubby, with curly hair and thick glasses, he said. It was good insight to how the Toxic Friend viewed the world.
A few weeks ago I visited the dentist's office for my cleaning but realized as I was reclined in the chair that I would have to come back for an additional appointment. The Doctor likes to schedule a separate appointment for you exam, the hygienist told me. I asked my husband about it that night. Oh yeah, you have to go back and watch The Video, he said.
I went back on Thursday for Part Two of my appointment. First, the assistant took seven thousand x-rays of my mouth and then swiveled the chair so it faced towards a television in the upper corner of the room. It was time for The Video. Before the Doctor (why do dentists get called “Doctor”?) sees you, we’d like to show you some videos, she explained. First, we have a video of the Doctor discussing cosmetic dental procedures, then we’ll have you take a look at his Book, and then we have a segment from the Maury Pauvich show for you to watch.
The first Video explained a revolutionary new advancement in cosmetic dentistry called Porcelain Veneers. The first Video was from the early 90’s. I learned about how teeth can have veneers bonded to them so as to correct unsightly gaps and snaggleteeth and nasty, rotten toothstumps. I also learned that my dentist had co-founded some sort of cosmetic dentistry foundation. And that the segment I was watching aired on PBS more than ten years ago.
After the first Video, I was handed the Book. It was the size of a phone book, leather and embossed with the dentist’s name on it. Inside were many, many, MANY “before and after” shots, along with head shots from actors who maybe once had a walk-on role on “The Young and the Restless” back in 1987 but now probably sell real estate. The “before and after” pictures made me glad that I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, and there were many EXTREME close-ups of people’s mouths, in which saliva and pores and taste buds and upper lip whiskers, etc were all shown in excruciating detail. Plus the nasty, rotten teeth. And the horrible 1980’s hair and make-up; the Book could have doubled as a How To Apply Contour Eyeshadow In Shades Of Mauve, Plum and Rust guide. I reached the end of the Book and heard the dentist yell, from behind me, SHE’S DONE WITH THE BOOK.
Which was the assistant’s cue to start the Maury Pauvich Video. I’m not sure if Maury Pauvich is still on the air (god I hope not) or when his show went off the air because I loathe talk shows and reality television and this particular show looks to be of the bottom-feeder variety. But I found myself watching Maury Pauvich, at the dentist. The episode had a caption in the lower left hand corner of the screen which said HELP ME! MY FAMILY MEMBER IS UGLY! and the segment I was shown featured a nice looking man with an ugly fiancée. And when I say, “ugly fiancée,” I mean an average-looking girl who has been made-over (under?) by talk show minions to look like shit. She was wearing HOSPITAL SCRUBS, no makeup, and her reddish hair was TEASED to – and I swear this on my dog’s life – extend OVER A FOOT IN EVERY DIRECTION FROM HER HEAD. And she was hoping to be chosen by the Maury Pauvich Show as a recipient of a wedding-day makeover. The reason I was watching her story (because every impulse in my body was telling me to TURN IT OFF) was her teeth. Her brown, crumbling, rotten, broken teeth. Her poor, poor teeth. Which were fixed via the magic of porcelain veneers by my dentist, the dentist who stood up in the audience when she was revealed post-makeover, and said, Yes, we put on porcelain veneers. The end. I watched 15 minutes of sad, pathetic reality talk show crap to see some poor girl get a blow-out and porcelain veneers, then the dentist came in, looked at my teeth and said, Yep, your teeth are great, you don’t need anything from me.
Fantastic, thanks, can I have that hour of my life (and um, LUNCH) back and please crawl into my brain and cauterize the section holding memories of all the broken teethstumps and nasty close-ups of old lady mouths.
Instead I took brochures for Brite-Smile and Invis-align and promised to consider getting my teeth whitened. In my head, I cursed my husband for referring me to someone who almost literally strapped me down and forced me to watch bad reality television, which is not all that far from my idea of hell. If you added jeans that were too small, menstrual cramps and someone tickling me, well then, that is HELL, without a doubt.
The shining salvation of the visit was the view. The dentist (as I still cannot quite bear to call him MY dentist) is located on Central Park South, and sports a killer view of the park. The view of the park was so much better than the view of the television and creepy, sleazy portfolio that my eyes were mad at me for forcing them to look away from the expanse of Central Park that was laid out in full autumnal splendor.
The view of Central Park on a mid-November day makes you long for a) a gazillion dollars so as to afford a view of one’s own, and b) turtlenecks. Lots and lots of turtlenecks. Thick turtlenecks with cable knits, sleek turtlenecks that are juusssst the right length, bright turtlenecks like all the skinny bitches in the J. Crew catalog wear, and many, many black turtlenecks, one of my personal Top 5 Fashion Necessities (along with good jeans, pointy black pumps, a 3/4-length trench coat with a zip-out lining, and a Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress). Staring at Central Park on a fall day makes you long for things like jaunty hats and red wine, even if it is barely noon. It makes you most definitely want to be someplace that is NOT the dentist. It makes you wish you did not have to go back to work, especially since your office has no windows, and even if it did, all that the windows would reveal would be the train yards behind Penn Station. The train yards behind Penn Station are kind of cool looking in an industrial way that makes me think of Atlas Shrugged (and I do not like thinking of Atlas Shrugged), but is really like comparing a steaming pile of dog shit to a basket full of puppies in comparison to the view of Central Park on a mid-November afternoon.
The view of Central Park almost made me forgive the dentist for all the nasty before-and-after pictures. Almost. However, I am going to the gynecologist on Monday, and if SHE shows me before-and-after pictures, she had better have a realllllly good view.