I had a dental cleaning appointment this morning. I considered calling in sick and putting the torture off until next week but in the end I worked up my courage and went in as scheduled. I have dental anxiety stemming from several bad root canal experiences. Every time I find myself lying supine in that chair my heart rate increases. And then the hygienist comes in and seems to mock me in the way she suits up. First she strings that mask across her face—I presume to hide the snide smile that will creep across her lips as she slowly tortures me. And then—one by one—she pulls the latex gloves on and lets them snap to spite me. I stiffen in response. The worst part is when she emerges with her tray full of sharp and shiny death tools. Oh sure, they look harmless enough beneath that flimsy sterilization sheet. But in the right hands, even that insignificant little string of floss can be wielded like a miniature machete and slice right through the tender, fleshy gum right there between my two front teeth. Believe me, I know.
My dental cleaning experience is nothing like that of my children. Not even close. They actually clamor to go in for dental cleanings, knowing full well the treatment they’re in for. The waiting room at their dental office features a scaled-down palm tree, decorated with jungle-themed stuffed animals hanging from the limbs. There are video games, too. Back in the cleaning room, there are television screens mounted on the ceiling over the chairs. While their teeth are cleaned, my kids are entertained by the latest and greatest Disney movies, interrupted only every so often by a hygienist’s protruding elbow. There are no sharp tools—no floss machetes. Rather, their hygienists use soft-bristled toothbrushes and bubble gum flavored fluoride. And at the end of the cleaning, the hygienists present a shiny coin, good for one bouncy ball out of the machine out front.
Do you see the injustice here?
There is discrimination involved as well. The last time my kids were in for a cleaning I asked the receptionist if I could make an additional appointment. She was eager to help until she found out that I wanted an appointment for myself. Apparently there is an age limit to the patients they see. I happen to know that discriminating against someone based solely on age is illegal. I have a right mind to talk to an attorney.
Oh, I kid. Sort of.
In any case, I came out of my own cleaning alive and well, and only slightly more scarred than when I went in. The good news, of course, is that I have six months to summon the courage for my next appointment. The bad news, is that I have a women’s health exam scheduled for next month. Don’t even get me started on that.