I arrived early. The hiss of the air vent and the receptionist clicking through screens put me in a trance as I waited to be called back. I noticed the temperature of the office felt comfortable, but the lingering scent of previous patient exhalations waited around with me as the minutes passed. Disappointing.
The dental hygienist ushered me to an exam room. I covered my eyes with my sunglasses and stretched out in the chair, ready for the last of my four cavities, discovered at my regular cleaning in August, to be drilled and filled. The dentist greeted me casually and administered the shot of numbing drug before I made sense of it. The dentist and his coworker left me to relax while a warm, puffy feeling spread through my gums.
A classic rock station emitted from the overhead speaker. It cycled through familiar songs as I reclined, waiting for the procedure. “Smoke on the Water” eased me to a pseudo-nap state then “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” coincided with full numbness. Ironic.
Game time. The dentist began drilling as the hygienist suctioned away bits of tooth rot and saliva and water and filling material debris. How many times a day do they say, “open” and “bite” to patients?
There’s a lot of sensation when cavities are filled. Grinding of tooth decay and applying bonding agent and curing the composite resin and biting on carbon paper. That’s a lot of activity for such a small space. I zoned out, wishing my neck was covered with a scarf for warmth. I distracted myself with thoughts of the quantity of material needed for those absurd Elizabethan collars. John Mellancamp started to sing “Little Pink Houses” and my mind recounted how Weeds started to go downhill after they did away with that quirky intro song. Little boxes on the hillside… My fillings are like little boxes, all the same. Did I receive an extra dose of lidocaine?
“You can sit up and rinse now.” The dentist raised my chair. “All done.” I thanked him and rinsed, hovering over the tiny bowl as I attempted to wipe the drool from my senseless cheek.
“You can leave that here,” the hygienist said, referring to the napkin I clutched as she handed me my bag and white cane. I shook my head. “Nah, in case I start drooling on the walk home.” I smiled, but I’m sure it was one of those lopsided, fresh off a dental procedure grin.
Cavity-free, I walked down the hallway of forgettable artwork and settled my bill with the receptionist. The Beatles on the speakers waved me out with “Get Back” as I left the office, headed to a pleasant walk home in the dry, cool air, past the non-ticky-tacky homes of Mayberry.