I usually just take these as more signs that China is trying to kill me – you know, by slowly turning all my body parts against me.
But then the pain persisted and I knew I’d have to go the dentist’s if I wanted to make it through the month without my face exploding.
I had been meaning to go to the dentist for some time now.
But I kept on putting it off.
Just like I’ve been putting off mailing out these presents to my family. I should probably mention these are Christmas presents. Yes, the Christmas that was in December.
I adored my dentist in Japan. If only because he was one of the few men I met in Japan who wasn’t absolutely petrified to be within a few feet of me.
You see, for some reason, most of the Japanese guys I met seemed to be really intimidated by me – like to the point of bringing along a chaperone when they went on dates with me. I don’t know what on Earth would make them feel that way.
When I’m in the States, I usually go to my childhood dentist. This man knew me back when I had a kid-mullet. He’s like family. Except I have to pay him to hang out with me.
No, I don’t hate dentists.But I do totally hate my teeth.
My teeth suck.
They’re super sensitive, which makes it hard for me to eat really cold food or really hot food or really sweet food. Not like that really stops me, though.
My teeth break and chip all the time.
I’ve had more than my fair share of fillings.
And four root canals.
Part of the problem is that I spent most of my younger years thinking I was immune to stuff like plaque and didn’t bother to floss until I was, like, twenty-five. (Listen to me, kids, floss your teeth already. Take it from this old lady who’s not even sure which teeth are hers anymore.)
Plus, my jaw does this thing at night where it clenches up. So while the rest of my body is in sleep mode, my mouth is set to self-destruct. And, even though I wear a mouth guard while I sleep, all that pressure hasn’t done my incisors any favors.Pretty much every time I go to the dentist, I’m told that I have some new tooth problem that needs to be fixed.
And, if I happen to be in Asia, this problem is usually fixed with little to no Novocain. Because, apparently in Asia, everyone’s a total bad ass. They’re all like, “Sure, go ahead, pull out as many teeth as you like. But don’t numb me up. I need to sing karaoke later.”
The last time I went to the dentist I was in Chiang Mai. After having my teeth cleaned, I was informed that I needed to have one of my fillings replaced.
The dentist cheerily declared, “This is going to be a deep one!” and promptly started drilling.
Like, into my head.
With a very large, loud drilly thing.
It wasn’t until I had started flailing in the chair, that she stopped, looked at me quizzically and asked, “Oh, do you need some painkiller?”
I had heard similar stories about the dentists in China. My friend, MaryAnne, had a dentist in Shanghai drill a hole into her tooth and clean it out with a pointy stick, and the man didn’t even give her a Tylenol.
So, yeah, I can’t say I was too eager to experience my first dental visit in China.But last week’s trip to the dentist was really not that bad.
It was almost, dare I say it, enjoyable — well, as enjoyable as something like that can be given the fact that the dentist kept poking me in the mouth with a pointy stick.
My dentist’s office turned out to be located in super swish shopping plaza in a ritzy part of town, where all the fancy foreign companies are located.
The plaza had all kinds of fancy places – the kind of places I imagine that people who work at fancy foreign companies like to go to. There was a European deli, an upscale wine shop, some coffee shops, a British pub and some place called “meat restaurant.”
And there was a foot massage place. But only for the young ladies.
This was quite a change of pace from my neighborhood, where most of the restaurants don’t have fancy stuff like espresso machines or signs in English or, ahem, walls.My dentist’s office was also very fancy and foreign – in fact, it turned out to be part of a Japanese chain of dental clinics.
There was even a little Japanese garden outside. You know, so you can have your moment of Zen before going inside to have someone poke at you with a pointy stick.
Stepping inside the clinic was kind of like stepping out of China and directly into Japan.
Partly because the receptionist greeted me in Japanese when I entered — just like they do at sushi restaurants.
And partly because it was super clean – like even cleaner than Japan. And Japan is really, really clean, so I didn’t think that kind of thing was even possible.After I stopped gaping at the weird parallel universe I had just entered, I was handed a form to fill out. The form had the usual questions – about health and previous dental treatments.
Along with a few not so usual questions.
Like, one question asked: “For treatment, what kind of dental material would you like for us to use?”
Then you had to check one of two possible answers.
b. Only the best! Money is no object! In fact, I’m thinking of having all my teeth replaced with diamonds and other semiprecious gems. Can you do that for me? (Okay, it’s possible I paraphrased this second option.)
I checked the “economical” option but secretly wished that I could be one of those people with a fancy job that gives me fancy dental insurance so I could afford fancy dental work. And not fillings made out of the recycled tinfoil and old chewing gum.
After I filled out the form, I was whisked off by the dental hygienist, who was wearing a spotless white uniform and one of those cute little paper nurse’s hats.My dentist, a fiftyish woman with her hair tidily tucked under a surgical cap, greeted me in perfect English and then took me to the X-ray room.
She studied my X-rays and poked around at my molars and then asked me if I had gotten my last root canal in Japan. (Seriously, who knew these things were culturally sensitive?)
She then declared that my face was not going to explode.
I didn’t even need another root canal or a new filling.
All I needed was a shiny, new mouth guard.
After she cleaned my teeth, she stuffed this putty into my mouth to fit me for my new mouth guard and told me to come back in a week to pick it up.
I got my new mouth guard on Friday, and I have to say it’s pretty sweet – a lot less noticeable and much more lightweight than my old one so it doesn’t make me look quite as much like a quarterback like my old one used to.
I’d like to think this is because it’s made of some kind of state-of-the-art dental material imported directly from Japan. And not, say, plastic wrap and hot glue.
Considering my dentist’s visit was such a success, I think it’s about time I got around to doing all the other tasks that have been clogging up my to-do list for months.
Like, maybe, I’ll finally send out those packages to my family. After all, Arbor Day is coming up, and you never can get enough Arbor Day presents, can you? I know I can’t.Have you ever put something off for a really long time… and then it didn’t turn out to be nearly as bad as you thought it was going to be?