I went to the dentist last week, and it reminded me of the time when I was in college and went to the dentist.
Money was short, so I didn’t go to the dentist often, and my dental hygiene habits weren’t as good as they are today.
As I settled into the reclining chair the dentist did a few quick probes around my teeth and asked the fateful question. “Would you like a free cleaning and checkup?” I didn’t need to know anything else. What could go wrong? This was toward the end of the school year and the dental hygiene students were getting ready for their state board exams. Part of the process was demonstrating skill at cleaning teeth. I was to be the subject of that examination process.
They asked me to return the next week for the cleaning appointment, which was an easy thing for me. Once again I settled into the reclining chair for what would be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. A cute young hygienist put the little blue bib around my neck and started working.
It wasn’t the most comfortable experience, and it took almost an hour and a half. That’s without X-rays, fluoride treatment, exam, or anything but the cleaning. By the end I was hurting, especially when she decided that my bib needed changing before the dentist came in to check her work. As she removed the bib, I could see blood soaking into the blue fabric. I had earned the pain with my blood.
The dentist exam was the most pleasant experience of the morning. His hands were so soft and gentle compared to the inexperienced hands of the soon to be hygienist. He thanked me for my generous gift of time and I thanked him for the free clean and exam, and I was on my way.
The next several days were torture. I couldn’t chew food. It hurt to move my mouth. No coffee, as hot liquids hurt too much! About all I could tolerate was water, ice cream and strawberry milkshakes. For three days.
I’ve helped out many more times since then with student doctors and medical experiments, but none of them has been as memorable as that day in the dentist chair in downtown Fargo. I pray that the young woman either learned to do her job gently, or she got a job as a butcher at the supermarket.