I went back to the dentist, the first time since that July we left for Europe in 2015. The space between then and now kept growing wider and made me feel unclean. When I sat in the chair the assistant said something abut X-rays in broken English, either “80” or “18.” She held a thing that looked like a fake gun and told me to open up, and bite down. There was a plastic coating on it like you’d expect on new furniture, but not broken in yet, sharp around the edges.
The dentist came in, and apologized: either she’d told him how poorly it had gone or he’d heard me gagging. The good news is, we only have to do that once every five years, he said. But then the pictures were there, right away: a big screen where I could just sit back, and we could talk about my teeth. With the pink of my gums and the yellow of my fillings, it looked like the cover of a prog-rock album, my whiskers around the edges waving like deep-sea creatures.
We talked about the problem areas and he drew with a device, illustrating risk scenarios. There was a new level of understanding now about my dental health, kind of “trust through transparency”: we were on the same page (or screen).
I’d never understood the logic of dentistry really, using filling as a cantilever to bolster a system that’s destined to break down and fail. It was clear to me through all the grooves and gray depressions, that’s exactly what would happen over time. And I learned about crowns, which is something I never really wanted to — they’re not the kind of crowns you want to wear.
I made a return appointment (“restorative,” they called it) and hurried out, drove in to work. Then I got a call through my car’s audio system, which is always strange, and it was the receptionist: did I want a copy of the treatment plan emailed to my G-mail account? I didn’t, but then she explained the treatment plan also shows the cost, so I perked up and said yes. On top of all that, you have to pay for it.