It's 6:30 p.m., time to break out the red wine and the four hundred milligrams of Ibuprofin. I just got back from the dentist and surprise, surprise! It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Instead of twirling his mustachios (I always expect him to grow them and he never does) and sadistically chuckling while brandishing a mammoth drill, and clicking his Prussian Nazified boots, which of course he does not wear . . . he spoke kindly and extensively to me about what he was going to do, while wearing perfectly pleasant white Gore tex sneakers, just what you'd expect a nice suburban dentist to wear.
I was wondering, while undergoing the dread occasioned by sitting in a dentist's chair, whether he'd be doing the same stuff my New York dentist used to do, and whether it would be a good idea for him to do that stuff or not. Naturally, I Googled "differences German American dental practices" but did not find much. My hunch is that the American dentist--the last time I saw him, sometime in the nineties, he made a great show of sterilizing everything, since Kimberly Bergalis had gone on C-Span claiming to have acquired AIDS through contact with her HIV-positive dentist---would have prescribed an antibiotic. They were always prescribing antibiotics. The German dentist took X-Rays for which my health insurance will pay, and says that he can find no inflammation or sign of infection, and believes that most of the pain on my lower left side comes from the exposed bottom of the tooth, which somehow irritates the nerve . . .meanwhile, on the upper right side, I did crack a tooth. And I know just when I did it: I had purchased a cheese sandwich on a baguette to eat en route to Rome on Ryannair; I was determined to eat it and then close my eyes and ears for the rest of the flight in order to avoid being charged for somethingorother. My plan succeeded, except that as I crunched down on the sandwich, I felt a sharp pain. But it vanished within a few minutes and did not reappear until last week. When I began to feel pressure while chewing somewhere around my lower left molar, next to which is one of those silver fillings I have, dating from the late sixties or seventies.
But that ole filling's going to stay right where it is! So long as the cement that my dentist packed around the exposed lower part of the tooth fends off further irritation to the nerve. And the upper right? That's a bigger deal involving re-doing the filling, but apparently not one involving needles, Novocaine, or more than two hours. There's an efficiency about German dentistry that I like, along with a pleasant failure to adhere to sadistic stereotypes
. . . like the one I'm thinking of right now, the dentist in the Dustin Hoffman movie, oh, yeah, Marathon Man. That's the one about which I am trying not to think. High time I drag the kids away from the TV, read to them, and make dinner for my husband. It'll be risotto tonight . . . I ought to be able to chew that on the less painful side.
. . . I did. And all was hunky-dory until I suddenly awoke at 1:30 a.m. Imagine excruciatingly bad menstrual cramps, or worser yet, labor pains, only in your gum right around the area of your molar. I popped one more 200-miligrammer, wrote a few e-mails, and when the pain had subsided to a dull roar, went back to bed. Breakfast included one more 200-miligrammer and the dentist says this may go on for three or four days, but I'm seeing him next Wednesday anyway, to take care of the cracked tooth on the other side. Little-old-ladyhood never looked so near before . . . American dentists, please weigh in.