On a train ride to Amsterdam last week, I broke my tooth on a Wasa cracker.
It was already a bad tooth. I have the misfortune of having extremely weak teeth even though I diligently take care of them, which frustrates me to no end as my it seems my boyfriend could brush his teeth with nerds and grape jelly and come out with healthier molars then mine. As I tongued at the hole in my mouth and looked out at the flat scenery, the sinking dread set in. I would have to go to the dentist.
When I was in fourth grade, I was the star of our class play about tooth decay.
I played Evil Alice Acid, who along with her sidekicks Burt and Sam (respectively, plaque and tooth decay), brought down a tooth named Tilly, played by a girl in pink sweatpants named Tiffany who had absolutely zero personality.
I had traded a girl a slip of paper that said “Dental floss” for this far more prestigious role which included a long monologue:
I’m evil Alice Acid and how do you do?
I’m here to do my work and I’m good at it too.
Do you know how I got here, well let me say,
Tilly’s been chewing sweet things everyday.
Toothbrush and toothpaste are not to be seen
So now it’s time for me to be queen!
With Burt and Sam hiding in the plaque
I can give Tilly an acid attack!
I followed this with a long cackle. Who would even want to brush when tooth decay was so awesome? I was like the Mick Jagger of dental health.
I wore a black witch costume and Neil Hodoroski told me he could see my underwear through it, but I didn’t even care. My performance was resplendent.
I got to hide inside a cardboard box and then spring forth from it, surprising that dumb square Tilly. The first-graders, our audience, said I was their favorite part. It was, without a doubt, the best moment of my entire primary education. This was also the closest I ever got to enjoying dental work.
While I pranced about in my witch outfit, my teeth were experiencing their own acid attack from the Mauna La'i Ocean Spray guava juice I insisted on drinking from a sports bottle every night before bed. This resulted in baby teeth cavities galore and a permanent phobia (surpassing my fears of even plane crashes and volleyball) of dentists.
I hate the dentist office. I hate smell. I hate the see-through model teeth with their blue and white nerves. I hate the plaster castings of sets of jaws grinning at me as I wait. I hate looking up into the noses of those causing me pain.
But being an adult, I like to think I can handle these things. Let’s just say that I hope my new Dutch dentist is not a good representation of socialized health care, because this was one of the more horrifying medical experiences of my life.
“Let’s start drilling,” she said after taking a cursory look into my mouth, henceforth the three most terrifying works in the English language to be spoken by a Dutch woman.
In Holland, they ascribe to the “grin and bear it” style of pain management. Painkillers and anesthetic are given sparingly. I squirmed with nerve-electrifying discomfort as the dentist did her drilling. She told me to keep still, and then she told me to open my mouth farther. Both things I had already been doing to the best of my ability.
The next bolt of pain made me wince. By now she was getting annoyed. She sighed angrily and I thought in disbelief, what, you are mad at me for reacting when you hurt me?
Then she said this, also irritated. “Oh my god, your gums are bleeding like shit.” That’s right, like shit.
I spent the next half an hour in agony staring at a painting of a cartoon frog on the ceiling and trying not to hyperventilate.
Two days later, the cap she had made for my tooth fell out.
I stood in front of a mirror and pushed it back into place with my finger and promptly tried to forget about it. Nothing was going to make me go back to house of hell they call the dentist office.
I'll call it "denial dentistry." It will probably work, unless I eat another Wasa.