The Self Conscious OCD Visits the Dentist

>> Friday, December 4, 2009

Yesterday I had that truly unique experience of visiting the dentist. I hear rumors from time to time that visiting the dentist ranks very high on the list of fears and phobias of Americans and that dentists often find this reaction depressing.

I am not afraid of dentists. Of all my phobias, dentistry is not one of them. I've had 24 teeth pulled over the years, and I lived to tell about it, so I figure there is nothing left to be afraid of. Been there, done that. I'll admit to having evil thoughts about the dentist during those years, but the past is the past and we all have to move on or risk being the victim of snickering at cocktail parties.

Still, going to the dentist can be unnerving. Sure, there is all that scraping, and flossing below the gum line is never pleasant, if you ask me (which you didn't).

In my opinion, though, the worst part about going to see the dentist is battling the visual images from the obsessive, compulsive brain and forcing myself to sit still and endure. Let's think about this for a second. In few other public circumstances is a person that close to your face for that long.

If there is a flaw in your make up routine that day, they will see it.

If you ate an onion or garlic anytime in the last three days, they will smell it.

If you are having post nasal drip, they will know.

If your nose is not clean, they will notice.

On the flip side, if their nose is not clean, you will likely notice that, too.

Why, you may ask, am I so worried about clean noses? Well, for starters, I'm a mother. We worry about things like that. More importantly, though, I am short. If you are having a bad nasal day, we short people will see it. In fact, the inside of your nose is often the most prominent thing a short person sees when they look up into your face. You tall folks might want to keep that in mind. Please. Tweezers and tissues are your friends. Use them.

So, if you tend to the OCD and are visiting the dentist, you have a lot on your mind. I, for one, brush my teeth obsessively in the hours before going to the appointment. I know that eleventh hour brushing will do nothing to fool a clever dentist as to my overal orall hygeine, but perhaps it will leave a minty fresh impression, which is a good thing. Honestly, having someone know what I ate before I came in without me telling them is just a bit too much information for them to have. A girl needs her privacy.

Also, with the kind of personal space violation that comes from seeing a dentist, I have to wonder what he or she might think of the amount of facial hair -- too much? too obviously an issue I am addressing? What about DH, does anyone notice the five o'clock shadow when he goes in? (Facial hair is a gender-neutral issue, you see.)

Of course, once the scraping (or if you are so unlucky, the drilling) begins, there is little for a warped mind like mine to do but "observe" things and draft fictitious blogs in my head. I wish you could see the things I don't dare actually write down.

Today, though, I noticed something rather intriguing, although a bit unnerving. My hygenist had shaky hands. I think she might have just consumed an entire pot of coffee or something, because she definitely had the quiver. (Either that or I made her nervous.) Now, I'm fairly certain she did not have any condition that might lead to trembling hands, and so I am forced to wonder exactly what was going on a few moments before I walked in the office. She did keep me cooling my heals in the waiting room for an awfully long amount of time. Was she reprimanded? Did she overdose on asthma medicine (which can give an awful bout of the shakes ... so I hear. Not that I've tried or anything)? Did she actually suck down an entire pot of coffee?

Most importantly to me, though, is whether any of this was going to get worse enough that I needed to worry where she was putting that pick?!

The dentist himself is a sweet man. (I don't go see dentists with lousy personality. After all, I have to control for some circumstances in this situation, right?) He sings a lot. I've never quite figured out whether he does that to distract his patients or whether he really has secret aspirations for Broadway. Today he sang a lot of Christmas carols, which didn't help my analysis much, as I know for a fact he is Jewish. Of course, there is absolutely no problem with anyone singing any song if they want to, but this Jewish dentist singing Christmas carols just highlights the question even more strongly for me. Is he doing this to try to distract me from those sharp tools in his hand, or just because he likes the song?

Last, every time I am about to get out of the chair to go to the receptionist and make my next appointment, this dentist hands me a tissue. I have no idea why. Every time. I like to think he is being polite and giving me the tissue in case the flouride he just poured on my teeth starts to drip out. But ... part of me is afraid it has something to do with my nose.


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