My new dentist stuck his arm into my mouth the other day and promptly found a myriad of things wrong with my current dental system. I’m not all that surprised, I guess, considering I’ve lived in the Old Pueblo for more than seven years and seen a dentist only three times up until now.
I think it's really not been my fault, though.
Do other people have such difficulty finding a good dentist and maintaining a healthy enough relationship with their dental plan that they’re allowed to visit this rarest of beasts more than once in a lifetime?
I’ve had terrible luck with dentists in the past few years, frankly, although now that I’ve done the math, I realize that it’s not nearly as bad as I remember.
My first dentist charged me twice for a cleaning I only got once (but had to go in for twice), and the hygienist made me crazy with talk of some dinosaur special she’d just seen during which I was never even able to insert my stock phrase about how “archaeologists don’t actually study dinosaurs because they’re archaeologists, not, you know, people who study dinosaurs”, on account of the sharp instruments holding my tongue hostage.
That same dentist also continued to send me Christmas postcards for several years after that fateful appointment – long after my memory of the hygienist had faded to the point where I could no long pick her out of the cheerful staff line-up with their Santa hats and jingle bells and scary pointy torture items and whatnot.
My second Tucson dentist I adored. He was a great dentist who I saw only once. He was also Chinese, which I think has nothing to do with it, except that apparently the Chinese have some sort of Dental Mafia established in Tucson. Three or four of his closest relatives are also Tucson dentists.
During our visit, he told me about how he fishes and how there was this one fish this one time and also how he loves to hunt and how come so many of his patients are archaeologists anyway? But then he moved his office really far away and shortly after that, a change in dental plans abruptly tied the final knot in the garbage bag of our failing relationship. I was a little afraid to leave his practice what with the Dental Mafia thing going on. My supervisor, Helen, still sees him, though, so I get all the news. (Helen: “He went hunting again. He almost got an elk. It was apparently super awesome.”)
My third dentist is a bit of an enigma to me so far. His office is tiny and slightly on the shabby side, although it seems very clean and has lots of cool pictures of buildings in the waiting nook instead of pictures of smiling molars bearing toothbrushes and dancing around pastel vegetables which is a nice change of pace. His office is at one of those intersections of “Crappy-scary-gang” Neighborhood and “Not-quite-so-crappy-with-noticeably-fewer-drive-bys” Neighborhood that we get here in Tucson. I like him. I like the three people he has on staff. Not one of them has even asked what I do for a living, thank god, because that means no one talks to me incessantly about dinosaurs while jabbing my gums with sharp instruments.
Of course, within minutes of first meeting him, he ridiculed my tooth-brushing habits, informed me I had four cavities, and told me I’ll most likely have developed severe arthritis of the jaw by the time I’m sixty. But there’s something I like about him and that charmingly threadbare carpet of his.
Next week, I'll see him for the fourth time in less than a month to continue our assault on my malfunctioning dental system. It’s easily the most intimate I’ve ever been with a dentist since becoming an adult. Maybe I like him because I’m seen him so often that he actually remembers my name.