Open your mouth and Close your eyes

So it hasn’t been a publicized thing, but I’ve spent the last while trying to improve my life and mental state by challenging myself, daily. Some days I visit a new boutique (as much as I love them, I have a deep fear of small retail establishments) (you’re the only one in the store, and the salesclerk is all starey, and only then do you realize that their entire inventory is way, WAY above your price point), some days I harness myself into Costa Rican skycoasters, some days I eat strange food or drink curious libations. Then, some days, I just try to do mundane shit that I’ve been putting off for years. Like caring for my oral health.

I was never one of those people who was scared of the dentist. I liked the fluoride, as a kid, I liked getting a sticker and a toothbrush, and even though I have about 18,000 fillings and had all four wisdom teeth pulled at once and spent four years in braces, I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid any major psychic wounds at the hands of dental professionals. So I wasn’t worried, on Tuesday, when I set out to complete my daily challenge with a long-overdue appointment at one of our local east boston dentistry centers.

I *became* worried, however, when I noticed that the entire interior of my chosen dentistry center was paneled in knotty pine.

I became more worried when I used the restroom in the waiting area and realized it probably hadn’t been updated since my grandparents bought their house in the 50s. The complete lack of hand soap was also unnerving.

After some time, I was escorted into an ad hoc “panoramic” Xray room (a closet, really), where my mouth was imaged in full 360 splendor and the technician didn’t so much “close the door” or “cloak me in lead” as “dash away from the machine at the last minute, leaving me to the ravages of radiation”.

She took four more traditional Xrays in the examination chair, again making a swift dash for the door after hitting the “scan” button, and then left me to sit and contemplate my fate. I only wish I’d had the wherewithal to take out my iPhone and snap a photo.

Just before the mammoth Sicilian dentist shredded my gums to crepe, I turned to my left and saw a poster that had, literally, been there since 1985. This was not a framed archival piece by any stretch, and featured, in the center, a ragtag group of children advertising some type of dental hygiene while wearing acid-fade jeans and bandanas. For a moment, I was engulfed by a visceral flashback: some faceless trainee moonwalking around the spittoon chair with a roll of scotch tape, haphazardly adhering said PSA artwork to the knotty pine paneling while listening to “Thriller” on his Sony Walkman, and the 2.5 decades of staff that have since, daily, looked at the poster and considering removing it (or, at the very least, tacking up that one saggy edge)… every one of them eventually deciding “Nah, fuck it. I don’t get paid enough for that shit”.

And that’s how, in the here-and-now, at 29 years old, I finally became afraid of the dentist.

Unfortunately, I have six cavities, so I’ll have to be going back.


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