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volunteer work essexThe white-knuckling began on the steering wheel last Friday. I like to refer to it as practice for the big event known to me as a trip to the dentist. Because of all the things in the world I could be doing, one of the things I’d least like to be doing is sitting in a dental chair. With a toothache.

It all started weeks ago (that’s right, I said weeks ago) when I lost part of a filling (and maybe a piece or two of the tooth to which it was attached). But other than feeling weird for a few days, it didn’t hurt. So I operated in the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mode. Of course it was broken, though. But that’s neither here nor there.

Flash forward to a week and a half ago, when at some point, I remember biting into something and thinking, “Oops… That didn’t feel good at all.”

I self-treated with the usual methods. I chewed nothing on that side. Which may have worked momentarily, except that I grind my teeth at night. And even with my bite guard, I was waking up in the middle of the night to pry my jaws apart.

Flash forward to last Wednesday, when I realized I really needed to have my tooth looked at by someone other than me. Unfortunately, the dentist was already double-booked on Thursday, and out of the office Friday. His partner, who I’d never met, would be in Friday, though. But he had no openings.

By Thursday, I’d become a mental basket case, wondering what the fate of my molar would be. I suspected it was cracked. I’d done something similar to the molar right below this one several years back. Would I need a crown? Had I let the whole thing go too long? Would I be forced to undergo that procedure few talk about because the memories, the pain is so great? Would it be … the dreaded root canal?

Thanks in no small part to the tooth fairy, there was a cancellation on Friday, and I landed an 11 a.m. appointment. There was great beauty in the timing, I reasoned. I’d go to Operation Athlete first, and be so tired when I left that I really wouldn’t care what happened at the dentist.

Until Ted sent out an email, notifying us of a Friday morning time change to 11:15. Not only would I miss OA, I also wasn’t going to be so exhausted that I really didn’t care. And I must say it was at that point that I wondered if maybe I could just live with the pain for a few days longer.

(Isn’t it funny how the dread and fear of getting my body into the best shape of my life had suddenly become a way of life? I should have a shirt that says “OA or Bust!!” But I digress.)

Anywho, those were a few of the thoughts racing through my head as I pulled into the parking lot and began to pry my fingers from the steering wheel.

When the assistant (or whoever calls you back for the appointment) said my name, I just gave her a blank stare for a second or two (seriously… I did!). Enough so that she was looking around for someone else.

After a deep breath, I stood up, walked with her to “the chair” and attempted to accept my fate at the hands of all things dental. Then I moved chairs for the x-rays. Modern technology is great, isn’t it? Immediate results just pop right up there on the computer screen.

“How bad is it?” I said.

I was braced for the worst, and caught off-guard by his nonchalant answer.

“Looks like you just lost the filling and some of the tooth. We can do it now or schedule a cleaning and do it then.”

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that for a few seconds, I really considered the offer. What a great feeling to say, “Ok! Sounds great! Our work here is done for the day – see ya when I get the courage to call again!”

But he knew what I knew. Sure, the choice was mine. But until the proper treatment commenced, the pain would be staying right where it was. In my mouth. Making me miserable.

“Fine. Let’s do it now,” I said. “Can I get a toy out of the treasure chest when we’re done?”

(He actually said yes, by the way…)

Let’s just cut through the chase at this point. We all know there was a shot involved. I closed my eyes, unwilling to see the 10 or 20-foot needle. Then there was glide time, while the Novocaine did its thing. And then the dentist came back, the drill came out, and the chair went back far enough for the blood to rush to my head.

At first, the white knuckling and squirming in the chair was so bad that I imagined I’d fall right out and land on the top of my head. So I tried to focus on the cheesy poster of a tropical island, plastered on the ceiling, and wondered what was happening at OA, which was about the time I realized I probably didn’t get quite enough Novocaine, evidenced by the squeezing together of my face muscles.

“Are you OK? Need more Novocaine?” the dentist asked.

“I really hope not. How close are we?”

“Hmm,” he said, inspecting the work to that point. “We’ve got about 10 seconds left.”

My first instinct was to contain the laughter. I’ve heard that “10-second” routine for several months now. It’s one of Ted’s favorite things to say at Operation Athlete. Unfortunately, Ted isn’t known for his time-keeping skills. So 10 seconds could mean 30 – unless we’re in between training. At those times, 10 seconds becomes about three and a half seconds.

Turns out the dentist counts a lot like Ted.

But during the drill’s last hoorah, I suddenly noticed how the drill sounded more like a thousand squealing piglets, and almost starting laughing right there (which could’ve gotten ugly).

From there, things were a blur. I was so filled with relief that the worst was over that nothing else mattered. I’d made it through the trauma of the dentist and lived to tell about it. The pain was virtually gone and the Novocain has been dosed out small enough that I wasn’t even drooling!

All was well with the world again. Until I realized I forgot to go the the treasure chest for a toy. Needless to say, I’ll be getting two toys next time…


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