I don’t like going to the dentist. You’d never know it from the amount of money that I’ve dumped into my teeth over the last 20 years, but I don’t. That’s probably why I generally put it off as long as possible between visits. I’ve convinced myself that the most logical approach is not to worry about it until something hurts and then I can have the issue addressed. Yes, I know that idea probably compounds the issues and means more time in the chair… but at least those times are less frequent.
I don’t mean to imply I have a random phobia of the dentist. It’s not like being afraid of spiders or thing that lurk in the dark. I avoid the dentist for good reason, the best reason – childhood trauma. My reluctance to fully commit to a modern dentistry stems all the way back to the early mid-1990s. That’s when the old dentist I saw as a kid decided that since it was a small cavity, he could go after it without Novocain and be finished in a jiffy.
As it turns out, having someone drill on a molar without numbing it up first hurts like a mother. I don’t recommend it. You might say that I’m pain intolerant. Being the rational creature that I am, I seek to minimize painful experiences. Which leads me back to the original statement: I don’t like going to the dentist.
I’m sure they’re perfectly good people and that they have the science to back themselves up… but you’re never going entirely convince me that dentistry isn’t just a vast conspiracy of the most sadistic among us to inflict pain on the masses under their diabolical cover as medical professionals.
I’m not a fan of the dentist. Being a responsible adult I try not to let time drag out too long between visits… but given half an excuse, I’ll almost always opt to kick my appointment down the road for a few weeks before showing up.
Today I had ample opportunity to dodge my scheduled time in the chair. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Give the tenor of the week so far dentistry felt like the lesser of the two awful ways to spend an afternoon.
The fact that I’d rather face the drill than another afternoon of meetings probably says a lot about the head space I’m occupying currently. When days have a tendency to roll on with a grinding certainty, any deviation towards something different is a relative bright point. That fact that it’s true even with that “something different” is a couple people jamming sharp objects in your mouth should probably be more alarming than it currently feels.
I got a call today from a number I didn’t recognize. Usually I (not so) cheerfully ignore those, but since I was working from home today, I accepted the call… at which point I started down the rabbit hole.
Them: Hi, Mr. Tharp. I’m Casey from Whatever-the-Hell-Company. I’d like to talk to you today about your prescription pain management program?
Me: Uhhh. My what now?
Them: I’m Casey from Whatever-the-Hell-Company and I’d like to talk to you today about your prescription pain management program?
Me: Yeah, I don’t have one of those.
Them: Well, Mr. Tharp, I’d like to talk to you about…”
Me: *Ends call and wishes hanging up a cell phone felt any bit as good as slamming down the receiver of an old fashioned rotary telephone*
Now this was a live person who I’m assuming was working off a script based on my three days as an inbound tele-marketing center employee. Cold calls are fine and all and since she had a pleasant voice and didn’t immediately try to sell me on Amway I was trying to be cordial… but when I’ve told you for the second time that whatever information you have is incorrect, it’s best not to keep telling me that I do, in fact, have a prescription pain management program. Frankly I feel like that’s something I’d know about.
I’ll be reinstating my policy of letting all unknown numbers ring through to voicemail immediately. I should have known better.
One of my personal dreams is to find a way to live with a bare minimum of sleep and allocate those “bonus” hours to more interesting or productive endeavors. What I learned from last night’s bout with a quick moving stomach bug is that whatever the right amount of sleep is for me, it’s more than two hours. I know this because that’s exactly the amount I got – although in fairness it was split with 30 minutes at the beginning of the night and then a follow-on 90 minutes tagged right at the end.
Spending the largest part of the small hours of the morning alternating between too hot, too cold, and trips down the hall to tend other business I was at least able to do a little reading and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which was well and good until my eyes stopped focusing around 3AM. After that it was treating the TV like a radio and trying to summon sleep through willpower and determination.
Whatever it was that beat the literal shit out of me last night seems to have passed as quickly as it arrived. That, at least, is a mercy. As much as I resent the necessity of laying down and shutting off my brain for a few hours every night it’s safe to say that I’ll personally be hoping that tonight is at least closer to the norm than yesterday’s improvised two hour plan because that clearly isn’t going to be the wave of my future… although by lunch time today even the dullest meetings were just a little bit funny and that’s probably worth something.
A few months back I’m pretty sure I cracked a tooth, or to be more specific I’m pretty sure I re-cracked a tooth that I had fixed about a decade ago. It only caused minimal and occasional discomfort and could be easily ignored. We seem, currently, to have slowly worked our way past discomfort and are edging into the legitimate pain category. I’m going to go ahead and blame the sudden appearance of cold weather since it appears to be introduction of cold air that’s set off the sensation of someone occasionally jamming a teeny tiny ice pick into my jaw.
This, of course, is where my problem starts. You see it’s not so much that I’m afraid of the dentist, per se. The one’s I’ve met seem like decent enough human beings and individually are not a fear-educing bunch. I am, however, entirely and completely in favor of avoiding pain for as long as possible. This, unfortunately, has now caused me a dilemma. At some point in the near future this untreated tooth is going to start being more than an occasional discomfort. That may be weeks or months from now. An appointment at my local dentist is a guarantee of pain and a sure and certain time. It’s one of the few occasions in life where I generally prefer the unknown future to the known.
Yes, I know this is a ridiculous approach towards dental health. Yes, I know I should have had it taken care of months ago. Yes, I know it’s utterly out of character for a guy who thrives on adding things to a list and getting them knocked off as quickly as possible. I’m unpredictable like that.
I also know that the last three times I’ve walked into a dentist’s office for anything more than a cleaning I’ve walked out chewing on a couple of thousand dollars worth of bills to pay. Pain in the mouth. Pain in the wallet. Completely ridiculous or not, there’s no doubt in my own head why my approach to “modern, painless” dentistry is so often avoidance.
I have nothing but admiration for the people I see on Facebook and Twitter who seem to be desperately in love with your daily workout. Seriously, I’m jealous that you find it that deeply satisfying. By contrast I largely just end up sweaty and feeling like I’ve wasted 45 minutes that could have been better allocated to doing something I enjoy. After spending 8 hours largely doing things I don’t really want to do, another 45 minutes of the same when I get home is largely just adding insult to injury. It’s something I grudgingly do because my crazy Teutonic doctor says I have to. Nothing more, nothing less.
I know if I asked for recommendations, I’d be flooded with calls of try this program or that coach or this supplement and that shake. The best recommendations, well intentioned I’m sure, usually point me towards joining a gym and getting a trainer. Someone to hold me accountable. I’m sure that makes sense intellectually, but honestly if I’m going to pay someone by the hour to make me sweat, I think there are probably far more stimulating options than heading to a gym.
Six or so years ago I found myself limping around the house, the office, the grocery store, basically everywhere. It wasn’t quite agony, but it wasn’t pleasant. A trip to my primary care doctor and a referral to a orthopedic specialist later, the diagnosis was plantar fasciitis. It’s a problem of the ligaments of the foot, which tends to cause intense pain after sleeping and long periods of sitting, both of which are activities I participate in on a daily basis. The basic fix was some over the counter anti-inflammatory, some icing, staying off the thing as much as possible, and a fancy set of orthotic inserts for my shoes. It’s all part of my look as the world’s youngest 70 year old man.
Mostly the inserts and an occasional handful of ibuprofen do the trick to stave off any further issues. About once a year though I unwittingly do something to aggravate the hell out of the little bundle of ligaments… at which point I’m right back to limping around from place to place and generally trying to keep off the damned thing as much as possible. It seems that this week is that magical time of year.
So if you see me gimping across the parking lot or I don’t stand up to greet you, a) I’m ok and b) don’t take it personally. I once heard it said that getting old ain’t for sissies. The older I get – and the more wear and tear I inflict on myself – the more I’ve come to appreciate that statement. For good or bad we’re all living in bodies that were designed by biology to last 35 or 40 years, seed the next generation, and then make way for them. We’ve pushed that frontier back through the audacity of our science… but the bits and pieces that wear out and break down along the way are a real pisser.