by Genie Waldo
"My tooth really hurts, doc'." "Well, I can't do anything about it - I'm a doctor!"
|I'm not certain exactly where or when The Powers That Be decided that doctors can't be dentists, but it's a line I've learned that they will not cross. Ever!
If your tooth has rotted to the bone, and you're so infected that you're reminded of that gross scene in The Body Snatchers where one of the unfortunates pops out of the slimy cocoon (the cocoon is your mouth, the slime is the infection, and they guy is your tooth, only it never just pops out on its own), then you understand my frustration when even the good folks at the local Emergency room won't come near you. They'll be delighted, however, to lance a boil on your butt.
So as long as the infection, screaming, or throbbing agony is set just forward of your skull at the level of the mandible, or just below your nostrils, or just above your upper gums or your nasal passages, you're good to go. They'll quickly tsk-tsk and reassure you, ignore you for several hours (let's be honest), and then get around to solving your medical conundrum with all the skills and training at their disposal.
But tell them it's your tooth, or any part of where your tooth resides, suddenly they back up, raise their hands in the air and look at you like you're crazy.
"Whoa, now. Just you hold on there, young lady. You didn't say anything about a TOOTH. We can't get involved with a TOOTH. What would the Dean say? Or the AMA? Or the Sheriff? We'd be run outta' town. We can't tangle with a tooth. You're just going to have to go up the street to the dentists office."
"Why not? It's infected, I'm in pain. All you have to do is give me some gas and yank the damn thing out."
"I said you have to go to a dentist for that."
"My dentist office is closed. All dentists offices are closed. It's three AM."
"Well, I'm sorry, but we don't do teeth here."
"What if my jaw bone was cracked in half? While operating to staple it together again, couldn't you just, you know, slip in a pair of pliers and pretend you didn't? I have a hammer here that would make quick work of my jaw. Compared to this tooth pain, that would actually be tolerable."
"We can give you some Tylenol Three for pain, but you'll just have to go and see your dentist tomorrow."
My blood was already polluted with Tylenol and Ibuprofen, and my stomach ripe with a half dozen jiggers of bourbon for good measure. That's the only reason I actually made it to the hospital to begin with. That and my husband drove me.
Walking away from the pleasant but essentially useless nurse, I muttered. "I bet if I swallowed the damn tooth, you'd be all over me with a scalpel and an ugly paper gown that ensures my backside gets flashed to all the kiddies."
I hear they pay someone to design them like that. There isn't a medical emergency in the universe so bad that they can't add some humiliation to it, and make it even worse.
I imagined the surgeon standing over me rubbing his disinfected, sterile-gloved hands, sounding suspiciously like James Cagney: "Now we got ya', don't we, Tooth. Yeah. Now we got ya' right where we want ya'. What are you gonna' do now?"
So, what about it? Where does my doctor get off not helping someone in pain just 'cause it's in her jaw and not her more embarrassing zones? And, more specifically, where the hell did my dentist come from anyway?
I heard tell that dentists started out as barbers, and then diversified. You know ...
"Come for the usual, eh, Pete?"
"Yup. Just a little off the sides and trim the front. And by the way, is there any chance you could yank my back tooth out by the roots without any anesthetic while you're at it?"
Scratching his chin, "Well, I never done anything like that before, and my pliers are a bit rusty, but I'll give it a shot. Cuppa' Joe?"
I have never had the urge to go to a barber when I needed my teeth fixed, but then, that makes some kind of sense, doesn't it? I don't go to my car mechanic when I want my legs waxed either. Or to the grocers when I'm hankering for a mud bath.
"What the - ? Holy mayonnaise in God's Holy Grail! Clean up on aisle three! Call the cops, grab a mop and bring the wheel barrel."
But going to a doctor while in the throes of terrible pain and infection does make some sort of sense. Especially in the middle of the night.
I suppose I could just drive over there and knock on my dentists door, I look pitiful enough. But I'm fairly confident he'd be a touch displeased with that. And I don't want to displease my dentist, he carries the most awful instrument of torture ever invented - the dentist drill. You don't want to piss off a guy who, a day later, is going to yank your mouth open, line it with a stretched out condom, hold it apart with rubber bands and metal clamps, stick your gums full of needles, and then turn on the awful thing of fear and pain, with its terrible whine of doom.
That would not make a bit of sense.