2002-11-20 open wide

eyes wide shut

The hinge of my jaw is slightly sore from laying in a dentist's chair doing my utmost to keep my mouth cranked open as wide as possible while four hands burrowed and poked and suctioned and prodded for hours yesterday.

The worst part about going to the dentist aside from the obvious needles and scalpels and the horrible mongoloid feeling of frozen lips and tongue and face is trying to figure out what to do with yourself while you're in the chair and where to look.

My dentist gives you these sunglasses to wear, which I imagine is to provide you with protection from flying dental debris and shield your eyes from the incessant glare of overhead light, but it also has the added benefit of providing a sort of shield between you, the prone victim, and them, the burrowing strangers with their thick latex fingers and gleaming instruments.

I caught myself on a couple of occasions staring at them from behind my ever so fashionable sunglasses as intently as they were staring at my teeth. Examining the length of the hygenist's eyelashes, the subtle glimmer of her eyeshadow, the little hollowed out scar tagged onto the end of her right eyebrow. Scanning the crevices of my dentist's nostrils for poppable pimples, searching his eyes for signs of medical alarm.

My dentist is East Indian. He is short and stout with thick black hair swept to one side and a broad, friendly face. He is throughly unremarkable looking except he has beautiful, beautiful eyes. They are a light brown colour, almost hazel, slightly golden with teeny gold flecks. They are the exact colour of the wonderful teak salad bowl Jack's parents gave us for an engagement present many moons ago if you filled the bowl with water. And they are heavily fringed with long sweeping lashes. They are poet's eyes. They make me trust him somehow.

I may be completely imagining this, but somehow I had the feeling that the dentist was not entirely pleased with Sandy, his assistant. There was a certain tension between them. As if she had accidentally speared their previous client, maybe cutting their lip or sending something sharp and prodding straight through their cheek. I tried for awhile to imagine they were having a torrid love affair, and had just had a spat about how he really needed to leave his wife or how she had been flirting shamelessly with the representative from Crest who supplies them with the after-treatment goodie bags full of floss and Listerine.

But despite his golden salad bowl eyes, my dentist is not easily imagined seized by illicit passion and Sandy is a total soccer mom and equally difficult to imagine in the clutches of an affair.

I gave up trying to suss it out, this strange tension, about fifteen minutes in and instead alternated between trying to catch glimpses of the Crest Cavity-Free Wall of Fame, featuring poloroids of beaming, gapped tooth children (and one boy in particular who had a fantastic t-shirt that I truly coveted with a grinning cartoon crocodile on the front) and closing my eyes tight trying to change the red and yellow splotchs dancing behind my lids to purple and green.

And at one point, I pretended I was Sydney Bristow, spy girl, and they were frothing terrorists trying to tease out all my best-kept secret agent sources. But the situation was not really fraught with enough peril to keep up that illusion up for long. Maybe if I had been wearing a rubber dress or a black catsuit and tomato red wig...

Overall, it was not the most enjoyable two hours I've ever spent in the reclined position.

I will be back in that chair next Tuesday. I'm not looking forward to it. I have many fillings to go. I am no more enamoured of going to the dentist than I was a week ago, but I have vowed to return faithfully, to floss regularly, to really take care of my teeth from now on. Skipping appointments for years on end just does not pay, people. Take it from me.

And I got to tell ya ... there's just no scope for the imagination in the dentist's chair.

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