One More Dental Appliance

One More Dental Appliance

Dental hygienists rule our lives. When you leave their office, they give you equipment for dental maintenance.  Nonchalantly they tell you how to use it and assure you that it will only take a few minutes a day.

“A few minutes a day!” you feel like screaming. “That was all the time I had left! Do you want me to be normal or not? I can’t afford a few minutes.”

You recall her incremental requirements. First it was the Sonic Care, which basically is a Makita drill, painted white, with a bristly end.  Battery power increases the appeal but a Sonic Care is to be used twice a day for two minutes each time. That’s five minutes! When am I going to find five minutes? I have to finish reading The Book of Job. I could offer to give up combing my hair or polishing my shoes or washing my car, but I don’t do those things. And the printed instructions allow for doubling the time, “for superior cleaning”. I could give up showers so I could have clean teeth and vibrant gums. But five minutes morning and night would total eleven minutes, an investment I can ill afford.

Sweet Miss Josepha Stalin gives me a floss-holder, in much the same manner you can imagine a concentration camp guard “giving” a shovel to an inmate, with a hint of, “use it, or else”.  I think she is impugning my present method of flossing. Easily load the floss on the prongs of the slingshot. Then floss. Easily nothing. That takes 45 seconds, valuable seconds I could be reading User Agreements for software. Her sweetness disguises a dictator.

On the next visit, she looks in her tray , and asks herself, “What punishment can I order for Mr. Burnett today? The handy water torture kit? How about this electronic fingernail puller? No, here is something more subtle yet just as troublesome, the gum exerciser.”

She turns back to me, replacing her demonic smirk with the professional smile taught by battle- hardened veterans who teach in domination school, Dental Hygiene U. She brings out her newest implement, brandishing it like a dagger. “This will only take a few minutes a day.”

I start to say, “I don’t have a few minutes a day! When I am not answering two phone lines at work, I am driving kids to cello lessons, or washing dishes for my wife”. But I can’t. I’m busy wiping green froth from my shirt collar. She knows situation control. She gives me the directions. This appliance has a rubber tip. Fit it in the crevasse between teeth, then gently- why she wants me to gently care for my gums after the beating she has just put me through eludes me- massage the gum tissue. Work each crevasse all around the top, then the bottom, then the inside top, then the inside bottom.

“Just keep this handy and use it during slow times, maybe while you are watching TV”, she suggests in a syruppy tone.

“I don’t watch TV,” I think. “I’m too busy caring for the poor and the weak and doing other duties assigned to me by the Republican Party”.

Instead, I seize the pointy massager and flee.

If I don’t see my hygienist every 90 days, and floss, massage and use the Sonic Care, I’ll have gum disease and eventually lose all my teeth. I could lose them all by playing hockey too, or by getting stepped on by a bull after turning in a 9 second, 89 point ride. At least, one of those ways, I’d be having fun, at least comparatively, and it would be faster.

If you did every procedure a hygienist recommends, you would spend 15 minutes in the morning, 3 minutes after lunch, and 10 minutes at night. That is 29 minutes out of each day, a larger time commitment than the average person spends on anything but watching TV, commuting or working. For me, it would mean the lawnmowing, dog walking, aerobic exercise, Christmas decorating, and empathetic listening to my wife would suffer. It means not taking any job starting prior to 9:00 a.m. It makes you wonder if keeping your natural teeth isn’t overrated.

One way to foil the plot of the domineering hygienist is to take the offensive. At the end of your next visit request everything she has. “Don’t you have anything more I can use to clean my teeth? I’ve quit my job so I can devote myself to my gums and I need all the appliances you can provide. I can go to the drugstore and buy anything you recommend. What, you can’t think of anything else?  What you’ve given me won’t take all day. What if my wife finds out, she’ll make me get a part-time job. Please!”

Another good way to defeat a tyrant is to deplete their armory, or at least get them to show all their weapons. When she has revealed all her tools, you can laugh derisively and say, “Ha! I’m not doing that. I’m going to brush twice a day, on days I feel like it, and leave the rest to chance. I’m going to get my job back and with the money I earn, and the time I save, I’m going to join a hockey league. Brushing will take me JUST A FEW MINUTES A DAY.”

Then you bring out your dagger. “Did you know that if you don’t polish your car engine a few minutes a day, it will eventually rot? Can I interest you in a rubbing cloth and some auto hygiene tools?”


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