“Well, it looks like you have a cavity. Actually, two.”
Ok, umm, what? A… cavity? Are you KIDDING me? I stared back at the dental hygienist with a mixture of shock and horror. ME? It has been decades since I’ve heard that word spoken with my name attached. I came to my appointments twice a year. Brushed every day. Flossed every… well, ok. Maybe I needed to work on the flossing a little bit. But a CAVITY? Actually TWO? I was tempted to seek a second opinion when she handed me the x-ray that showed the small dark line burrowing its path through my tooth enamel.
A cavity. Two. Unbelievable.
I spent the next week dreading my dental appointment. The date, marked in red like an executioner’s D-Day, mocked me from the paper calendar hanging on my wall. The appointment taunted my fears and apprehension.
Don’t get me wrong. I have an amazing dentist. So amazing, I choose to pay more than necessary because his practice isn’t covered by my dental insurance. He is THAT good. But skill or no skill, there is no joy being at the mercy of someone else wielding a power tool in your mouth.
Today arrived with little fanfare. For the rest of the world it was another normal spring day, filled with pollen dusted cars and children’s laughter as they played in the bright, warm sunshine. No one could hear the strains of Darth Vader making his appearance as I walked the Green Mile to meet my fate.
I arrived with weapons in hand. Earbuds. iTunes. I even took some Tylenol just in case the pain would be more than I could bear. I tried to squelch the anxiety by bribing myself with reasons to live past this horror. I have children to raise. Places to see. A book review to write. I also needed to turn the crockpot off lest the house burn down before dinner was served.
It would be OK. I was determined to make it.
My dentist, Aaron, entered the room with a smile and I was reminded of his gentle demeanor. He really is a kind and caring soul. We chatted a few minutes about this and that, as he tried to put my mind at ease. It was a delicate game we played, hunter and prey. The niceties were merely a precursor to the nightmare that would soon begin.
The numbing medicine was applied, and I had to laugh in spite of myself. Two long sticks hanging out the right side of my mouth were enough to give anyone the giggles. He left, then returned again to check my progress. I must have passed the test because he began setting up his station as if he were performing open heart surgery. Oh my.
The chair was tilted back and I closed my eyes. I already had my playlist rolling when the first click of metal tapped inside my mouth. Mouth pried open like the jaws of death, I focused on the music. I tapped the beat inside my head, raising the volume as the drill began to whir. C’mon Pharrell, show me how to be happy!
It’s an interesting experience being in complete mercy of someone else. This man had the power to make or break my smile. He could destroy me. He could enrich me. The perception was mine to mold.
I decided to focus on the positive. I listened intently to my music, paying close attention to the rhythm and rhyme. Billy Joel serenaded my spirit with his running piano chords while Mark Schultz reminded me that he has been there, too. I started to panic when my shuffle landed on a karaoke track from my playlist right as the drill was grinding away, but then I caught myself remembering my youthful days of singing and performing. Even the push and pull of the tools couldn’t yank me from my silent reverie; I imagined myself in a hammock with the wind rocking me to and fro.
And just as suddenly as it began, it was over. I was done.
I didn’t feel a thing.
My exuberance was evident in the lopsided grin I reflected back to my favorite dentist. He understood my fears and in return, he made me fearless. He also did a pretty great job of fixing my cavities, too.
I came home and wrote him a thank you note to show my appreciation. Yes, I know it’s his job to fix people’s teeth. But any licensed dentist can do that. No, my dentist is special. He loves what he does and tries hard to form lasting relationships with his patients. He took the time to put me at ease. He allowed me to keep my smile just the way it is for a few more decades to come.
So I sent him a smile in return.
Be blessed, my dear friends, and take a moment this week to show your appreciation to someone else. Kindness is contagious!