“Some things have to be endured”. Clive Barker
In the last post I outlined the events that led me to pay a visit to Dr. Moreau, a gum specialist. To be fair, I didn’t make the best first impression with her. I had totally forgotten that I had my initial appointment with her on a Monday morning at 8:30 am in August 2008. Not normally a problem, except that I just flew in at 5:30 that very morning from spending 4 days in Las Vegas for a friend’s bachelor party. I’m not sure if I was hung over, exactly. But my body was experiencing what any human body experiences after spending 4 days in Vegas. You could say I was addled.
“My goodness, what seems to be the problem?” was her opening line to me.
“I don’t normally look this way. I, um, I haven’t been sleeping much the last couple of days”. Lame, I know, but I didn’t want her to think I wasn’t taking this appointment seriously. Tacking it on to the end of a Vegas bender made it look like I didn’t care. I’m sure I still smelled of the desert.
“Well, I’ve looked at your x-rays and there’s really only one thing we can try to ‘save the tooth’. I plan to surgically implant cow cells under your gumline and hope that they adhere to your jaw and grow your jaw back sufficiently to reduce the size of that pocket.”
What’s that then?
Cow cells? I’m not sure how I felt about that. Does that mean I’ll be part cow? Technically, is the term cow-man or man-cow? I think I prefer man-cow, if I had to choose. Not to be confused with the manatee, a.k.a. the majestic sea-cow. Does this violate the United Church creed in any way? These are all valid questions, but I guess the most pressing one was “Will my insurance cover such an abomination of nature?’ Well, yes. Apparently it does. Dr. Moreau even made a little joke. “It’s not like you’re going to grow a tail or anything.” I endured the usual round of “moo” jokes and “more cowbell” references from friends and coworkers at the time. In fact, at one point my office desk chair was covered in a cow-like pattern of shapes cut out of construction paper. These library people really do have too much time on their hands sometimes.
A few months later I went back to Dr. Moreau for the surgery. She gave me an ativan “to relax” about a half hour before. The last time I had ativan I was 19 and a psych patient. This did not bode well. You just stick it under your tongue and it dissolves. I didn’t feel any different. Between the ativan and the wisdom teeth anesthetic debacle, I was beginning to think I must have the constitution of an ox. The constitution of an ox, jawbone of a cow and the brain of a man. My suspicions were confirmed when shortly into the surgery I felt a sharp pain on that side of my mouth.
“You can feel that?” Moreau asked with concern.
She looked at her watch and back at me and said, “Well, the drugs should have taken effect by now. We’ll just going to have to carry on. I’ll try to be careful”.
Seriously. Did she even give me an ativan? The damn thing looked suspiciously like a children’s aspirin, and whatever numbing agent she used had no effect at all. She may have tried to be gentle, but that was the longest hour I ever spent in the dentist’s chair. But at last, it was over.
But it wasn’t really, was it? It was only the beginning.
The beginning of going in every three or four months checking on the status of the pocket. The thing with Dr. Moreau is that you would never know what to expect when you went in to see her. Sometimes she was mean and condescending. “You clearly don’t know how to keep that area free of bacteria!” Sometimes she was encouraging. “I’m not giving up on you, and it’s looking a lot better”. But there never seemed to be any rhyme to reason to the progress or lack thereof. There were two axes to a typical visit to Dr. Moreau. One was her attitude and mood towards me personally, the other was the actual status and progress of my “pocket”, or “hole” as I sometimes came to refer to it. Ideally you’d like to have her in a nice disposition AND be pleased with the prospects of my hole, but that was rare. And you may assume that every time the hole looked dismal so would be her mood. BUT THAT DIDN’T SEEM TO BE THE CASE AT ALL. That’s one of the things that made it so frustrating. You just never knew how it would go. I sometimes thought we fell into a rhythm whether she’d alternate between niceness and meanness, but just when I lulled myself into a sense of knowing what was coming, she’d change it up on me. The weirdest ones were when she didn’t like what she saw in my mouth and yet she was very nice and gentle with me. My head spun! I think if I had to choose between my pocket looking good or being treated nicely, I would actually choose being treated nicely. It’s just a damn tooth, after all, right? I mean what was the big deal if I had to ultimately lose that tooth? That was always the scare tactic. “You don’t want to lose that TOOTH, now do you?” Sometimes the Irish in me would just think, “Fuck it, take the fuckin’ thing out. I can’t stand it anymore!” but it never really came to that.
In between visits I was to use this industrial grade mouthwash that would turn the rest of my teeth brown, and this cruel looking device to which I was to attach the end of a wooden toothpick and scrape in behind the gumline. I had various levels of success with both products. My first blog post referenced her. And so did the one a year later. Like a dog that was kicked by his owner once, I could never really trust and feel comfortable around her, but like that very same dog, I kept showing up at my appointments with a curious mix of optimism and dread. In a weird way, Dr. Moreau became a fixture in my life. I wouldn’t necessarily say I looked forward to her visits, but there was a regularity to the visits that become a part of my routine.
At one point, she was so exasperated with my progress that she actually performed the surgery on me a second time! This was in the fall of 2010, and again the anesthetic didn’t seem to help much, but at least I was prepared for the pain that time. I was feeling nauseous even before it started. I was probably remembering how bad it was the first time so I was a little tense. Dr. Moreau didn’t even think she could perform the surgery on me, I looked so pale in the chair, but I insisted. Damned if I was going to take another day off work and get myself all worked up and full of ativan only to have to come back and do it all again a couple of weeks from now. Moreau seemed pleased with the result, and the visits continued…
They continued right up until this past Wednesday, May 2, 2012.
I went in for my usual viewing. She took one look at it and said, “Well, it’s not bleeding. I don’t think I need to see you anymore.”
And that was it. I was released by Dr. Moreau after nearly four years of visits. Out of habit, I went up to the receptionist to make my next appointment. She looked at me funny. “No, it’s fine. You can just go.”
Kicked to the curb, as it were. I should feel relief and gratitude, but I just feel empty inside. Is the hole fixed, or did Dr. Moreau just realize there was nothing else to do about it? It’s not clear. I’m supposed to keep up with the toothpick routine but I can give up the mouthwash. I course, if I have any problems I could come back to her. But that was the problem all along, wasn’t it? I never did have any problems.
Not until Dr. Shrek insisted that I get my wisdom teeth out a decade ago. You know what else is kind of funny? I still have two of my wisdom teeth, safely and quietly hibernating beneath my gumline. Dr. Snoots only took my bottoms, so I could potentially start the cycle all over again at any point in the future with my uppers. Good thing I kept one of Dr. Moreau’s ativans. I may need it after all.