I went to the dentist a few days back to have a crown put in and a cavity filled.
I thought I was okay.
What I found out was that dentistry has changed since the last time I had a procedure. They place this large rubbery doohicky in your mouth that has a suction tube attached to it, so the dentist wastes no time removing his hands in order to allow the hygienist to suction out the water and saliva. The dentist can work to completion virtually uninterrupted.
An idea that is really good on paper, but horrible in reality.
They told me to breathe through my nose, and normally I do; however, at the moment that breathing through my nose turned into my only option, it stopped being a sufficient way of getting air to my lungs. Thoughts of suffocation started rolling around in my head. I started to question the design of the human form: how on earth can two small holes deliver enough oxygen to my lungs to sustain life? It seemed logical to me that the gaping hole that the dentist was now blocking with his rubbery suction tube and his hands was the only way to retrieve enough air to stay alive.
To top it off, I don’t know if it was me or if he had given me so much Novocaine that my uvula was numb. The more I breathed through my nose, the more it felt like my sinuses were draining and welling up in the back of my throat making it impossible for me to breathe. I knew I was going to die in the dentist’s chair from suffocation by mucus blockage.
I motioned for the dentist stop, so I could spit out the wad of mucus piling up in the back of my throat. He told me to wait a minute.
Wait a minute? Wait a minute?! I could be dead in a minute. Honestly, couldn’t he see the ginormous snot ball blocking my airway. For Pete’s sake, he had a better view than I did!
He finally stopped and I spit. There was only saliva. No suffocant.
I apologized sheepishly and laid back in the chair. I did tell him that I didn’t like the rubber suction thingy and asked if there was any other way of propping my mouth open. He kind of huffed and put a huge metal clamp in my mouth. The dentist went back to work, and the hygienist went back to tapping my nose with her pinky finger and telling me to breathe through my nose.
Almost instantaneously, I felt the wad of mucus return to the back of my throat. I chanted, “It’s not real. I’m okay. It’s not real. I’m okay,” over and over in my head.
That didn’t work either. I swear I heard myself gurgle, and all the thoughts of suffocation came racing back.
The second time I made him stop, he asked in a slightly perturbed way if I needed to have gas.
Sure, why not. Let’s do that.
Out comes the gas doohicky. They presented the mask before I had completely calmed
down. The hygienist placed it on my face and I immediately said, “Yeah, I can’t do this either,” and placed it on my forehead. She sighed and started messing with the dental instruments on the counter behind me.
When my blood pressure returned to 120/80, I put the mask over my nose and started to inhale with a fervor, pulling the nitrous oxide deep into my toes. After filling my lungs past capacity five or six times, I started to relax.
Then I started to get paranoid. “Oh dear God,” I silently pleaded. “Please don’t let my heart rate slow down so much that I die at the dentist. Please, God. Please, God. Please, God.” I started crying inside my head.
I couldn’t ask him to stop a third time. I was frightened of what the dentist would do, so I started chanting to myself again. “Just relax. Float on the cloud. Just relax. Float on the cloud,” I told myself. Soon I was slowly chanting, “Float on the cloud. The cloud is good.” And then, “Stay here. Here is good. So very good.” I chanted so long that the voice inside my head started to sound like a stoner. I was okay with that.
Before I knew it, the dentist announced that he was finished and the hygienist put on the finishing touches, including adding more oxygen to my nitrous oxide. What a total a bummer, dude.
As the effects of the gas wore off, I realized I had acted like such a ridiculous nincompoop during this visit. I was so embarrassed now that it was over.
“So,” I ventured after the hygienist removed the gas mask, “we’re going to use that stuff again when I come back to get the rest of my crowns, right?”
She looked at me, blinked twice, and said dryly, “Yes.”