"Dr. Orin Scriveeeeello, your next patient is here!"

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She recently wrote an oh-so-enviably-eloquent and amusing account about going to the dentist in England. And since her dentist turned out to be good, harmless and South African (of course! You should've known that after I had used "good" and "harmless" in the description), I think it calls for a celebration, because I absolutely LOVE the fact that South Africans pop up anywhere and everywhere. (Don't tell anyone, but it's all a part of this little plan we have to take over the world. Shhhhh!)

So since we're celebrating an imminent global South African Invasion, I shall promptly proceed to torture you by relating my very own recent dental experiences here in the United States.

As an outlawed alien without dental, mental or health insurance, I have one option and that is to never EVER fall ill.

But being human (okay, who am I kidding? Partially human then?), and clumsy to boot, and despite the thick layer of fat I have under my skin for protection, I do sometimes become an ailing alien.

In the rare instance when the cure for my ailment isn't to be found within the pages of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia (it doubles as my personal physician), I have to resort to other means of acquiring medical help. Like... gasp!... going to a REAL doctor.

But being a wannabe unpublished author (read: unemployed) and considering my aforementioned Alien status, I sometimes have to resort to more unconventional means of getting free or inexpensive medical help.

Which is how I became a medical experiment.

No, no… you silly things you… I have NOT been cloned.

Come to think of it though, being cloned may not be such a bad idea. I mean, think of the possibilities: Sending the clone to work when you’re simply not in the mood (that way the clone can stay and work loads of overtime so that you can get that fabulous promotion), or sending the clone to perform tedious tasks such as grocery shopping or jury duty. And, by having a clone of yourself, you’ll always have an alibi!

I would also have my clone write this blog on occasion and then blame all the bad posts on her.

But, back to the harsh, cloneless reality… Perhaps it would be more accurate to call what I went through a dental experiment.

Once again, in order to bring you excellence in journalism (and once again, please don’t find that so openly amusing!), I’ve offered myself up for a dental study just so that I can tell you, dear readers, what it was like. (Although there isn’t too much to like about it.) Never mind the fact that my wisdom teeth had me climbing through the roof for months – they were especially painful, funnily enough, every time I had a glass of very cheap red wine!

So when I saw the advertisement about the study of wisdom teeth removal in the paper, I temporarily lost my mind (I must have been in pain at that moment) and so I signed myself up to lose what little wisdom I had left.

On a wintry Saturday morning, I arrived meekly, like a lamb to slaughter, at the place where the surgery was to be performed.

Here’s the gist of it: the purpose of the study was to see how (if at all) acupuncture works as treatment for pain following the extraction of wisdom teeth. Failure of acupuncture’s magic would certainly be a pleasant anticipation for masochists, but to me, that alternative seemed rather daunting.

The day started off mundanely enough though: sitting with all the other "lab rats" in the waiting room and filling out an amount of paperwork so staggering that it makes the forms forced on citizens by most government agencies world wide look positively sparse. I think they thought it would be the best distraction to calm our nerves. They would have succeeded too, had it not been for all the waivers we had to sign. The latter looked something like this:

"In the event of any complications due to this surgery, such as the loss of senses (which includes the ability to see, think, smell, taste, touch, feel, hear and speak), extended unconsciousness or death, this dental practice, its employees, their families, offspring, pets and friends will not be held liable or face any frivolous lawsuits."

Now THAT’s calming, isn’t it?

Then the forms continued to explain that you should realise that your teeth would actually be pulled from your mouth during the study, which may result in bleeding, swelling, bruising or pain. And that acupuncture involves many needles temporarily being inserted into your body.

No kidding!

At that stage, I was at the point of no return and actually caught myself wishing that I could go first just so that I could get it over and done with. But of course I wasn’t first up. Not with my luck.

I did feel a bit calmer when I didn’t hear any piercing screams of anguish coming from the general direction my fellow test subjects had disappeared into.

When, in a weak attempt at humour and idle chit-chat, I noted this to the nurse, she replied, quite seriously: "Of course you wouldn’t hear it. You didn’t REALLY think we’d be silly enough to let you sit within hearing distance from the surgery, now did you?"

No, silly me.

Finally it was my turn. I briefly experienced one of those "oh-no-this-is-not-happening-surreal-out-of-body-and-mind" moments but promptly returned to earth when I was unceremoniously plonked down into the dentist’s chair.

Actually, the dental surgeon was a very pleasant, friendly foreigner. His assistant, a dental student from Greece, was just as God's gift to women gorgeous nice.

Or so I thought, until they whipped out strange looking instruments and injections with the longest needles I had ever seen.

Their smiles, so reassuring just a moment before, suddenly turned sinister and sadistic when they picked up their tools and chorused in unison: "Open WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE!"

It all happened before I had the time to beg them to at least render me unconscious for the occasion, or to – at the very least – give me some Valium.

But my unlucky streak continued and I had to be alert and cruelly conscious to witness the entire event for the notes that I had to keep later as part of the study.

I fooled them and pinched my eyes shut, so that was quite a waste on their account, ha!

Seriously though, who EVER wrote that rule of life that states that dentists have to chat to you while they’re busy contorting your mouth, pulling your lips apart, and dislocating your jaw? Why is THAT always the time they pick to get to know you, by asking you a series of unrhetorical questions that can’t possibly be answered by merely nodding or shaking yes or no?

Well, these guys were no different. They chatted and asked away, only interrupting the (very) one-sided conversation by making comments like "Open a little WIIIIIIIIIIIDER!" and "I’m just going to push a little … yes," followed by a sickeningly loud crack and a CRUNCH! And then by an enthusiastic: "Aah, yes! You’re doing GREAT!"

Until the crunching stopped, and it was all over.

"It’s OUT!" They shouted with great glee, again in unison – they must be a double act and do this quite often.

But alas, that was only to be the first technicality of the day, because immediately after I had managed to get up from the dentist’s chair, and had regained my wobbly balance, I was whisked away to a second, more secluded secret location, again far from the waiting room, its anxious patrons and their ears.

A petite, pretty Chinese woman awaited me. She was to execute the acupuncture and the first thing on HER to do list was to blindfold me.

Needless to say, I got a little scared for the second time that day.

"Doesh thish ushually happen?" I managed nervously, despite the gauze that had been stuffed at the back corner of my mouth, where, moments before, a wayward wisdom tooth had been steadily growing towards the side of my mouth. I’m sure if I didn’t have it pulled, it would have poked through my cheek eventually.

"Oh, nooo!" She answered, laughing, after finally figuring out what I was trying to say.

"You know," she said, pulling the blindfold tight with surprising strength for such a slight frame. "You really shouldn’t speak."

"Where are you from in China?" I rebelliously ignored her. They had to realise that it would take more than oral surgery and some gauze stuffed in my mouth to shut ME up!

I went on to discuss the author Amy Tan (the only Chinese author that sprang to mind and whose work I’ve actually read) and then asked the crucial question: "Is this going to hurt?"

"Oh, nooo!" She laughed again, a bit louder this time. (Was it my imagination or did I detect a sinister undertone in her laugh? I think not though, because I was blindfolded, and your senses are supposed to sharpen a notch when you’re blind, right?)

She went on to explain that the holistic therapy of acupuncture has been around for centuries.

"What’s the death toll so far?" I asked.

She pretended not to hear me and solemnly said: "The ancient Chinese were very, very wise."

I sure hope they had imparted some of that wisdom on YOU, I wanted to say, but of course, I didn’t.

(Confucius says: "You shouldn’t be too cheeky when someone who is armed with needles, blindfolds you.")

So, helpless for the second time that day, I simply lay back hoping to start feeling very Zen-like.

It really didn’t hurt at all (in fact, the whole purpose of the blindfold was so that we, the humble dental subjects, couldn’t know for sure if we had even received acupuncture), but I’m sure I felt some tiny needle pricks. But then again, that sensation may also have been caused by my limited access to oxygen (thanks to that very same gauze in my mouth).

Anyway, I survived, and whether it was real or phantom, my acupuncture lasted twenty minutes, and I was done, but not quite free yet.

For the next five hours I was closely monitored by an army of nurses (don’t know if that’s the correct collective term for nurses, but "army" spontaneously sprang to mind) whom, every fifteen minutes and with military precision, marched in to ask: "Do you have pain?"

Whenever I said no they looked genuinely disappointed. Occupational hazard, I guess?

Finally, they gave up on me (but not before I had been sent back for a second round of blindfolded pin-pricks).

I was released with a mountain of homework to do until I had the stitches out a week later, and a throbbing reminder of what it takes to be a medical experiment.

I went through all of that, and still no further sign of the Tooth Fairy!

8 Comments

Teresa said:

As far as I'm concerned - no one will ever pull any teeth from my mouth unless they sock me with some sleep drugs first! I've had it done both ways - I definitely prefer the sleep method.

Sounds like it went well though - hope your mouth feels better soon! Mine felt terrific after I got my wisdom teeth out - right after they finally took out the stitches...

kim said:

outch. autsch. thank the german government for obligative health insurance for everyone (in germany). and the only experiment i ever got myself into was modeling for a hairdresser in training. not a pleasant experience either..

martha said:

so did you get the good drugs when you left the experiment???? That's what I want to know because the day after was the worst for me....

amy t. said:

I've had 16 teeth pulled (13 baby teeth and 3 wisdom teeth), but I've been drugged every time. In fact, they have to up the gas level on me because I've had it so much I'm slightly immune. This is always fun, as higher levels of gas make you sick to your stomach, and if the dentist gags me while prodding around my mouth I throw up on him. Revenge is sweet.

deeleea said:

The dentist has never been an instrument of fear or torture though I have been on the receiving ends of extraction and fillings.

No... Dentist good... Phlebotomist Baaaaaaad....

Airmatix said:

MAN, what a long entry. Pity you didn't make it shorter and saved some words for an e-mail to me. WTF are you?

lomara said:

I just read this entry after finding out a new guy in this building at work is also from South Africa. What funny timing you have ! :D

There are a lot of south africans. I know 2 people from there.

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about
is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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comments
  • Wisdom Teeth Removal Provo : There are a lot of south africans. I know 2 people from there.... [go]
  • lomara : I just read this entry after finding out a new guy in this building at work is also from South Afric... [go]
  • Airmatix : MAN, what a long entry. Pity you didn't make it shorter and saved some words for an e-mail to me. WT... [go]
  • deeleea : The dentist has never been an instrument of fear or torture though I have been on the receiving ends... [go]
  • amy t. : I've had 16 teeth pulled (13 baby teeth and 3 wisdom teeth), but I've been drugged every time. In f... [go]
  • martha : so did you get the good drugs when you left the experiment???? That's what I want to know because t... [go]
  • kim : outch. autsch. thank the german government for obligative health insurance for everyone (in germany)... [go]
  • Teresa : As far as I'm concerned - no one will ever pull any teeth from my mouth unless they sock me with som... [go]
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