rememembering my long in the tooth whistling dentist

On Monday she’s having her favorite Vietnamese noodle salad with crisp Saigon spring rolls at her favorite Indochinese Bistro, and she takes her leftovers home to finish later. A microwave warmup turns those spring rolls into little pebbles hours later, and by nightfall the whole side of her face is beginning to ache. Something in the noodles–probably those rocks–made her teeth grow a mite on one side. She takes ibuprofen and tries not to think how expensive this munching malady may turn out to be if she doesn’t feel better tomorrow. Maybe all she needs is a good floss or a good shampoo. Something. Anything but a dentist. She spends a fitful night, getting up for another handful of ibuprofen around midnight and goes back to bed thinking about poor Dr. Burns who used to whistle classical tunes and ask about her travels while he worked on her teeth.

She knew from the beginning (2006)  Dr. Burns was well past his prime but she liked him anyway because he didn’t push expensive cosmetic procedures on her like the dentist in Las Vegas tried to. Did I mention she doesn’t have dental insurance? She bragged about him to her daughter, who conducted a study on cognitive aging years back. Rather than being impressed her daughter urges her to find a new dentist but she didn’t. She’s struggled with her bite for years, always a little long in the tooth, literally. She knew she might be facing tooth trauma someday, but it became mind over matter. Even when she picked up the local paper last July and happened to see her dentist’s obituary there. Not only is her one affordable link to dental health gone, but she learns her dentist was his 90s when he worked on her teeth a year and a half ago, not his late 70s as she’d believed. As he’d written his own obituary, quite a creative one as she remembered,  she realized that he must have known the last cleaning appointment she kept with him would be the last one. He never said a word, just whistled while he worked.

Maybe she had a sinus infection. Come to think of it her eye on that side had been paining her as well. She’s pretty sure hopes she didn’t have a tooth problem. She’s sure it’s just her sinuses again now that she thinks about it. She calls her  GP first thing Tuesday and gets a mid-afternoon appointment. The doctor takes a look in her ears, down her throat and makes her say Ahhhhhhh.  Can’t see anything going on in there. When was the last time you saw your dentist? The dentist died she answers. He was 92. She gives you the name of hers and tells you he’s really nice and gentle, and you really ought to have that checked out first. And he’s only about 60, by her calculation at least 30 working years left. She wouldn’t have to find a new dentist for a long time to come.

At home that afternoon Hubby makes that call she can’t make herself and viola, she has an early Thursday morning appointment. In the meantime, she washes down her third dinner (or fourth, she can’t remember) of mashed potatoes followed by water and ibuprofen. The early morning dental appointment with the new dentist led to an early afternoon one with an endodontist for a possible root canal! All the time she kept struggling to remember what she’d read recently about the Four Immutable Laws of the Spirit: Whoever is present (in your life) are the right people, Whenever it begins is the right time, Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened, and When it’s over, it’s over!

In a nutshell, that’s  how the whole week goes by until she found herself–quite unexpectedly–in a situation similar to this one later that afternoon for more than two hours.That was as long as the endodontist could hold up, wiping the sweat from his brow and telling her how tired he was getting. He also said hers was the hardest root canal he’d ever done, and he’d been in the profession quite a few years. There are three major roots in a series of canals and he could only find two. He’d have to close up and finish it up in a few days. He and his assistant both mentioned how they’d never had such a hard time before. She told them both how special it was to be at the top of somebody’s list. Made her feel so special even though the pain for the six days made her worry she would lose that tooth, No. 14, and still wind up in the poor house.


The week wasn’t entirely horrible. She’s had enough drama in her life so as to have learned how to take life’s lemons and make as sweet a lemonade as possible from them. She decides to use not feeling up to par as an excuse to do as little as possible the rest of the week and the next. No blogging. Just enough cleaning so as to make a path to her favorite easy chair and the television remote. No gym. As little cooking as possible. When mama can’t eat, it’s hard for mama to be enthusiastic about cooking. Only soft stuff to eat. No ice cream. Alas! Cold made her mouth ache. Hubby pitched in and either got his own dinner together or scraped up dried foodbits from the dirty kitchen counters after the leftovers were all gone. Once he was desperate enough to look up a recipe on line for Migas (a Tex Mex scrambled egg dish with salsa and tortillas) like he’d eaten years ago in Albuquerque or Austin. When he found a meatless that looked like the one he remembered, he made some for both of them for dinner one night. It was soft so that all sge had to do was roll it over and around her tongue a few times and swallow. It was delicious and easy, an unbeatable combination. If she decides to make it herself some time, she’ll find it here.

As somebody once said, it ain’t over until it’s over. She’ll be visiting her new dentist, Dr. Dickson, who is nice–but doesn’t whistle while he works–in a week or two to have the crown fixed now that the endodontist, who was nice enough to  file down those long teeth that were making it painful for her to chew, had drilled the heck out of the crown. It’ll all have to be done over again when the crown gets fixed. And she still doesn’t have dental insurance. In the meantime, she tries not to think too far into the weeks ahead now that she can eat again. Dr. Burns, god rest his soul, won’t be soon forgotten. In fact she thinks of him every time she flosses her teeth.

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8 thoughts on “rememembering my long in the tooth whistling dentist

  1. Oh my, misery loves company but I’m sorry you had to go through all that. I’ve had some major dental stuff this past week also. Like you, surviving on mushy foods for a week.

  2. Thanks Kay and Colleen. I’m actually okay now–pretty much. Still have to face that last visit to get the crown redone. I’ll hate that, but it’s better than losing a crucial tooth.

  3. Get dental insurance. My experience has been that the first root canal, at age 63, was the beginning of many. Even an implant, which I hope never to do again.

    My insurer, Aetna, pays for 2 cleanings/year and half of many procedures. I think it’s one of the better ones, or so I’ve been told.

  4. When life gives you lemons, forget the lemonade and make a tasty marguarita. Re lack of dental insurance, in my case I grovel and ask for a cash/senior citizen discount. That actually works.

  5. My sympathies to you Alice, Any pain about the face or head is torture. I hope it is all resolved real soon. You could always leave a note for the tooth fairy…. it worked when you were young!! ;)

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