Friday, May 03, 2019


My experience with dentists is as mixed as my experience with all medical people.  This was a little better than usual.  My Calgary friend predicted it, saying that the dentists are younger and better trained.  But Calgary is a big city, a metropolis --that's where they filmed "Superman".  I was encouraged when the receptionist for this smal ltown dentist said, "We'll take good care of you"

My mother, both her sisters, and their mother had terrible teeth.  Dentistry of the time was still brutal and clumsy. My mother had full false teeth on the top and a bridge on the bottom. Her sisters were ashamed and did not share, but my mother would entertain little kids by pushing her false teeth in and out.  They had not understood it was possible any more than pulling your nose on and off.  

None of my mother's children (3 of us, the other two male) is good at self-maintenance.  My brothers, one dead and one old, as kids never brushed their teeth or cut their toenails.  I swear their teeth had moss on them and their toenails cut the sheets.

I started going to the dentist when I was in elementary school and in an early blunder the dentist hit a blood vein with his novocain hypo.  I didn't feel anything, but when we got on the elevator to leave the downtown medical building, there was a mirror and my face had blown up horribly to twice its size.  Later I went to a super-scrupulous man in the nabe who affixed a frame to my face with a latex wall that my tooth poked through.  His office was in a mini-mall with a big plate glass window on the workspace, so that kids stopped to stare and make mocking faces.  He was Italian with a big belly that he clutched my head against.  It rumbled.

In my South Chicago seminary years I had a toothache that forced me to the handiest dentist.  Everyone in the waiting room was black except his bookie and himself.  There were flies.  The tooth became infected and I had trouble with it from then on.  In Portland, where my very good dentist had a nice suburban office (I had insurance) one back tooth was given a temporary cap.  It's still in place.  Everyone is afraid to take it off and find out what's under there.  Anyway, it's in an impossible place to reach.

This dental office in Shelby was a little house that had been remodeled into two offices.  The other side was an eye doc practise.  Next door was an ambulance business, across the street was KSEN (the radio voice of the region), and just down the way was the laundromat I use.  There were two men dentists and two women, a hygienist and a receptionist.  They were all cheerful, friendly, and competent.  Nothing elitist about it.

In fact, the hygienist was born into the Gobert family, one of the foundational families on the rez.  Her uncle is a deputy sheriff in Pondera County and was the temporary full sheriff when we had a scandal.  If you google the Gobert history, you'll have plenty of information for an essay.  The earliest record I saw when googling was in the 1600's in Belgium.  Contemporary Erin is beautiful, competent, and intelligent.  I said I was worried about her looking up my nose, but she said the spotlight/magnifying apparatus on her face kept her too focused to even see my nose.

I didn't know the dentists so I asked to be assigned and was put on Dylan Weishaar's list.  Good-looking, local family history, educated at state universities, he was open and explanatory -- none of the arrogance of some young male professionals.  "The surname Weishaar was first found in Baden, Germany, where the name was anciently associated with the tribal conflicts of the area."  History rhymes.  Translated, Dr. Dylan's name means white-haired, but he's not.

Hardly anything is as humanly intimate as someone with their fingers in your mouth but this is certainly not erotic unless you're into S/M.  After my teeth were clean, Doctor Dylan sat with the hygienist and described each tooth, conventionally numbered, to note their state.  The xrays had been done without the massive machine in a separate room -- just a handheld gun.  In the end he listened to what I could tell him and then suggested three plan options.  I chose the cheapest one, of course.  The most expensive suggested many caps.  He didn't talk about implants or dentures.  I was a little shocked to hear how many teeth were fractured.

Part of my motivation was reading Dr. Porges research into the third vagal nerve, the branch that is myelinated (insulated) because it carries so much information to and the area from the eyebrows down the face and neck to the lung/heart complex.  This "living bust" is a sort of screen on which emotions show, even in tiny signs perceptible only to a poker player, like a change in breathing.  In this understanding, speech arises from infant sucking and maternal "licking" (bathing and stroking).  (Baby rats who are well-licked turn out to grow up competent.)  Certainly, in the classic refrain, the tip of the tongue, the lips and the teeth -- plus pharynx and larynx -- are what produce our consonants and vowels.  

But Porges adds the middle ear where he claims something shapes the coded sounds that the drum, hammer and anvil form into meaning.  If this ability is compromised -- the real ability is in the brain but something in the middle ear makes that possible -- it might be like hearing underwater.  It's not the same as deaf but is not often distinguished.  I'm noticing it in myself.  I like to watch the Acorn BBC movies because they have print notes.  The accents make words a little mystifying.  I'm reading studies that suggest that mouth health is related to heart problems and are close enough to the brain for germs to sneak in and make trouble.  Blood vessels in the mouth are close to the surface, easy to penetrate.

To help people not be afraid, dentists provide little swag bags.  Nothing in mine was useful to me, but I'll keep it in case company gets storm-trapped with me.  I go back next week for the first real procedure.

No comments: