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Semi-Satire: For God’s Sake, Floss

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Floss? Did he say "floss?" We're going to read some putz writing about the value of flossing? This is Blogcritics, a sinister cabal of somebody or other doing something sinister in strange places, and he's writing about dental hygiene?

Sure, sneer, you young whippersnappers. "It'll never happen to me, I'm invincible." Ach, I can hear you now. "Hey, I floss every night. Slip it in, slip it out, rinse it around, and spit it all about."

No, I say! Don't let what happened to me happen to you. It is a dark tale, filled with pain, blood, torture, restraints, and no naked women…but you must read it anyway.  For those of you who are faint of heart, take some good dope, but read it, you must.  Learn it, you must.  Feel the force, Luke.  (Oops, wrong article.)

Chapter I

A year or so ago, I do my thrice annual visit to dentist (smoke and drink coffee and we're talking stains steel wool couldn't remove), I'm told I have receding gums.  Say what?  I have a receding hairline (actually, it's more of a depression than a recession, but that's another story), but what the hell are receding gums?  Are my teeth slowly going to get loose and fall out, I ask?

"Yes," says my dentist.

When I awaken from the dead faint, he begins a months-long process of deep cleaning, which involves jack hammers, pick axes, and nary a Percocet in sight.  But, alas, while he corrects many of the problems, there are a few areas he can't fix.

"I want a periodontist to take a look at these," he says.  Hell, how bad can it be?  I've had two root canals, and, other than boring, once you get enough Novocaine, there's no pain at all. 

Chapter 2

Okay, so it takes me three months to get up the courage to call the D.D.S., P.A., Periodontics; for now, we'll call him Bugsy.  His receptionist is charming, funny… hey, they have something opening up tomorrow for a first consult.  No problem.  See you then.

Sheesh.  People make such a big deal about these things.  How bad can it be?

What can I say about Bugsy?  A gentleman, great sense of humor, wonderful relations with his staff, treats you with respect.  He's already got my x-rays and is raving about my long roots and strong bones.

"Good thing, too," he says.  "Otherwise, every tooth in your mouth would have come falling out by now.  Grind your teeth often?"

"Only when I'm alive," I say.

He pokes and prods and actually takes video to show me the inside of my mouth.  Like this is something I've waited my whole life to see.  I'm a pre-Crest baby.  I have more cavities than teeth.  Why in the world would I want to see the inside of my mouth? 

"I just had a cancellation for tomorrow morning," he says.  "Why don't we start with your front tooth?"

(Had I known, it wouldn't be a surprise about cancellations.  What's surprising is that anyone would actually keep an appointment…but that comes later.)

Okey dokey, I say.  Somewhere I hear this baaaaaaa and the sharpening of knives.

Chapter 3

It's morning.  I arrive.  People couldn't be nicer.  I sit in a comfortable chair.  Bugsy walks in, pats me on the arm, asks how I'm doing. Then his assistant walks in, pats me on the arm, asks how I'm doing, and before I know it, there are leather restraints on my wrists.  They quickly restrain my legs.  Then they put a cage over my face that has eye slits, a nose hole, and a hole for my mouth. 

I feel like Hannibal Lechter, and I hate liver.

"Uh, fellas," I say.  "Are you sure all this is necessary?"

"Trust me," Bugsy says, "I'm a professional.  I'm going to be cutting deep into your gums and if you make a sudden move, I could slip and take out one of your eyes."

Then I notice he's humming.  It's a tune I know.  What a minute, it's the Steve Martin song from Little Shop of Horrors, "Yes, I'm a dentist, because I love the pain I inflict, da da dee dee da….."

"Excuse me, sir, but I just remembered I have an important meeting with a client," I try.

"Too late, my dear boy," he says holding up a needle the size of that thing in Seattle.

Now, most times, getting Novocaine shots aren't too bad. But when they do it in the front of your mouth, think about somebody taking a screw driver and inserting it… never mind, I can't go on.  Just trust me, it hurts like hell.  But within an hour, everything is numb, and he goes to work, humming along.  I can feel him cutting, but there's no pain.  Except that he seems to be doing a lot of cutting for just one small gum over one tooth. 

And he periodically stops to take more video shots.  I'm going to love this, I know.

Then he starts scraping.  At one point, he grabs a pick axe, he's got his foot on my arm for leverage, and he's hacking away like a madman. And the nurse is shooting water into my mouth to put out the flames.  There's still no pain in my mouth, but I suddenly realize I'm going to have to paint eyebrows over my eyes until the hair grows back in. 

I start struggling to get loose.  That was a mistake.

"Oops.  Shit."

"Wa da ya mea, oos..it?" I managed to gurgle.

Bugsy shook his head.  "Well, there were gobs of old bacteria and tartar collected up on the underside of your brain pan, so I was scraping it away to make everything nice and clean…"  He hesitated.

"Ya?"

"Well, when you moved, the pick axe may have penetrated the bone and cut into your Cerebellum."

Try saying that with a mouth full of fingers and tools and clamps and braces.

"at ad?" I asked.

"Bad?"

"Ya."

He scratched his head with the pick axe.  "Well, it depends on what part of it I got.  It coordinates fine movement — you're not a diamond cutter, are you?"

"No."

"Phew.  It also controls balance, equilibrium, and muscle tone."

"En ill e ow?" I stammered.

"Eh?" he asked.

"Hen hill he hoe?" I tried.

"Oh, well, as soon as I've sewn you up, and we undo the restraints, we'll know pretty quick."

Chapter 4

I stayed pretty still after that, despite Bugsy's occasional, "wows," and "would you look at that," and "oh, gonna need to bone graft there."

The last part's pretty cool — they get this cadaver, grind up his, or her, bones — and them jam them into a space in your head where bone's supposed to be.  Then they sing some sacred prayers and sprinkle Holy Dental Water over you, and the whole thing is supposed to come together.

Three hours and two more shots of Novocaine later, they took off my mask, untied my arms and legs, and the nurse began to hose down my body, which was covered in blood and tissue.

"Not to worry," Bugsy said, smiling.  "We've got a helluva blow dryer in the next room."

Needless to say, I was still a bit groggy, but I let him help me up, and he had me go through the kind of exercises Gene Wilder put the monster through in Young Frankenstein.  Luckily, we didn't have to do "Puttin' on the Ritz."  I was all wet and still dizzy.

"I don't think there's any major brain damage," he said seriously.

"How agout nimor brine dermage?" I asked.

"Nothing anyone would notice," he said. "So, you want to see the pictures?  I'll tell you, that was one hell of an operation."  Before I could say no or throw up on him, he's showing me the inside of my mouth sliced open like a butterflyed shrimp with my spinal chord and brain pan exposed.  Then he showed me what it looked like all sewn up. 

He sat me back into the chair and proceeded to put some kind of sticky glue all over the front and back of my front teeth.  "This'll protect you against infection," he said.  "Come back in a week."

"Your shire there'd northing wong wit me?"

"Absolutely positive.  You don't seem a bit different from when you walked in."

Epilogue

So…how much of the above was real, and how much in jest, they wonder?  Well, the doc was Roy Eskow, and, obviously, I'd never use his real name if he'd been that bad, although he can't sue me because I've kidnapped his Lionel train set, which is his pride and joy.

The truth is, boys and girls, that it wasn't painful.  It was long, it was disgusting, and it's true that my good roots and bone structure saved my ass, not to mention my teeth.  And it all started because I was a regular flosser — once a week, once a month…whatever.

Roy Eskow is one of the gentlest, funniest, best docs I've ever met.  I actually am looking forward to the two more operations he's going to have to do.  Oh, bullshit. I'd rather just go drinking with the guy.  But, floss, baby, floss.  Just once a day.  As the good doc explained, use a C or a U motion around the teeth and gently saw back and forth, moving up the tooth.  Gently.  Plaque is very soft — unless you let it sit there for weeks.

Also, in the spirit of giving you information you never wanted to know, plaque is nothing more than bacteria shit.  If that's not reason enough to floss, I don't know what is.

He says he didn't knick my Cerebellum, and I believe him.  The twitches are much better now, and I can actually eat soup with a spoon without watching it fall into my lap.  And he does have a helluva whole-body dryer in the next room.  I left dry as a bone.

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About Mark Schannon

Retired crisis & risk manager/communications expert; extensive public relations experience in most areas over 30 years. Still available for extraordinary opportunities of mind-numbing complexity. Life-long liberal agnostic...or is that agnostic liberal.
  • http://www.eclecticlibrarian.net/ Anna Creech

    Well done!

  • http://clatch.blogspot.com A.L. Harper

    Loving This Mark! Will you have my baby!

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    So, this is what happens even if you DO floss?

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Victor, no, read more carefully…I flossed once a month or so…whichever came first. Every night, every night. More important than sex. More important than anything. Save those teeth.

    Andrea—I am a happily married man. Worse, I’ve been fixed for twenty years–otherwise I’d gladly have your baby.

    Thank you, Ms. Anna.