Dental Dichotomy

by Brian on March 10, 2006

in Just For Fun,Only in Israel

I hadn’t been to the dentist for almost a year. It wasn’t because I was afraid. Rather it was the opposite. The last time I went, there wasn’t enough pain.

Now before you accuse me of emulating the masochistic patient who begs for more from dentist in disguise Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, let me explain.

I have been seeing the same dentist for ten years. And for nine of those years, my hygienist was an Israeli woman named Ronit.

Ronit used to work on me like a tree surgeon wielding an axe. I’d walk out bloody and battered after some 40 minutes in the chair, but I knew she was thorough.

She’d berate me for not flossing enough and would stuff my pockets with special anti-bacterial mouthwash and long-necked toothbrushes, but I knew she cared.

When she told me I needed to see her every six months, then every four and finally every three, I knew it wasn’t just to scrape off plaque.

Now, I know one’s relationship with his or her hygienist is mostly unrequited. After all, despite sitting so close together alone in a closed room, only one person can do the talking. But Ronit would always ask me questions that required more than a monosyllabic response. You’d be amazed the range of emotion one can convey with a mouth stuck full of gauze.

Over nine years, we really got to know each other.

So when Ronit announced she was getting married, I was delighted.

“Mmm, uphlk, phlihs, pituaah,” I said as she brandished her pick.

“Thank you,” Ronit said. “His name is Itzhak and I’ll be moving with him to Los Angeles next month.”

“What?” I sputtered, enunciating my shock clearly enough for the receptionist to hear half way across the office.

But what was I to do? It wasn’t like I could talk her out of it. And she was still holding that pick. Who was I to stand in the way of true love?

And so, after nine satisfying years, I had to start all over with a new hygienist. Her name was Einat. She was pleasant enough as she set to work on my teeth. A little quiet, but we were still getting to know each other.

Fifteen minutes after she’d begun, she was removing the flimsy paper bib around my neck and telling me to spit. She was done.

“That’s it?”

“Sure,” she replied. “Why not?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It was just so…well, it barely hurt.”

“You can come back in six months,” Einat said as she walked me over to the cashier.

Something wasn’t right here. Ronit used to take her time. She wanted to see me every three months. She was a sculptor and I was her work of art.

I felt like a dumped suitor.

When my six month reminder card came in the mail, I blew it off and cancelled the appointment. I rationalized my feelings. It wasn’t just that I was being jilted. No, I was getting jipped! Heck if I was going to go back and pay 175 shekels (just under $40) for fifteen minutes of inconsequential chit chat…with no pain.

Dr. Abramson
, the dentist, got concerned. Nine months had gone by when he called.

“Is everything OK?” he asked. I didn’t have the courage to tell him the truth. By now, this whole mixed up love-hate-pain triangle thing had grown way out of proportion. Yet, I knew my teeth were being neglected.

Somehow I managed to blurt it out to the receptionist when she called shortly afterward to follow up on the dentist’s call. “I’ll talk to her,” the receptionist said. “Leave it to me. You just come back in.”

A few days later, as I climbed back into the familiar chair, Einat smiled knowingly. She went to work. No words were exchanged; there was no need. Fifteen minutes went by. Then twenty. Then thirty. The water pressure stung my gums. The pick dug deep. There was pain.

And then Einat sighed and told me I’d need to come back in four months. She wrote out the name of some mouthwash with a funky name on a piece of paper. She even handed me a toothbrush.

OK, so it wasn’t three months. And she didn’t last the full forty minutes. But we were on the right track. I walked out with a spring in my step…and a mouth full of topical anesthetic.

This relationship just might have a future yet.

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