My Brush With Grossness

Years ago, I sat in a dentist’s chair in that minty purgatory between X-rays and tooth cleaning. As I waited, I heard a kindly nurse reassuring a young patient in the hallway.

“Don’t worry. It happens all the time. Just sit down, take a few deep breaths, and we’ll try again,” she said gently.

That is so sad.  A cute little girl or boy must have gotten scared and had a meltdown! Aw. Poor thing. I hope he/she gets a shiny red toothbrush as a parting gift.

But as the nurse passed by, I could see that the cute little girl or boy had a strangely familiar shock of gray hair.  And while he/she was cute, he/she was actually not that little … in fact, he/she was actually … Lew!, my very own father, who was there for his check-up as well.

You might be chuckling to yourself.  And I might be as well, were it not for the fact that I too am absolutely petrified of the dentist. Gyno? No prob. Big needles? I’m there. Eye doctor? Bring on the dilating drops. But send me a card with a big fat cartoon mouth that says I’m due for my bi-annual cleaning and I am paraylzed with fear. Make no mistake — this is not Seinfeldian anti-dentite-ism. This is pure terror.

Maybe it’s because of the Great Tooth Break Incident on the cold hard blacktop of my elementary school in 1983.  Maybe it’s because the kids called me “Bucky” for most of the 70s. Maybe it’s genetic and I caught it from Lew.  I don’t know. What I do know is that in a few hours,  I’ll be in flouridated hell. And as such, I have spent the better part of the last week not being able to breathe.

My current dentist also treats about five of my co-workers, has a pleasant Australian accent and is very nice as dentists go. But he remains a dentist. And frankly, I think he may be a sadist. About six months ago, whilst biting my very strong thumbnail, I chipped a wedge off my lower right front tooth.  Dr. Down Under fixed it, but then a few weeks ago, the bonding fell off for no apparent reason. I’m no expert, but I don’t think this should happen. The bonding on my upper left front tooth, after all — applied after the aforementioned Great Tooth Break Incident – has lasted for more than three decades . I am not entirely convinced he didn’t mis-apply the bonding  on purpose, just to bring me back into his lair, just to torture me.

This is the kind of (crazy?)thought that impending dentist appointments spark. You see what we’re dealing with here. So you can understand why I am vigilant about my oral hygiene. The more I do on my own, the less chance there is of nightmarish problems arising, and the less time I have to spend in The Chair.

Not everyone understands this. Yesterday, a girl from the office down the hall entered the bathroom while I was brushing my teeth.  The look on her face suggested that she’d actually stumbled upon a giraffe washing his hind legs in the sink.  She began asking me a litany of questions, none of which I could answer without drooling. As she headed into one of the stalls, she said, in a slightly menacing tone, “Wow. That is really something.  You know, I’m gonna start doing it too. F.Y.I.”

Good to know.  I guess if she HAD seen a giraffe washing its hind legs, she’d start doing that too.

Even Keith, to whom I feel comfortable revealing 99 percent of my innermost fears, thoughts and obsessions, was a little startled to find out the following  quirk.

This weekend, we spent the night in the homeland after a surprise birthday party for Keith’s older brother.  As I was getting into bed, exhausted from my one vodka tonic, I saw Keith standing on the border of the bathroom and the bedroom, foaming at the mouth.

[Insert toothpasty voice] “Is yow toofbwush bwoo wiff wubbew bwistles?”

My heart began racing.

“Yesssssss … why????????”

Keith held up Exhibit A. “I fink dis is yow toofbwush. Sowwy!”

I tried to be extra cheery as I said, “Oh! Don’t be silly. My toothbrush is … [throw up a little in my mouth] … your toothbrush.”

But in fact, my toothbrush is not your toothbrush. If it is your toothbrush, it is no longer mine. And Keith knew it.  He was definitely a smidge hurt by my refusal to use the toothbrush in question once he’d used it. But there just no way. It was damaged goods.

Now I ask you, friends, Roman, countrymen and Colgate users: am I crazy (in this case)?  Or is it just plain gross to share a toothbrush – and all the grizzle, green things and gunk that go with it?


My Brush With Grossness