An assistant opened the door of the Oral Surgeon’s office and entered the waiting room with a file folder in his hand. There were just two patients: me and an elderly woman who was still filling out her paperwork. He glanced at both of us, but momentarily his eyes rested on me, and he said, “General?”
I looked around to see if I’d missed any military officers in the waiting room. After not seeing any, I looked back at him with a puzzled stare. He looked right back at me and again said, “General?”
That’s when I realized he thought I was a general. Here’s the story:
I got the sad news from my dentist that Tooth Number 20 had to come out. I was incredulous. “But it doesn’t hurt or anything,” I said.
“That’s because the root is dead,” she responded. “And, by the way, it’s practically hollow.”
Then she followed with, “are you sure you won’t consider letting us fit you with a mouthpiece to wear while sleeping?”
Now I saw where this was going. She’s implying that I grind my teeth, or something.
Even if that were the case, I’m not putting anything in my mouth at night — with the possible exception of a midnight snack.
When I was young, I was encouraged to wear a headgear at night. It went with my braces, and the literature said it would speed the alignment process. Anyone from my generation knew that the procedure of forcing one’s teeth into aesthetically pleasing positions was some sick bastard’s idea of a sadistic joke.
Thanks to those tinsel-colored bands around my teeth, I knew the pain of migraine headaches for the first time. And they wanted to amplify that sensation with a spring-loaded head vise? I think not.
So back in the present, I’m extremely dubious of such skull-deforming devices. However, I did note the darkened X-ray picture of my tooth, and I got a second opinion from an endodontist. He concurred that nothing could be done but extraction. Seems like I was in for my second bionic tooth, or implant as the dental profession calls it.
Obediently, I went to the oral surgeon. At the front desk, behind a wall and a glass-and-plastic partition, I announced my arrival to the surgeon’s receptionist. Her hand hovered over what could only be a ream of paperwork to fill out. But then she asked, “Have you been here before?”
“Yes,” I answered with some relief. But then that hovering hand went over, across her body, to the other side of the desk. I remember thinking that NFL quarterbacks are trained never to do that. When they do, it’s out of desperation. Uh, oh! The hand landed on a different ream of paperwork.
Great! I thought sarcastically. But at least it was smaller and had prettier colors than the first one.
Filling out paperwork is an odious task. I was indignant to have to do it again, at a place I’d been to before. In my annoyance, when I came across the question of “Title” to go along with my name, I crossed out Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc. … and wrote in “General.” I was never in the armed services, but this was my anemic effort to poke fun at the paperwork.
Four pages and ten minutes later, the dental assistant came out and asked for The General. I’d forgotten that I filled in my name that way until he said it again. As I passed him to enter the office, I told him it was a joke. As an ex-Marine, I don’t think he was amused.
Now I have a space where Tooth Number 20 used to be. The implant procedure calls for it to remain that way for three months before the hardware goes in. Then a dentist can work on my mouth with a Phillips screwdriver. But hey, the first implant is working out fine so I scheduled my next appointment in three months to the day at 14:30 hours.
Still, I miss Number 20. If you ask me right now, I’d say it was my favorite tooth.
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