I (thankfully) have health insurance through my job. Unfortunately, I don't have dental insurance. Luckily, I found a local technical school that offers a dental clinic at (drastically) reduced prices three days a week. The clinic is very small (two dental chairs for exams/cleanings, one x-ray station). Before you freak out, let me explain a bit. The technical school trains dental assistants. They have several licensed dentists on staff to assist in their training. The dentists see the patients, while the dental assistant students get to practice taking x-rays, assisting and such on live people, instead of mannequins or computers. Knowing it was an actual dentist who would be working on me eased my mind quite a bit, so I scheduled an appointment for yesterday (Wednesday).
I haven't been to the dentist in (gulp!) 6 years. I desperately needed a cleaning, and also had a cavity I noticed recently. I also have a "filling" that is actually what was originally a temporary solution for a broken tooth that needed a crown. The dentist in G-town used filling material to seal up the broken off area and build it up to look like an actual premolar. I was warned this would probably only last about a year and that I needed a crown. And this was six years ago! So I knew it would need to get checked out to see how sound the tooth was.
Yesterday, I arrived for my appointment five minutes early, because I knew I would have to fill out some papers. I was the first person to sign in, and the first appointment of the day. However, since I had to fill out paperwork, they let another person go in front of me. Then, the students couldn't figure out how to get the x-ray machine set up properly, so another person (who didn't need x-rays) got to go in front of me. 30 minutes after my appointment time, I finally got to go back to the x-ray station. I was being nice and patient; I could tell the girl was very new and was struggling with getting the x-ray films properly into the little doohickeys that a patient bites down on while they get the films. I didn't even bite her fingers when she tried to put the plastic thingie in my mouth the wrong way and almost sliced the soft tissue under my tongue with it. See? To me, that's being nice. Finally, another 40 minutes later, all my x-rays had been developed and all the improperly positioned ones were retaken. I was asked to wait back in the waiting area while the dentists finished up the current exams.
The "clinic" is basically just a big open room, where - if an impatient and nosy person (um.... "me") turns around - anyone can see what's being done to anyone else at any given time. Unfortunately, I happened to get impatient and nosy enough to look around just as the dentist stood up and used her own body weight as leverage to extract a bad tooth from another patient. And I got to see a whole lot of blood go dribbling out of his mouth. At this point, I was starting to rethink my desire to save money.
Just as I was getting ready to get up and pay for the x-rays and leave, they called my name. I could have still left - it was, after all, two hours past my original appointment time. But I was already there and I wanted the cavity taken care of. I was also anxious to see what condition the rest of my teeth were in. So, I went on back. I got a little concerned when the dental assistant couldn't figure out how to make the suction thingie work. Still, I told myself, she's a student so give her a chance. I REALLY got concerned when she managed to hit herself in the head with the overhead light. I reasoned that someone that clumsy had no business being anywhere NEAR the inside of my mouth. I anxiously asked her if she would be doing any of the cleaning, or if the dentist does all of that. When she replied that all she does is hand the dentist the tools and do suction, I felt MUCH better.
The dentist arrived, a nice woman who said she'd been practicing dentistry for about 15 years. This also made me feel better, but I was still a little stressed about how she had to extract the last patient's tooth. However, I was not there for a tooth extraction, and comforted myself with that thought. She looked at all my teeth and only found the one cavity. She also stated that my teeth were in excellent shape for someone who hadn't been to the dentist in as long as I had, and that the "temporary" tooth was just fine and didn't need to be replaced. The only bad thing was, my teeth were so sensitive that she couldn't do a normal cleaning with the little swirly brush thingie, she had to just use the scraper doohickie - and only after thoroughly numbing my gums. This sensitivity lead her to use a shot of novacaine on me before filling my cavity.
Keep in mind, though, that I was supposed to go back to work after my appointment. Do you know how hard it is to answer the phone when half your face feels like it is gone? I looked at myself in the mirror and I looked like Tw0-Face from "Batman." When I smiled, only the right side of my face did anything. The left side didn't move at all! When I talked, my words slurred and stumbled. This is the state I was in when I left my appointment - three full hours after I arrived.
On the way back to work, I almost got side-swiped by a teenager in a suped-up ride. I can only imagine what the cops would have thought was wrong with me if they had been called to the scene of an accident. I probably would have been arrested for DWI.
Luckily, no one called us for the hour I had to be at work yesterday afternoon. If they had, they would have had a very hard time understanding me. I, however, would have probably been highly entertained by my own efforts to make understood the words "scanning electron microscope" or "energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy" when slurred out of only half my mouth.