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Emily Grossman

Reason for Suspicion

February 6, 2009 at 12:22 PM

I'm pathologically honest (although I've been known to harbor a secret or two).  You see, I gain security by being open with people, because then I can be sure to have the upper hand by telling them about my own flaws before they can find them out for themselves.  This tendency will also amplify according to the amount of scrutiny that is being placed on me. 

Perhaps that's why I was so worried about my dental appointment.  Think about it.  Unfamiliar hands open your mouth and begin poking around, observing.  Then, an unfamiliar voice smugly remarks, "Oh, so you're a nail biter, are you?  Tsk tsk..."  "Yes," you hear yourself squeak, unable to shut your mouth, "And I filed my 2006 taxes late, too!"  Who needs waterboards when you have dentists?

Ideally, my dental visit would occur in a different state, so that none of my dark dental confessions could leak out into the community.  But since such out-of-state opportunities rarely present themselves, I actually haven't been to a dentist in years.  I know, I'm a dental heathen, but to make up for it, I've carefully checked my teeth on a daily basis, monitoring changes and taking every precaution I can to avoid decay.  I brush with enamelengthening toothpaste.  I use ACT mouthwash.  I even floss. 

Nevertheless, I awoke at night with a mild ache behind one tooth.  First thing in the morning, I pulled out my compact mirror and reflected it on the inside of my mouth.  To my horror, a rotting, gaping hole glared at me from behind my front incisor.  Alas, tooth decay!  And it all had happened so quickly!  What about the rest of my teeth--would they rot out overnight, too?  Guilt shook in my fingers as I dialed the dental clinic in the next town over.  Maybe no one would know me there.  Maybe they would have a thick curtain between me and the dentist as I remorsefully pled, "Forgive me, Father, it's been twelve years since my last checkup."  Perhaps they wouldn't recognise my name, and then I could pretend I was someone else as they dug up all sorts of dirty little secrets about my teeth.  They probably wouldn't take me under a pseudonym, would they?  But if I use cash, and if I borrow the neighbor's car, I might just be able to...  No, better give 'em my real name.  

By the time I hit the coffee shop, I'd chewed my nails to the quick.  "What is wrong with me?"  I reasoned with George, "People get cavities every day, don't they?  Sometimes it's not even their fault.  They do everything they can, and still they get them.  I'm just so--paranoid--that some dentist will dig into my personal space and find things out about me, and then word'll spread all over town." 

George looked up from his americano.  "You know what the very definition of insanity is?  It's me calling you insane.  You are insane.  All you have to do is keep your mouth shut, and don't start volunteering all kinds of information--you always do that.  See, they don't care. And they certainly don't care enough to tell anyone else.  Remember: you don't need to tell them anything."

I chuckled at his common sense reality check.  Still, I couldn't resist sliding my tongue obsessively across that seemingly massive void that no one else could see.  I tried not to smile at my friends, afraid that they would detect the darkness behind my grin.  Instead, I began telling them about the time in fourth grade when I cheated off of Jocelyn Smith's social studies test.

After lunch, I headed back to the mirror to observe the reality of my sin once more.  I drew back my lips in a grimace.  A strand of salmon from lunch had lodged between my teeth, so I grabbed the dental floss and jiggled it into the gum line: ping.  And sucked.  And looked again.  A piece of coarsely ground black peppercorn, roughly the size of a cavity, shone brightly on the tip of my tongue. 

With no one present to share my joy, I jumped out of the bathroom and dialed the dentist's office again.  "Yes, I'm scheduled for 2:30 tomorrow, and I'd like to cancel my appointment.  That cavity I was telling you about?  Well, I just flossed it out.  Turns out, it was a piece of pepper!"  We laughed and I hung up, relieved at my own good fortune.  I couldn't wait to tell everyone the next day what funny thing had happened to me.  The funniest thing is, if it hadn't been for my own paranoia, I probably would never have found that piece of pepper in the first place, and it would have eventually gone on its merry way without a second thought from me.

Mind you, up until this point, I told no one else of my misadventure.  But that very evening, I checked my email and found a note from my dear friend Jim.  It read:

"I came up with a wonderful song that the next time we get together we 
can play.  I thought I'd name it 'Pepper in My Teeth'.  What do you 

Well, what do you think?

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 6, 2009 at 12:49 PM

I'm glad your tooth turned out okay--but I think you should still have gone to your appointment and not cancelled it. 

I've gone every 6 months for a regular cleaning for as long as I can remember and I've gotten to the point where I actually enjoy going to the dentist.  She's nice, she's friendly, she asks about my kids and I ask about hers.  Essentially, she's a friend.  And, I still don't have any cavities or fillings.  

I don't claim to be an especially good dental patient, I just do the normal brushing and flossing when I get up and before I go to bed and I use fluoride toothpaste.  But I think my just getting the regular check-ups and cleanings over the years, and developing a good relationship with a dentist who knows my teeth, has made the whole process pretty efficient and painless.

Whereas my husband went almost 20 years without going to the dentist.  The last time he went until recently was when he was 19, in the German army, and was required to go.  He even made fun of me for going to the dentist regularly.  I'd be on my way to the dentist and he'd say "do your teeth hurt?" and I'd say no, of course not.  And he'd say "then why are you going to the dentist?"  It was annoying.

Then, a couple of years ago he bit into an apple or something and a piece of one of his molars broke off.  He finally went to a dentist then, and had to have a root canal and a crown, both of which were traumatic.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 6, 2009 at 2:07 PM

I am with Karen on going regularly to the dentist.  You can end up with lots of major problems if you do not.  In your case, if you hear rumors around town about some of your wilder doings, at least you will know who the source is.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 6, 2009 at 2:09 PM

I'm glad that your dental problem wasn't really a problem.

I seldom go to a dentist because they are so awfully expensive.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 6, 2009 at 10:38 PM

I don't go to the dentist because the last time I went, they drilled and filled the wrong tooth.

From Royce Faina
Posted on February 7, 2009 at 12:57 PM

Maybe they made the same mistake you did?????




From Ray Randall
Posted on February 7, 2009 at 8:03 PM

I was at the dentist's office for a crown after I broke a tooth. As the dentist gave me one of a few shots he winced and said this hurts me because after I fix yours I have to have the exact same thing done to the same tooth in me. "I hate shots," he said. I laughed because they don't bother me at all.  

I use my doctor and dentist visits to hit them up for either ads, donations, or both to the SLCO. I simply tell them "I want some of the big bucks I've been giving you over the years back in the form of a tax deductable gift to the orchestra. Works almost every time.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on February 7, 2009 at 8:20 PM

Hi, I'm happy for you too but I go regularly and even with all my good care, they still have to do work. They told me that everyone puts on tartar on their teeths even if they take good care of them. My friend dentist told me that if you pay regularly for little visits you will save much money because you will never get to the "big" problems. The big problems are really expensive.  If ever you are scared find you a good one, their is a lot and I heard that dentists were often amateur musicians.  My dentist told me about that!

Good luck and happy that it was not a real cavity!


From Karen Dotson
Posted on February 8, 2009 at 2:04 AM

Yes, you should still go and get a checkup and a cleaning. Gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease and you don't want that either, that's mainly how people end up in dentures. After twelve years you will have a lot of plaque buildup even if you don't feel it. As you can tell that was my career of choice! So please make an appointment and get a checkup and cleaning ASAP! Don't wait until something hurts! When that happens.... it's usually not good at all and very expensive.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 8, 2009 at 9:07 AM


...Come on, I know at least one other person wants to tell me to go to the dentist.

From Bart Meijer
Posted on February 8, 2009 at 11:00 AM

Have you looked at the ever watchful Google, Emily? Local dentist, dental clinic, teeth exam, dental care: it seems Google wants to persuade you to go, too!

My own dentist is a model of dexterity and calm attention. It would be a joy, if I weren't the patient.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 8, 2009 at 9:22 PM

So, the last time I went to the dentist, they poked around until they found a deeper groove that they said would probably turn into a cavity later.  They pointed it out to me and scheduled an appointment for a filling.  When I returned, they numbed me up, drilled and filled, and sent me home.  It wasn't until the shot wore off that I saw that they had worked on a different tooth than the one they'd originally pointed out to me.  For some reason, I was too embarrassed to tell anyone (probably because the dentist was so nice, I didn't want to hurt his feelings).  I couldn't chew out of that side for six months, and to this day, it is the only tooth that ever bothers me from time to time. 

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on February 9, 2009 at 12:11 PM

 Actually, I think your story is an argument for establishing a regular relationship with a dentist you like, one who knows the "ins and outs" of your teeth, so to speak.  I have a groove like that in one of my molars.  It's been that way for the past 5 years at least, doesn't get any better, doesn't get any worse.  My dentist just watches it, pokes it with the hook once in a while.  She says if it gets worse, maybe she'll drill, but she doesn't see any reason to do it now.  I suspect another dentist who didn't know me or my teeth, or maybe one who just wanted the insurance money, would just go ahead and drill it.  

From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 9, 2009 at 2:16 PM

Maybe you need a new dentist.  How many are there in and around Soldotna?  Oh, and BTW, you will want to avoid ever seeing the film, "Marathon Man," even though Dustin Hoffman is fabulous.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 9, 2009 at 9:29 PM


Unfortunately, I am a self-employed violin teacher, and of course that means I have no dental insurance.  Add that to the fact that dental work costs about three times more in this state, and that means I've decided to schedule a visit for the next time I'm in Pennsylvania, where you can get a cleaning and two cavaties filled for $200.  Here, the cost is easily $600, and I've decided to pay my taxes instead. 

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 9, 2009 at 10:15 PM

...and go to Hawaii.

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