Bear with me, now, as I try to lighten up. That’s your recipe for Nitrous Oxide, sometimes called “Laughing Gas.” It’s what I need when I go to the dentist‘s office nowadays and there’s no laughing involved.
I had my biannual cleaning this morning, bright and early so I couldn’t really fathom breakfast beforehand, and I delved yet again into the fringes of dream-dom, the world that I believe screenplays must be developed from. It’s not my first choice by any means to wear the fuzzy little nose mask and inhale the sickly sweet fumes of Nitrous for almost an hour, but the short story is that it is the only way I can sit in the dentist’s office without being upsided by a frying pan.
I had some revelations and epiphanies during my time reclined in the rather uncomfortable chair with my head not-so-gently cradled in the bony scoop of a so-called headrest. While I worked very hard at taking deep breaths and fighting the nausea and anxiety that befall me in that circumstance, I was aware of the sensation of the peculiar razzle-dazzling of my nerve endings in my legs, my arms, my chest, my face… I tried to let go of the anxiety so that I could focus on deeper thoughts, trying to make good use of the time for meditation.
It occurred to me that it might help to channel my Grandma Brown whom I rarely saw in any state but calm. She was built like a little rain barrel, and moved around on miniature stick legs. I used to wonder at the size of her tiny ankles and feet, how they could support her moves. She was conservative with her movement, as well, and I didn’t remember her hurrying or wasting energy being demonstrative.
So in my mind this morning, I envisioned Grandma Brown sitting in church with her arms resting across her bosom with her hands clasped together, twiddling her thumbs. She was a master thumb-twiddler and so the second I brought up that slide, I started twiddling my thumbs. It was the perfect distraction for my worried mind and I started to imagine waltzes and soundtracks to twiddle in time to. I think the hygienist started to become concerned and at one point, a tissue sort of hovered across the air space and then landed on top of my hands. I saw this movement happen, but only realized later on that it was maybe to cover my hyperactive thumb-dancing so that she could do her job.
An hour is a long time to have the nitrous mask on and I was exhausted at the end of the cleaning because of the energy it required for me to stay composed. My hygienist, Ann, was kind to note my patience with an occasional encouraging word. Initially I told her I would like all of my teeth removed so that I could just have dentures. She didn’t see the humor in it and said that it would be silly to do all that because of one bad experience. By the end of the session, I think she understood better how much (perceived) stress I was under. She said, sounding much like Kari, the babysitter in “The Incredibles“, “You’re doing a GREAT job with your cleaning!” The enthusiasm was a real lift because I had been imagining that every time she made a note on her pad she was recording yet more decay. When we were almost through she crooned, “I’m so proud of you, Tammy, because you’re almost done and you’ve been such an awesome patient. I know how hard this is for you and you’ve been the best patient I’ve ever had!”
Well, I started crying.
And now I say thank you, God, for Nitrous Oxide -the stuff that they use for performance enhancement in car engines and rocket ships and to lessen my anxiety in the dentist’s chair, for folks like Ann that are working hard to do their job well, for giving me good teeth and good health, and thank you, God, for giving me the opportunity to take care of my teeth at all.
Zero cavities later, a nice omelet and cup of coffee tucked in, I can tra-la-la another six months Nitrous-free.
- Learning to grin and bear it at 39 (mypajamadays.com)
- Is anxiety real or presumed?? (mckaydentistry.wordpress.com)
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