The Tooth; and Nothing but the Tooth.

Dentists. No wonder they have the highest suicide ratings of any profession. Many people have legitimate fears of just the word. And I feel like they don’t do anything anymore. You are referred to a “specialist” for just about everything. Need a filling, here’s your referral. Crown? Here’s your referral. Let’s not get into insuring your chompers! Insurance covers pennies on the thousands of dollars you may owe for any type of a procedure just past a cleaning.

clean pink dentist surgery

Photo by mali maeder on

When I was a Senior in college, I was struck by one of the worst pains in my life. Even to this day, after childbirth, emergency gall bladder surgery and other various painful procedures, I will still put tooth pain at the top of my list. It’s downright excruciating. And this is coming from a girl with a pretty high pain tolerance. I was an intern at a graphic design facility and popping Tylenol and Ibuprofen like candy. Nothing was working, so they finally told me to go home and get to the dentist immediately. This was probably best as I could have slapped anyone who dared me to answer any question that required more than a one-word answer. I seriously could have driven my car off a cliff if it would stop the intense throbbing in my mouth.

I was able to get an appointment and after answering about a million questions from the secretary about who I wanted to put as people they could talk to per “HIPAA” laws, I finally snapped on the lady through waves of lightning bolts through my tooth. I think my response was something like “Listen lady, I don’t care if you tell your dog about my tooth, I just want the pain to STOP.” I think she got the hint as her cheery disposition went downhill from there.

Fast forwarding through the boring parts of this story, I ended up needing a root canal on one of my molars. I had to see a specialist because apparently the holes in my teeth were too small for their tools. I was now sweating bullets because I did not want to do this. I was dreading the day and kept thinking of all the bad expressions people say about a root canal.

business care clean clinic

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The big day arrives, and I take my dad as moral support. In hind sight, he is not the person you want with you in a time of a traumatic experience. If you know my dad, he is a character. I love that man with all my heart and he’s one of my best buddies, but he should not be used as your go-to guy for such events. He likes to crack jokes, talk too much, carry on about nothing and tries to get your mind off of it. Or he’s trying to get HIS mind off it because he’s uncomfortable with the whole situation. I think he does it as a coping mechanism more for himself than for you. He’s always been a supportive dad and loves his kids dearly, but he’s not an emotional person. His affection comes in a form of a joke or sarcasm. Gee, I wonder where I get this from?

The procedure wasn’t that bad. Your mouth is sore and it’s uncomfortable trying to lie there with this huge contraption in your mouth while the dentist tries to hold a conversation with you. They have been doing this for years (I hope), haven’t they figured out that it’s damn near impossible to squeak out a coherent word? Maybe they grow to understand this language.

woman with red lipstick

Photo by Oleg Magni on

By now I am heading to the receptionist desk. It was then that the bomb was dropped. She was  typing for what felt like 15 minutes while my dad and I stood there staring at her and she finally replies, “That will be $986”. I almost fainted. Here I am, a poor college girl with only a part time job to get through school and she wants me to pay the balance in full. I tell her that no one notified me that this had to be paid in full! She sighs and snottily asks me how much I can pay. I give her my card and squeak out “How about twenty bucks.” My dad LOST it. He had to walk away because he could not hold it together. I stood with tears in my eyes on how I’m going to pay this bill and he finds sheer enjoyment out of my response. The lady looked at me and I think she blinked at least ten times as if her eyes would somehow process what I said faster. She took my payment and I had to do the walk of shame through the lobby while (I’m sure) everyone stared at me with amusement. I find my dad waiting outside and he’s still laughing as I walk to the car.

I’m sore, numb and depressed from the whole experience. And I had to endure a car ride home of my dad repeating the whole scenario of paying only twenty dollars about a hundred times and laughing hysterically. In hindsight, it helped. And with a half-crooked, dopey smile from anesthesia, I began to chuckle as well. It’s a story he tells often, and he won’t let me live down. He teases me about this to this day whenever I have to pay for something. To make matters worse, I had several root canals on this tooth paying thousands of dollars and still had problems, so I ended up having to get it pulled. My bill was only $200.

Written By: Sara Garcia de Alba

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