How does someone choose to be a dentist? I mean no disrespect, I’ve spent plenty of time in the chair, but it’s a little like choosing to be a proctologist, just at the other end. Really. Now that I think about it, a proctologist just might have an edge.

I can’t imagine staring into mouths all day. Tongues look disgusting up close. Decay causes bad breath. Infection smells worse.

Why, why do hygienists want to talk about everything under the sun, ask questions they answer themselves, and look down into my eyes like I’m supposed to have an opinion? All I can say is, “Uhhhh-gah-yahh-gahh-yah.”

“Only floss the teeth you want to keep.” Who came up with that? Of course I want to keep my teeth, but snapping string between my teeth to make my gums bleed doesn’t seem like a good idea.

My career with dentists started with Verne. He was big guy with horn rimmed glasses. His inner sanctum smelled like science class and the music sounded like a funeral. Mine.

Drills hanging above my head looked like Godzilla’s claws. Next to my face was a white glass plate where deadly weapons waited. The paper towel under my chin was for catching drool, tears, and flying pieces of my life.

The funeral dirge got louder as Verne came at me with a needle five inches long.

“Open,” he said.

I tried. My mouth didn’t work.

He forced it open by pushing on my chin with his big thumb.

“This might pinch a little bit.” Verne lied.

After pumping my jaw full, he stared at me to increase the misery of my impending doom.

With bare hands he reached in my mouth and started excavating. He sprayed water in just because he knew it would hurt.

“Empty,” he said.

Empty meant spit in the tiny toilet bowl flushing in front of me. Watching me trying to spit was his entertainment. My lips were no longer under my control, so spitting was more like shoving with my tongue. There was a sticky spit string stretching from the toilet to my lip. When it broke, it swung from the bowl like a grape vine in an episode of “Tarzan.”

When Verne was finished, I walked toward the door. The nurse said, “Have a good day.”

“Phlankth,” I said.

The dentist office has changed drastically since I first met Verne. I miss the little toilet bowl. Now a gadget hangs from my chin to suck everything out. The drills sound but don’t feel different. The needles are only three inches long instead of five. One thing that hasn’t changed is the contest between dentists to see which one can put the most stuff in a patient’s mouth.

Root and canal are two words that strike terror in minds everywhere. I can tell you by experience, at least seven times over, there isn’t anything to fear. I had another one just last week, and I almost fell asleep while my dentist worked. No, I’m not kidding.

Crowns on molars are a little harder to endure. The worst part is the wad of playdoh the dentist uses to make a mold. Waiting four minutes while the gagging reflex kicks into overdrive is tough. I have nine crowns.

Verne once told me that if I didn’t take better care of my teeth, I wouldn’t have any when I got old. I showed him. I still have all my teeth.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says something about casting our crowns at Jesus’ feet when we get to Heaven. I might look funny with a bunch of little stumps in my mouth.

Maybe Verne was right.

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