As an American idiom, the “hot seat” can be the electric chair, where criminals were formerly seated to be executed. However, now in our more politically correct time, there is an effort to make sure the illicit person dies without pain, surely a foolhardy wish. Appropriately, in our more careful and conscientious era, the criminals are strapped to a table and given a lethal dose of something like thiopental sodium, which is said to take “effect rapidly, [and is] used to induce general anesthesia [or] as an anticonvulsant and for euthanasia.” In other words, depending on the dose, the person goes out and can be made to stay out.

Some dentists use nitrous oxide, which is a colorless and sweet-tasting gas, sometimes called the “laughing gas”. Why anyone would laugh going into or out of a dentist’s chair is beyond me, but there is apparently no dentist who uses “crying gas”.

Dentists do, upon occasion, extractions, although there is probably not a tooth in your mouth that they couldn’t save for $5,000. And, if you can’t pay your bill all at once, there is a lifetime extraction plan for your money. Dentists are good at either kind of extraction—teeth or money.

This morning I spent some time in the dentist chair. I have sat in their chairs in many countries of the world and many states in the U.S. The chair is really a slowly reclining one—with a touch of the appropriate lever by the “dental hygienist” (the DH) you are lowered into a horizontal position from which it is almost impossible to faint. And I think that is the idea—get them low and keep them there so they will not suddenly rise up!

First of all, my blood pressure was taken to make sure that I would not expire and that I would have enough energy and blood to pay the bill. I didn’t have to wait long, so my blood pressure must have been in the normal range. All I have done prior to the “chair” was to read two sheets of paper and acknowledge with my initials that I understood all the treatments that I would be getting and that I would not sue the dentist for any of the things that I didn’t like, such as getting teeth knocked loose or a sudden heart attack. But then, whoever had a slow heart attack in a dentist chair?

The “waiting room” has a nice coffee machine—the kind that uses coffee pods—and some women’s magazines. There are also some books for kids and a Bible.

Seeing the Bible reminds me of a verse in Luke 16:22-23, which I will paraphrase to suit my cultural context and occasion: “The rich man was numb and was buried in the dentist chair, where he was in great pain, he looked up and saw the DH far away, with the dentist at his side. So he called out, ‘Mother Technician, take pity on me and send the dentist to dip his finger in some water and cool my tongue, because I am in great pain in this chair.’”

That may be a bit extreme, but you get the point—of the needle that is—and have probably suffered somewhat at the “hands” of a DH and dentist.

This morning I did not have a tooth extracted, but a general removal occurred when I went to pay the bill. First of all, there were x-rays, or “films” as they are called, on my invoice. A small snake-like apparatus was retrieved from a cupboard in the wall, and inserted, respectively, into the four corners of the mouth. Then a small telescopic lens (the snake’s head) took a picture of each angle. The cost was $74 for about 2 minutes, or about $37 per minute, indicating how expensive those machines must be.

The so-called “periodic exam” was $62, which consisted of the DH taking a small crowbar-like instrument and digging between each tooth, top and bottom, and then “measuring “ the amount of gum left by each tooth.. Finally the “prophy (cleaning)”, which was $106 and took about 15 or 20 minutes. This is always the main event and is done with a miniature fire hose that loosens everything around the tooth, especially the plaque, but also an occasional piece of tongue or gum.

When the DH had finished her chores, she called for the dentist. He shook my hand and asked if everything was OK and what I had been doing. I told him I was writing a book—an autobiography—and that I had also written a book for my wife. “I gave it to her two years ago and she is still editing it.“ She must be a great editor,” he said. “I might even write a story about being here,” I replied. He blinked, pushed his microscopic boggles back, and then answered my question about the best kind of toothpicks (the soft ones). Lastly, he had a quick pick and poke around my mouth. “Looks, good, see you in six months” were his words of farewell.

During this ordeal I had on safety glasses to keep the juices from splashing into my eyes and the lights from blinding me. The chair was then slowly raised, with the DH and dentist carefully observing me to make sure I could sit up without falling over.

Finally, the DH presented me with a small packet containing a small tube of Colgate “clean mint” toothpaste, a small container of dental floss, a Colgate “360 wide mouth” tooth brush, some soft-picks, an “Eez-Thru” floss threader, as well as a card to fill out for my next appointment.

I’ll put them with all in my collection—right now I need some coffee.

April, 2017
Waco, Texas