Floss

I’ve never met a dental hygienist who didn’t have the skeptical yet sorrowful air of someone accustomed to being lied to all the time. The wives of mid-scandal politicians have a similar demeanor. It’s a look that says, I’m obliged to pretend that I believe you, but we both know that you don’t floss every day and you definitely choked that hooker.

I’d say I floss nearly every night, as part of my pre-bed teeth routine. It also involves brushing with my dentist-recommended Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush and rinsing my mouth for a full minute with ACT anticavity fluoride mouthwash.

But I am liable to grant myself idiosyncratic dispensations from the flossing and rinsing parts if, say, it’s really late and I’m sleepy. Or it’s a federal holiday and I deserve a break. Would the wooden-dentures-wearing George Washington want me to tend to my teeth properly on his birthday? I think not.

Dental hygienists get revenge on their lying patients by refusing to give us an unequivocal thumbs-up on the situation inside our mouths. There’s always some little something wrong. If your gums are deemed healthy and your teeth cavity-free, then you can expect to learn that your canines have dulled somewhat, indicating that you should get fitted for a night guard to prevent teeth grinding while you sleep. Or maybe you should think about investing in a smile-whitening system or a Waterpik or a professional-grade tongue scraper.

I realize that most of this is just upselling, but the subtly expressed judgment and withheld approval put a strain on insecure types such as myself. It’s like they don’t care at all that I have a complicated relationship with my father.

Adding to my sense of unease around this topic is my recent decision to sever ties with the dentist’s office I had been visiting every six months for the last two years. I guess that only amounts to four visits, but still.

I decided never to return after I called to cancel an appointment—more than 24 hours before it was scheduled to take place I might add—and the receptionist informed me that I would be charged a $75 late-notice cancellation fee. Is it me, or is this starting to feel like one of those consumer-advocate columns where newspaper readers write in to complain about potholes and unexplained charges on cable bills?

Well, don’t worry. It’s not really the $75 that has put me in the market for a new dentist. It’s that when I learned of the fee and couldn’t sweet talk my way out of it over the phone, I said to the receptionist, just before hanging up on her, “This is ridiculous! I hope you have a horrible day.”

Which I feel too bad about to darken the door of that clinic ever again. What if she really did have a horrible day, and then I showed up for some future appointment and she recognized my voice? “Oh yeah! You’re that guy who wished me a horrible day and then a few hours later I learned that my husband had been choking hookers on the side! Let me go ahead and sign you up for extra drilling without Novocain!”

During college, I knew a girl whose parents were both dentists. Can you imagine? One day, she told me that her father called her on the phone to check in with how school was going.

“What are you up to?” he asked.

“I’m doing something I’ve never done before!” she replied.

“What? Flossing?” he said.

I don’t remember what new experience college was exposing her to. Advanced calculus? Anal? The point is, dental professionals are jerks and they’re the ones you should snap at and hang up on—not the people who answer their phones.

I hope you have a non-horrible day.   

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