Forget about the awkward magazine perusal in the waiting room, the threat from potential cavities, or the impending doom of root canals and extractions–the most uncomfortable moments at the dentist office will be spent tilted back in the dental hygienist’s chair getting your teeth cleaned. The half hour intervals you pass lying prone with a stranger’s (hopefully gloved) hands in your mouth will be some of the most vulnerable moments of your life. In my experience, your innermost thoughts during a routine teeth cleaning generally follow this pathetic chronology…

Image source: Columbia
Image source: Columbia

Before your teeth cleaning: I wonder if the dental hygienist will be able to tell the last time I flossed prior to right before this appointment was about two months ago when I got piece of apple skin lodged between two of my molars…

The Always Blonde Dental Hygienist: We’re ready for you now! Come on back.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a brunette dental hygienist, is that odd? What is it about the dental profession that attracts blondes… There’s always at least one blonde in the dentist’s office. Do dentists prefer blondes? This could be a sociological experiment…

Lean forward, and I’ll put this bib on you.

Oh great. From the minute this bib gets clipped, I know I’m going to look like I have three extra chins. And now the chair is lowering. Why is it moving so slow? I don’t think there’s any possible position more submissive than this. I’ve got a bib on, I’m tilted back so the entire world can see up my nose, and pretty soon this chick’s gonna be up to her elbows in my mouth. She could easily kill me in this position. Has that ever happened? I’m sure it has.

Open wide.

I hate this tiny metal hook and mirror… What does this even do? If they poke a load-bearing tooth with that thing, does your whole mouth just collapse?

Okay, turn toward me.

Am I supposed to keep my eyes open for this? There’s water and tooth debris flying everywhere, but I feel guilty about closing my eyes. The least I can do for this poor woman’s suffering is take some stuck-on tooth grime to the eyeball. …Plus I don’t want her to think I’m enjoying it too much. Wow, this dental hygienist has beautiful eyes. I think they just “pop” because of the surgical mask… Forget it, this feels creepy. I’m closing my eyes for a second.

So what are you up to this weekend?

Shafjhshhm trome errashajh.

Shit, see, I knew I should keep my eyes open. Why do they try to make conversation during this process? It doesn’t make me feel more relaxed. What should I be doing with my tongue right now? Should I be making an effort to keep it low? I think it’s just kind of floating around… All this technology we have, why can’t they make some dental equipment that doesn’t sound like a circular saw? Alright… I’m starting to drool… Where’s the suction… What if I have to do one of those open-mouth dentist swallows?

Okay, close… And open.

Oh thank goodness, the only way this could get more humiliating is if I drooled all over myself.

I’m going to floss your teeth.

Okay, so I’m going to be bleeding profusely from the gums in a second. That seems like an excessively long piece of floss… She could easily strangle me with that. Is twirling three inches of the ends around your fingers like that really necessary?

Open wide again.

Ew, now this is the gritty part… This feels disgusting. How does this even clean my teeth? It feels like there’s sand in my mouth. Is this tooth exfoliation? Wait, that’s actually a good idea. Remember that for later.

Lots of water. Swish this around and spit. You’re all done!

Oh thank goodness this is over. Just get me out of here. Alright, walk of shame to the front desk… Oh, excellent, another toothbrush and mini-toothpaste. Can I just tell them I use an electric toothbrush, or would that sound bitchy? Whatever, I’ll just add these to my things-I-won’t-use-from-the-dentist drawer in the bathroom…

45 thoughts on “The Chronology of Your Innermost Thoughts during a Teeth Cleaning

    1. When my dentist came in for 5 minutes, he was telling a story about a huge toad that got into his pond. He’s concerned it’s going to eat the fish.

      …I have a hard time relating to him.

      1. Dentists and their first world problems. Mine is getting married and I make fun of him all the time and tell him to read my blog. I also make fun of the hygenist. They stab my teeth in retaliation.

  1. All my dentist’s hygenists are brunette except one and I avoid her because she likes to stab me and blame the bleeding on my flossing technique. My hygenists also give me sunglasses for the flying debris and there’s a TV on the ceiling to watch. Although last time it was a big long ad for World Vision, so that was pretty depressing.

    1. I have no idea, either! They say you can tell a genuine smile from your eyes, so even though they’re pulling my lips all around, maybe we should be making the effort?

    1. Really? I’ve only been to two different dentists of my life, so it’s probably not the most holistic picture of dental hygienists that I have…

      The one I have now is a middle-aged mom type, but the one before her was a young blonde chick.

  2. I need to visit the dentist again as soon as I switch over to my new insurance. It’s a new one though, so not sure what to expect, except at least it’ll be way closer to my house. Maybe I should just floss every day for the next month and I’ll be fine. 😀

    Great post…this is pretty much exactly my thought process when I go. I know it’s kind of awkward to just sit there and stare at each other, but conversation is impossible. 🙂

    1. Can I tell you, this was my first trip on my own insurance, and they took me back so quickly when I came in that I didn’t have the chance to tell the receptionist that my file needs to be updated. I get my teeth cleaned and all that jazz, and I come back out and tell her, and I realize I forgot my insurance card and had no idea what company I have… So she told me to call her Monday (yesterday) and tell her.I felt like I stole dental services for a few days. Embarrassing.

  3. I’ve never, ever understood why they insist on trying to make conversation while there are a bajillion things in my mouth. I mean, I can only respond to questions like “So, what’d you do this weekend?” with “Aaaah weeh uh eh moo-ies” which doesn’t exactly make for great conversation.

    I also seem to consistently get stuck with dental hygienists who lecture me. Whether it’s about flossing or, the one time when I thought I might be preggers and asked not to have the x-rays but then got a full-on lecture from a 21-year-old about the perils of drinking caffeine while potentially pregnant, there never comes a time when I don’t get a hardcore talking-to by the dental hygienist. It doesn’t exactly add to the experience.

    1. YES! Okay, confession, until about, oh, two years ago, I was still going to a pediatric dentist (for the fluoride treatment! I swear it’s the fountain of tooth youth), and I always got lectured by the hygienist about flossing. I think it was partially because I was probably the oldest patient she’d see all day, and holding some spot of superiority over me is more satisfying than doing it for a sticky-handed five year old that will probably bite her.

      I really don’t think that many people floss everyday… People are bullshitting about that.

  4. My mouth started salivating while I read this. I haven’t been to the dentist in over 5 years. And what’s worse, kinda, every time I go, they tell me: “Oh, your teeth are great. You must take very good care of them.” Nope. I brush once a day, and that’s all. I also like the candies. This shit scares me.

    1. My friend had that same experience recently! My teeth are a minor source of vanity for me… I had braces in junior high, and I suffered for these gorgeous chompers, so I like to take care of them.

      …Okay, yes, I go for the compliments.

  5. While reading your post, I kept waiting for you to mention it, but you never did.

    Maybe it’s just me. And men. I’m sure men will know what I’m talking about.

    For me, the awkwardness lies not in the strange ‘dental patient’ language we are reduced to, nor the lectures, not even in the inordinately long strands of possibly life-threatening dental floss. What gets to me is when they lean over real close, and say, “Okay, now turn towards me.”

    So there you are, obediently turned toward them as asked, when suddenly, there’s something on the far side of your chair that they simply must have… so they lean for it. So now you are lying there, mouth open, wearing a bib, non-consensually motorboating a stranger.

    Now what?! You can’t turn your head NOW. Any movement on your part could be misconstrued as an attempt to sexually harass your hygienist. If you pull back (like you could even if you wanted to, those headrests cradle like a champ) she might think you’re implying she has body odor (please God, do not let her have body odor), or any other of the thousands of ways she could possibly get offended.

    All this, moments before she begins shoving pointy things and power tools in your mouth for the next half hour.

    Awkward doesn’t begin to describe that moment.

    Loved the post!

    1. Oh gosh, YOU ARE SO RIGHT. How did I forget this one!? You’ve covered it perfectly.

      Even beyond this, you’re literally staring at her boobs the whole time, and it’s like, what else am I going to look at? I can’t strain my eyes to look at the toothbrushing propaganda on the wall because that would be so obvious.

      I also didn’t mention how awful it is when they launch into a weird story, and you can’t even meander your way out of it because you’re at their mercy. This weekend when I went? A bird made a nest in my hygienist’s barbecue. The eggs are blue. …I know that, now.

  6. It’s the conversation that gets me every time. It’s like… how the hell do you think I’m going to be able to answer you? Your hands are literally in my face. How is that going to work? How?

    And then my nose itches. Every. Time.

    1. Oh I know! Or, even worse, your eyes to start to water for whatever reason, and you’re like, “shit shit, please don’t think I’m crying. I’m NOT crying!”

  7. You nailed it. This was my experience a few weeks ago, except that my dental hygienist is a brunette. She’s very chatty too. And invariably I have to sneeze at some point during the proceedings, and I’m always terrified that I’ll get a dental instrument lodged in my trachea if I do sneeze. So far I’ve managed to suppress it but one day I know I won’t be so lucky.

    1. The sneeze scare has never happened to me, but I’ve held in some farts from ricocheting off that vinyl seat.

      And okay, I knew they existed somewhere, but the brunette hygienist is like a unicorn to me. I must see one before I die.

  8. That’ll be some time in the next couple of weeks. Definitely not looking forward to it, especially since I have a very chatty dentist. I really think they talk just so they could laugh at us when we try to reply! =x

    1. Probably! My dentist doesn’t come in until after all the dirty work has been done. Last time he was talking about this big frog he has in his pond. I had no idea what to say.

  9. I reblogged your post and, because I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to say to you in the comments section, I followed the re-blog with my own rebuttal blog in response, coming from the point of view of the hygienist (yes, me!) Your blog was so funny, but I have to say that I was a little surprised at the venting of anti-hygienist comments from your readers!! Fortunately, it takes a lot to offend us, haha!

Don't you sass me! ...Actually, please do.

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