I haven’t been to the dentist in a while. It is such an embarrassment. The longer I don’t go, the more embarrassing it is.  Dentists are very nice about it, at least the ones I’ve been to see over the decades. When I was I kid I never had novocaine. I’ve walked away from many armless dental chairs as the assistant tried to pry the armrest from my frozen fingers.  Dr. Vincenzo always tried to be nice to me, “Leave the armrests, take the cannoli,” he would say.

There is a difference between a visit for cleaning and one for cavity drilling and filling. I’ve found that it is better to keep my eyes open when the pain-making is going on in my mouth. It is the lesser of two evils, the second of which is to look into the hairy nostrils of the dentist as he hums a tune out of key.

A cleaning is a different matter. There is no pain to speak of, except for the gradual accumulation of saliva in the back of my throat. The tension mounts as the saliva collects. Do I swallow now? Will I chomp down on the whirring cleaning instrument? Or the chisel the hygienist uses to pry the gunk from my teeth? If I did, I might drive them into my brain, or worse, into the nice hygienist’s finger?  Finally she says of the suction tube, “Just grab this like a straw,” and when I do, the saliva is spirited away.

So the idea occurs to me: Do I shut my eyes while the hygienist cleans my teeth or keep them open? I’ve always had a bit of a problem with eye contact, so I opt for keeping my eyes shut.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I painted what I remember seeing with my eyes shut while the hygienist worked on me.

It was a yellow spotlight with one or two orange arcs at the top and bottom.  Somewhere on my eyelid was a purple and red spot… or maybe it was my retina. I don’t know, I just paint the picture.

Watercolor: Abstract - Dental lights as seen through closed eyes

View from a Dental Chair
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Hopefully I will be able to remember what I see with my eyes open when I have my cavity filled on the next visit. It might have to be a series of vignettes, I can’t imagine my eyes resting on one spot during drilling – even with the novocaine they give nowadays.

2 thoughts on “Cleaning

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