Don’t judge me but it may have taken me this long being in Seoul to get myself to the dentist. For whatever reason, finding a new medical care provider is intimidating to me. Especially when it comes to dentists, my anxiety increases each day as I move further and further away from the last time I was scolded for not flossing. A few weeks ago, however, I was able to muster the courage I needed to overcome my anxiety and I made appointments for Chris and me at a dental office that was recommended to us by some hygienically superior friends. One of the things that I love about Korea is that appointments, be they at the hair salon or the hospital, rarely need to be made more than a day or two in advance. So, the next morning, Chris and I did a double brushing to make up for the past three years (please refer to the opening sentence about judging) and we headed out to the dentist.
On the way there, Chris and I were placing bets on how many cavities we had and just how severe our tongue lashing would be about our hygiene hiatus. We showed up at the office, filled out the necessary paperwork, and awaited the judgment. We were called back almost simultaneously and were led to different rooms. I was fitted with the familiar slobber bib as the dentist introduced himself and told me to lay back and open wide. This was it. The past three years of anxiety culminated in this one moment. I was prepared to face my sentencing. I had barely girded my gums when I heard the dentist announce, “Okay, no cavities.” And like that, he was gone. No poking, no prodding, and frankly, hardly even any looking. I could feel my brows knit with skepticism when I looked at the hygienist, “No cavities?” I have never before wanted to ask a dentist to come back for a second run-through. But, he was gone to check Chris’ teeth with his telepathic cavity searching powers.
But, this check-up was not over. We had also requested a cleaning. So, with her memorized English phrases, the hygienist instructed me, “When want to remove water, raise left hand.” I deduced that “remove water” was a euphemism for spitting and I settled in ready for anything, or so I thought. As I adjusted my head in the headrest, the hygienist put something over my face that felt terrifyingly like an execution mask. Maybe my oral sins were worse than I thought. Maybe there were no cavities but there were root canals to be performed or waterboarding to undergo. With only my mouth peeking out from underneath the mask, she pulled out what I like to call the water pick of doom. With it, she made up for all the poking and prodding that I was expecting from the dentist. When it finally came time for a break from the water pick of doom to “remove water” I quickly glanced around the room for a mirror to check my gums for tattoos. When there was none to be found, I resigned to coming back to the chair to endure the rest of my punishment.
After it was over, Chris and I met up in the waiting room with a look that said, “Did you just go through what I went through?” We silently agreed to swap stories later and we paid the bill. With the promise to return in six months, we walked out to our car. Still worried that the telepathic dentist could read our thoughts, we waited until we got home to share our experiences. Hopefully his range isn’t this far…