Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Don't confuse the map with the territory (including at the dentist's)

I go to the dentist for stage #1 of having a crown replaced. The assistant starts making a mold of a crown on the lower left. "That's mysterious," I tell her. "I thought we were going to work on this one." I tapped a crown on the upper left. "This is where I've been feeling the discomfort and leakage."
     "Nope," she shakes her head after checking my chart. "It says right here, number 21."
     We agreed w
e would check with the dentist. She took a quick look in my mouth and agreed that the work needed to be done on the upper left, as I thought. When she checked my record, she reported, "The digits got transposed." Instead of being tagged as #12, the tooth that needed work had been tagged #21. And work had actually begun on the wrong tooth.
    Now, I have high confidence in my dentist, and I am quite certain she would never have pulled a crown that didn't need to be pulled. Nonetheless, a message for the day (and for any day) was clear as a root canal: don't confuse the map with the territory.

No problems with removing the old crown. The dentist knew that I always refuse anesthetics, even for much more painful procedures, and the assistant had been briefed. But later she asked, "I've heard you've had root canal and oral surgery with no anesthetics. How do you do that?"
    "I put my mind somewhere else. A nice cove with pink sand in Bermuda. A white sand beach on the north side of Oahu. Sometimes I'm out on the African savannah, lazing like a lion in the sun while a slightly irritating long-beaked bird picks my teeth."

Ingres, "La Grande Odalisque" (1814)
     I did not tell her that because I was so often deathly ill and in terrible straits as a child, I had to learn to shift my awareness away from physical pain in order to get through. I did admit that sometimes the pain is so great that the only way to cope with it, in the absence of chemicals, is go into the heart of the pain and make that the meditation.
    On my latest visit, the imagery that came to me was from a city I have not yet seen, in this life, but will visit later this month. I found myself in the Sultan's harem in old Istanbul, and saw it very much as Ingres' imagination brought it alive, in the paintings of odalisques that excited me when I was a teen. When the dentist's attack on the base of the old crown dragged me out of the harem, I was in an earlier time, watching from the tower where the last Byzantine emperor and his friend Phrantzes saw Ottoman cannon bring down the land walls of Constantinople.
     When I first came to this office, many years ago, they had some great wall photos of woodland and lakeland scenes in Canada. I had no trouble stepping into these scenes while the dentist drilled away, and perhaps others were able to do the same. Alas, today my dentist's notion of room decoration is posters showing the progression of gum disease in gross detail; not where I'm going to go.

1 comment:

NormanFor8 said...

They’re smile consultants actually and they’ll counsel you around the best training program of movement which will eventually result in perfect teeth. Everybody’s desires are various and also the days the spot where you just sitting within the chair, were built with a quick examination and so the chandler dentist acquired up with it are very well and extremely about.