“You’re a regular saliva factory,” my US hygienist says to me every time I see her. It’s like a greeting, a call-and-response thing without the response part because by that point her fingers are in my mouth. Then she follows up with, “It’s not your fault. You can’t control your saliva production.” And she’s right, I can’t.
Nonetheless, I put up a good fight. As proof, with suitcases packed to the gills, I lugged my Waterpik® with me to Paris. For some reason when I turned it on it sounded like the Linda Blair character in The Exorcist. After three weeks it went completely silent and hurled itself out the window (not). In its place I took to flossing, morning and night, and using an anti-plaque rinse twice a day, for thirty seconds which I often extend to a minute…or more—the rinse I found here is called Meridol which tastes like how I imagine the 1950s tasted if you were a housewife and sick of your life. After flossing, up and down the side of each tooth, I brush, bristles against the gum and away. And then it’s time for lunch because my oral-hygiene routine has turned into this long affair, but guess what? Less tartar build-up!
Because I’m a top-saliva producer I go to the dentist every four instead of six months so after arriving in Paris, I scheduled a cleaning and prepared for a discussion about la production de salive, in French.
I showed up for my cleaning, filled out the requisite paperwork and settled into the dental chair. I make a point of speaking French wherever I go and if someone speaks to me in English I politely say, please, do you mind, I need to practice. Nonetheless, Dr. Gaillard told me, with dental explorer in hand, she likes to practice English with her foreign patients. She who holds the pointy instrument wins!
Dr. Gaillard clipped the drool napkin around my neck and asked me if I flossed. “Twice a day!” I said, with great enthusiasm, like the snotty little kid in school who always raises his hand and has no friends. If I was going to lose half my day to proper flossing I wanted credit for it. I then asked her if people here in Paris flossed.
“No, they do not,” she said, shaking her head as if mourning the death of a friend which helps explain why I have run into more bad breath here than on a morning with a pack of sleepy dogs. And when I say bad, I mean moist-month-old-garbage/make-you-gasp-a-little bad, as if something small and dark and mean has been tucked behind a molar sweating/excreting since the beginning of time.
Dr. Gaillard hung the suction tube off the side of my mouth making me feel like a hooked fish and set to cleaning with the ultrasonic scaler. Water flew everywhere. She joked I was getting a facial for free and kept spraying. She quickly “cleaned” the interior and exterior of my bottom teeth and the exterior of my top teeth then said, “All done!” which was hardly the case.
“Um, excuse me,” I said, “but did you clean the inside of my top teeth?” knowing full well she didn’t. Hello?
“No,” she said, arranging her instruments explaining, “there aren’t usually many stains there, but, if you want,” she continued, in a you-better-not-want-this voice, “I can clean there, too.”
“Uh, yes, please,” I said, and sat back wondering if there was such a thing as revenge cleaning. Twenty seconds later, face dripping, we were done, again. I sat up and toweled off, nursing my resentment. As she presented the bill I almost joked I should only pay three-quarters of it, but for the second time in my life I held my tongue.
After paying, I waited for her to ask me to schedule another appointment, you know get me on the books for future business, but no, nothing. Not even a dental goody bag. I felt rejected. But if you’re rejected by someone you don’t ever want to see again are you really rejected? If they beat you to it by rejecting you first, in an odd (very primitive) way (you don’t really want to admit to) yes, actually, you are.
My knee-jerk reaction was a desire to inflict pain, either physically by poking her with a handy sharp instrument, or with words by saying something like, your dental-hygiene and facial skills suck, but because I’m over twenty-five and in possession of a fully-developed pre-frontal cortex I followed through on neither of these urges. Instead, I hiked up my big-girl culottes, wished her a bonne journée…and promptly gave her a terrible, three-quarter star review on YELP…in french.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go floss…and rinse…and brush…again. You’re welcome.
Laurie Frankel is a guest blogger for TreeHouse Arts. As a writer and humorist, Frankel knows pain is the root of all comedy and is thrilled her life is so damn funny. Her literary work has appeared in Shenandoah, The Literary Review, Sequestrum, North American Review, Belleville Park Pages, Alaska Quarterly Review and New Orleans Review among others. Her books include “I Wore a Thong for This?!” and “There’s a Pattern Here & It Ain’t Glen Plaid.”: “. . . laugh-out-loud funny . . . great practical suggestions . . . A quirky, earnest guide to regaining self-esteem for the modern woman.” — Kirkus Reviews. She is the winner of the 2014 Time and Place Prize, Brittany France and the 2014 Walker Percy Prize in Short Fiction. Visit her blog at Frankely My Dear.