My Friend the Dental Hygienist

My Friend the Dental Hygienist

By David Himmel

I’ve always enjoyed going to the dentist. I have yet to find a better feeling than freshly polished teeth. And yes, I’m including falling in love, being drunk, receiving a scalp massage and couch napping through a WWII documentary on the History Channel. For the last decade, I’ve had the same dentist and I look forward to my six-month check-up each and every time. It’s not just because of my affinity for good oral health as much as it is because I really like my dental hygienist.

Michele and I are pals. We’ve never hung out and aren’t actively involved through social media but every six months, we’re the best of buddies. A routine cleaning for me should take about half an hour. But because Michele and I spend so much time chatting, I’m often in the chair twice as long. I schedule my appointments for the end of the day so that our blabbering doesn’t set back the rest of the day. And I only ever schedule my cleanings with Michele.

There was one instance where the office called me the day before my appointment to tell me that Michele was out sick and wouldn’t be available for my cleaning. It was a courtesy call and really quite thoughtful of them. They know how I favor Michele.

“Do you want to reschedule?” the front desk asked me.

“No. It’s OK. But please tell Michele to get sick on someone else’s appointment,” I said.

 Not Michele or David. But you get the idea.

Not Michele or David. But you get the idea.

Michele and I talk about everything. Family, work, drinking, commuting, wedding planning, our friends, our frustrations, pregnancy and pending parenthood… We’re about the same age and have seen each other out of our 20s and into our 30s. We’re of similar temperament so every six months, we share similar grievances that come with life’s transitions. We both got married around the same time. And now, she’s pregnant as is my wife. So the other day, while in the chair, we talked about our shared disdain for the uncertainty and discomfort parenthood will bring us. Yeah, we might have talked about some of the positive things that parenthood will bring us but that’s not what held our attention.

Like it is with me and Katie, Michele is the more negative one in her marriage. Well, negative isn’t really the right word. Realistic is more appropriate. The same kind of things annoy us in our everyday lives. So Michele and I can vent to each other without having to explain ourselves. We both get it. When I get my teeth cleaned, I’m also getting a kind of therapy because I can complain without judgement and I’m comforted in knowing that I’m not alone in my thinking or batshit crazy for thinking what I think.

Sure, I have plenty of friends who I can have these same discussions, but Michele is an outsider. She’s not a regular. Our visits are a special treat. Greater frequency might sour our dynamic. I mean, I doubt it but you never know. All relationships are made up of delicate chemistry.

And our chemistry is about to be changed because Michele is about to have that damn baby. She told me that she may not be back in six months when I’m due for my cleaning. She’s not sure yet what her plans are once motherhood takes over. This goes back to that frustrating uncertainty we were talking about. This news is devastating. And I told her so.

“You can’t do that. You can’t leave me. I’ll steal those tools and come to your house. You can clean my teeth in your own kitchen.”

Thing is, I really only want what’s best for Michele and her family, and if that means she never cleans my teeth again, that’s something I’ll have to live with. And I will live. I won’t switch dentists. I’ll find a new hygienist—everyone in that office is perfectly friendly—and I’m sure their skills will be at least close to Michele’s. But it won’t be the same.

Yeah, I’ll be OK. But I’ll miss my friend. We might have to change our dynamic and do playdates or some kind of parenting shit like that every six months. Routine is good for kids, right?

Here’s the thing: if you’ve never liked going to the dentist it’s probably because you don’t take care of your teeth and gums, which makes the cleaning a more intense job, or it’s because you don’t have a dental hygienist like Michele.

I Believe… [Y2K Redux]

I Believe… [Y2K Redux]

What Price For A Cultural Paradigm Shift?

What Price For A Cultural Paradigm Shift?