I can quit anytime | Askew View

By Debra Rich Gettleman | Feb 07, 2018

I’ve always hated going to the dentist. It’s painful and awkward, and they constantly ask you questions when you can’t answer because their hands are in your mouth. As I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten worse.

The tarter scraping freaks me out. Cold water and air spray sends me into orbit. It’s just … unpleasant.

But since I’ve found my new Seattle dentist, I LOVE getting my teeth cleaned. Why you might ask? Two words: nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas. The first time I visited this dentist, I warned the dental assistant about my sensitivity to well, everything.

She asked if I wanted nitrous oxide. I had no idea what that meant. Who has sedating gas for a teeth cleaning? It seemed absurd. But for a few extra dollars, I gave it a shot.

It was like having a glass of wine and mellowing out for an hour. By the time the appointment was over, I was fully awake and alert. It was pretty awesome. I have to confess that I hardly drink because I’m such a lightweight.

After half a glass of wine, I literally tip over and fall asleep. And I don’t partake of recreational drugs because I’m a control freak and wouldn’t trust anyone to watch over me in a cannabis-induced haze.

But I trust my dentist, and I really like the hygienist. So it felt like a safe and delightful way to experience a peaceful relaxation in the comfort of my own dental chair. I found myself looking forward to last Thursday’s 4 p.m. cleaning all day long. It was like having a spa appointment. I was giddy with anticipation.

By the time I sat down in the chair and started deeply inhaling my happy gas, I was delighted. Tuned into an episode of “Chopped” and enjoying a much-needed reprieve from the stress of my daily life, I felt good, really good.

They stop the gas flow about 10 minutes prior to completion and replace it with oxygen so you’re supposed to be able to hop up and jump back into the rat race the moment you exit the chair.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with me. For some reason, this time around, I reacted way more intensely. By the end of my appointment, I remained stretched flat in the chair and couldn’t even contemplate how to stand up.

“Are you okay?” Christie, my dental hygienist, asked.

“Um … nope. Definitely not okay,” I slurred.

I admit to finding myself and my voice terribly funny at that point.

“I cannot move,” I continued.

It was rapidly becoming less funny.

Christie remained calm but I could see that she was slightly concerned. I ended up sucking in pure oxygen for another 10 minutes before landing firmly back on earth. Full disclosure, this experience spooked me.

It was like having a bad acid trip (not that I’d actually know what that was like. But I’ve read stuff about it). Anyway, I decided my days of dabbling with N2O were finished.

I’m having a wisdom tooth out early next week. I’m supposed to go under anesthesia for the procedure. The oral surgeon’s office called me this morning to inform me that my insurance won’t cover full anesthesia for just a single wisdom tooth. My anxiety began to soar.

“But, don’t worry,” the kindly receptionist assured me. You’ll get a local shot and then nitrous oxide. You won't be feeling any pain.”

I guess I’ll kick the habit right after next week’s extraction. Really. I will.

I can quit any time.


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