Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A plea for dental leniency

Major work looms; let's overlook past reckless malice on my part

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My heart is pounding like a heavy-metal drummer and cold sweat is pouring down my back because on Tuesday morning I'll be doing something I haven't done in about six years.

I'm going to see a dentist for my checkup.

I try to space out my checkups because I have an irrational fear of the dental community, and also because I'm pretty sure dentists hate me.

I will be seeing a brand-new dentist because my old dentist vanished without a trace. For the record, I had nothing to do with that.

The real reason I am going to the dentist is because I experienced a tooth-related trauma early Friday when I took part in a big sleep-out at Portage and Main to help raise money and awareness for Winnipeg's homeless.

At one point, they served us pizza and when I bit into a slice -- CRACK! -- I shattered a tooth on what I assume was a petrified piece of pepperoni. "Owf," I recall grunting at the time. "I fink thomething ith whong wif my toof."

In more than 50 years on this planet, I have broken most of my major limbs, but I can state for a fact there is nothing more painful than (a) a nasty paper cut, and (b) a broken tooth that constantly rubs against your tongue.

This is because of your brain. Remember when you were a kid, walking to school in the dead of winter, and suddenly you came across a frozen metal fence or an ice-covered flagpole? What did your brain do in this situation?

I'll tell you what it did: it sent an urgent message to your tongue, ordering it to stick itself out as far as possible and, in the name of science, lick the frozen metal. It's the same when you have a broken tooth. Every few seconds, your brain sends your tongue this message: "I wonder if that (bad word) tooth still hurts? Better touch it again and find out!"

Accompanied by my broken tooth, swollen tongue and unco-operative brain, I flew to Swan River over the weekend to speak at a fundraising banquet for the town's animal protection league (You can read all about it in Tuesday's pet column). My first words to the audience came out like this: "Huhwo Thwan Wivuh!"

The important point I'm making today is I really need to see the new dentist and I would like to take a moment today to assure him that, in my heart, I have nothing but love and admiration for dental professionals.

It is important to have nothing but love and admiration for anyone whose job involves sticking steel implements the size of garden tools -- along with sweaty forearms -- into your mouth, then grinding your teeth into a fine, white powder with power tools and, finally, forcing you to spit into a tiny, swirling toilet that immediately sends you into a hypnotic trance, much like listening to country music on your car radio.

Regular readers will recall that, some years ago, I made the foolish mistake of writing an insensitive column in which I made remarks I now deeply regret, such as suggesting that dentists cause pain because they need to make payments on their yachts.

That cruel and unfair column deeply annoyed every dentist in the nearest three time zones, causing them to send a flood of angry emails and letters.

And they were right. I can see that clearly now. I would like my new dentist to know I am a changed man.

For starters, I am pretty sure the new and more sensitive version of me will never eat free pizza again, not unless I have personally examined every piece of pepperoni with an electron microscope.

Also, and this comes from my heart, regardless of anything my brain might tell me to do, I will NEVER EVER touch a dentist with my tongue.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 30, 2013 A2

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