Too much flak about plaque

Kevin Cowherd

October 23, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

I went to the dentist's office the other day to have my teeth cleaned and to receive my regular brow-beating from Helga, the hygienist.

Even before I settled into the chair, Helga came goose-stepping into the room.

"Worm, have you been flossing?" she barked.

"Well, I . . ."

"ANSWER ME, WORM!"

"Yes, Your Worship."

Let me give you a little piece of advice here, before we go an further.

When a dental hygienist asks if you've been flossing, there i only one correct answer.

The correct answer is: Yes, I have been flossing. Very bad thing can happen if you answer no.

The first thing that will happen is that the hygienist's eyes wil narrow into angry twin slits.

Then -- at least this is the case with Helga -- she'll start slappin you around.

Helga is a very powerful woman, too, a former body builder an Green Beret. Plus I think the Teamsters used her back in the '70s to make sure no one crossed their picket lines.

Anyway, once she starts slapping you, Helga likes to punctuat each word with a crisp blow to the head: "Didn't . . . I . . . tell . . . you . . . to . . . floss!"

Finally, when her hands start to sting, she'll take off the blac leather gloves and launch into a long, dreary harangue about how important flossing is.

Sometimes, this can even be worse than the slapping.

Imagine sitting there with puffy eyes and blood trickling dow your chin and listening to someone drone on and on about how good flossing is for your gums, how it helps prevent bone loss, plaque buildup, and so on and so forth.

Oh, it will drive you out of your mind. Five minutes into the whol thing, you'll be praying for some crazed gunman on crack to burst through the door and take everybody hostage.

So the best thing to do when you're around a dental hygienist i to lie.

Even if you didn't floss, say you did. Which is what I told Helg when she started pressing me.

Of course, that's not what I wanted to tell her.

What I wanted to say was: "Look, what's with you people an flossing? If it were up to you, we'd all be flossing 24 hours a day.

"Hey, Helga, I've got a wife, kids, job, friends. I've got a life Helga. I can't stand in front of a bathroom mirror with a piece of twine all day, OK?!"

But of course, I didn't say any of that. Because by now, Helg was in a truly foul mood. She was getting so worked up that tiny beads of sweat had formed on her mustache.

Plus, judging by her skinned knuckles, I wasn't the first patien she'd slapped around that day. If it's a routine day at the office, Helga will slap around anywhere between five and eight patients for floss-related grievances.

So now she began cleaning my teeth, which was a real treat, le me tell you.

As you can imagine, the woman has the touch of a blacksmith.

I guess when you used to make your living bench-pressing 30 pounds and field-stripping an M-16 and throwing beefy strike-breakers against the hoods of cars, you lose that sensitivity in your fingers.

All I know is, she takes that . . . that explorer or whatever it' called and starts jabbing and scraping and . . . well, you just want to scream.

God forbid you ever tell her it hurts.

One time I made the mistake of wincing when she hit particularly sensitive area.

"Why you sniveling little . . ." she snarled.

Then she started reaching for the black gloves again and yelling something about showing me what real pain was all about.

So I don't say much when I'm in the chair, aside from a few "Hai Marys" and a little light whimpering.

When the pain gets too bad, I just pass out quietly and hope tha when I come to, she's finished cleaning.

Of course, the last time I fainted, Helga accused me o deliberately closing my mouth to make her job harder. So she whacked me a couple of times with her leather riding crop. Boy, you talk about being rudely awakened.

Anyway, I guess my mouth was in pretty sad shape this time, because the cleaning seemed to go on forever.

Finally, after one last jab at the real sensitive area, she announced we were done. Yanking me out of the chair by my shirt collar, she threw me toward the door.

"Don't forget to floss, worm!" she said.

"Yes, Your Worship."

She takes some getting used to, but she's really quite a woman.

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