Thursday, May 04, 2006


Hmmm...mmm. I got my teeth cleaned today. It's been five or six years, so I was a little bit concerned. For a long time I had no dental insurance, and couldn't bear going in for a once over and learning that a mouthful of unaffordable caps filling and bridges were indicated. So I crossed my fingers and thought about other things. About two years ago, the boss signed us up for a dental plan. Apparently her on-the-books-but-performs-no-labors live in BF needed some work. About a year after that she got around to mentioning the fact of the coverage to ME. It took another 10 months before I got around to finding a dentist. Right on schedule.

Back when my parents paid for everything, I was a patient of Dr. Mateo DDS; "The most expensive dentist in town!" as my Dad lamented when he opened the clear windowed envelopes at the dining room table where he attempted to make sense of my Mother's runic check book balance inscriptions and pay our bills with whatever was left over. Dr. Mateo moved to new offices housed in a story and a half carpenter gothic house with a tall pointed arched window in a narrow cross gable above a wide veranda facing the street, like the house in the "American Gothic" painting. Before he purchased the long vacant property, the house was board and batten sided with discrete jigsawn brackets and subtle lines of mouldings tracing the eaves and doors and tall windows which reached down almost to the porch decking. I'd long thought that the house was kinda cool, or interesting, or whatever elementary school aged future designers think of the things which first stir their interest in the forms the world takes. The Dr. used the profits generated by his high fees to shave the house of decorations, wrap it in pale yellow vinyl siding, and replace the slender, elegant colonettes supporting the veranda roof with paired black anodized aluminum extrusions connected by bent flat stock curlicues. I watched the work progress each day as I walked by on my paper route. The dumpster out front filled with plaster and lath, mantle pieces, gas lightfixtures and molded paneled doors painted and combed to look like figured wood. A deeply turned mahogany newel post and thick moulded railing which followed the stairs up and curved around the corners of the second floor landing in a continuous unbroken line were the only remnants of the old house in the similarly denuded drywall interior. At twelve years old, laying back in the chair staring up at the drop ceiling and waiting for the Doctor to stick his hairy knuckled sausage fingers in my mouth, I felt it was a misuse of funds.

My new dentist works out of a corner brick row house she shares with her General Practitioner husband-they split the staff. They renovated their workspace in an early 80's exposed brick, polyurethaned oak and track lighting aesthetic, complete with spider plants. Her treatment room was rendered in the pale mauve-y pink that held sway for most of that decade. The counter tops, cabinet fronts, dentist's chair upholstery, walls-even the bib, her surgical mask, the peppermint paste with which she polished away signs of tarter and the Dixie cup I used to rinse and spit it all out-were this same queasy shade. I decided to interpret all this as a sign of thoroughness and attention to detail, desirable traits in a hygienist. Madame dentist said that things look really good; no signs of cavities or unusual gum recession or even the excessive plaque build up expected after so many years between cleanings. I have an appointment in two weeks to fill a tiny lost chunk of one of Dr. Mateo's fillings. She remarked that even so, they were holding up remarkably well after a quarter century. I thought to myself that they ought to, for what they my Dad had paid for them and the cost of a beautiful little house.
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