Not knowing what was coming
Faith & Inspiration | A visit to the dental clinic brings to mind thoughts of physical torture
by Andrée Seu Peterson
Posted on Tuesday, November 22, 2016, at 2:36 pm
I’m glad I didn’t know what was coming the other day. I knew I had a dentist appointment at 1:30 p.m., but I thought it would be one of those do-nothing kinds again where they look in my mouth and say I definitely need to come back soon, and then I see the receptionist on the way out for a card. I’ve had a lot of those for some reason.
It was simpler when I was a kid. There was no “consultation” visit, for one thing. “Consultation” and “restoration” took place five minutes apart from each other. And the procedure was simpler too: no lidocaine to numb the area, no spray drill, just a straight shot to the mandibular nerve. This would be considered child abuse today.
I discovered that I was at the clinic to receive my long-awaited implant. For those of you who’ve never had one and have no imagination, getting an implant is not a pretty plopping of a piece of porcelain into a smile gap. An implant should be called something uglier, like an Inquisition Screw.
People who are having trouble believing in creation over evolution should see the poster I saw on the wall of the surgery operatory—an implant company advert featuring an illustration of a cross-section row of teeth, above and below the gum line. There is a man-made implant between two natural teeth. God’s teeth are elegant, curved, tapered at the bottom, ingeniously designed for adhering to the gum as fast as a drywall anchor.
The implant screw is made of titanium, looks like a common household screw, and boasts of being able to stay in place for 20 years. Big deal. God’s teeth are self-nourishing tissue, nerves, blood vessels, calcium, phosphorous, sodium, a matrix of organic collagen protein, and consist of three or four specialized kinds of materials. They should last a lifetime if we floss and don’t open Coke bottles with our jaws anymore.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that this was my doctor’s first-ever implant surgery. Now, I do realize that there has to be a first time for every doctor to do an implant or even a craniotomy solo—not every patient can have the surgeon who’s “done a thousand of these.” Nevertheless, I was having flashbacks to a couple of truths the doctor had breezily disclosed to me about herself in our two-year chairside relationship. One was that she is an obsessive online porcelain doll collector (each to his or her own). The other is that she is a particularly impatient person, which I had picked up from her body language even before she confessed it. The problem with that is that part of dentistry is waiting around for the aforementioned lidocaine to work.
There are only two kinds of times when I have thought about what Jesus did for me on the cross. I don’t mean thoughts about the grace or theological implications, but about the physical torture. One is when I’m lying on a gurney having my arm prepped by the Red Cross mobile technician. The other was during my recent visit to the dental clinic, when a rookie carved two intersecting lines into my gum for her very first implant, per hands-off instructions of her supervisor—who, on top of it, just walked out of the room.
In this chair I was imagining, in more than an abstract way, that in the one bloody scenario there is every measure taken to make the subject feel as comfortable as possible. In the other scenario there is every measure taken to inflict as much pain as human ingenuity can devise: how to make the dying last for hours or days; how to arrange that when the whole body weight is supported by the outstretched arms, the condemned would labor to inhale due to hyperexpansion of lungs and chest muscles; how he would then struggle to draw himself up by his skewered arms for a bit of relief, until exhaustion would win over pain and result in asphyxiation.
And unlike me, Jesus, when He woke up that morning, on the day of his betrayal at Gethsemane, knew exactly what was coming.
Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.