No Shame

A few weeks ago I visited the dentist for my semi-annual cleaning. It might sound strange, but I LOVE going to my dentist, pretty much to the point of looking forward to it. Why?

Because my dentist’s office is like a spa. Because when you arrive, you’re immediately asked if you’d care for any water, still or sparkling (sparkling, duh!). Because the lobby is done up in warm olive and wood tones, complete with 15 different GOOD magazine subscriptions and beautiful Annie Leibovitz photography books, making it feel more like a cozy den than a medical office. Because there’s no paperwork, and everything is done online.  On your first visit, you even “sign” all your forms with this nifty digital signature pen.  Even in the exam rooms, the hygienists input all of your medical notes and information into a computer, using a mouse that works a lot like a Wii controller, which again eliminates paperwork. There’s nothing clinical about the place. Who knew such a delightful land of oral care could exist?

But the thing I love MOST about my dentist is that while you lay in the chair, mouth open, teeth being polished to a gleaming shine, there are adjustable flat panel LCD screens hooked up to DVD players and the Internet, so you can watch anything from Sex and the City to last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I promise you, teeth cleaning has never been so fun.

On my most recent visit, I took advantage of the Internet connection to Fancast, and opted to watch Barefoot Contessa. There’s something about that Ina Garten…I just really love to watch her cook, definitely more so than most other chefs and cooks on TV. The cleaning was going fine, but midway through, we stopped so that another technician could come in and take impressions of my teeth. I grind my teeth at night (I’ve been a grinder since senior year of high school…oddly, right around the time college applications were due!) and had pretty much worn through my current night guard. The office needed impressions so they could make me a new one.

The second tech started molding putty into a tray shaped like an oversize athletic mouth guard, and shoved it into my mouth. “This’ll need to stay in for five minutes to set,” she told me, “so I’ll stay here and hold it in for you. Just try to stay still.”

No problem.  I readjusted my headphones, and turned my attention back to the TV.

At that moment, Ina began working on her recipe for savory palmiers. If you’ve ever had a traditional palmier, you understand how delectable they are: puff pastry brushed with sweet butter and sprinkled with sugar, then rolled to form a heart shape, then brushed with egg wash for a beautiful sheen. After it bakes, and is sprinkled with a final helping of demerara, the real pleasure in eating a palmier is biting through what feels like hundreds of crisp, flaky layers of pastry.  I don’t even like sweets that much, and I could eat several of these in one sitting.  If you love the texture of food (like me), these are truly a treat.

For her savory recipe though, Ina made a quick sun-dried tomato and basil pesto, bound with good olive oil and salty parmigiano, then spread that all over the pastry, rolling it together as one normally would. I’m a huge sucker for puff pastry and an even bigger sucker for pestos. This just looked totally delicious.  I hadn’t had any breakfast or lunch, and on cue (Pavlov would be proud), I started to drool. Badly.

Of course, with this tray of clay shoved up in my mouth, there was no chance of swallowing without ruining the impression.  That meant there was nowhere for the drool to really go except out of the corners of my mouth, all over my face, and all over the tech’s gloved hand, who was still holding the tray to my teeth. I couldn’t say anything to her, because I had to hold my mouth still.

She finally noticed when the drool was dripping onto my bib.   Drip…drip…drip.  Unbelievably attractive, I’m sure.  This woman was young and lovely, and I’m sure that when she signed up to work with people’s teeth, she totally envisioned having to wipe up drool from all over someone’s face and neck, like one would for an infant.

As she wiped up (god, I’m so embarrassing), she saw what I was watching and said, “Oh, I can’t watch these shows. If I can’t taste it, it’s really hard for me to watch other people make it and eat it.”  She pulled the molding tray out of my mouth, and handed me another tissue to dry up any missed spots.

“Oh, really?” I said as mildly as I could, that awful taste of putty stuck all over the sides of my mouth, “I love it.” Right about then, the show ended, and the menu screen appeared to select another program.

“What do you want to watch next?” she asked, “We still have to take a mold of your bottom teeth, so it’ll be a few more minutes of sitting still.”

I glanced down at the damp Kleenex in my hand.  I’d already embarrassed myself enough.  Wouldn’t Jon & Kate Plus 8 be a better option?

“The next episode of Barefoot Contessa will be fine,” I said, laying back in the chair again, as if it were a beach lounger.

She gave me a weird look, handed me another couple of tissues, and started molding another tray.


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