just been to the dentist to have a filling replaced. When he finished
and I tried to close my mouth, I got a metallic shock. It felt as
if I was chewing aluminium foil while sticking my hand in a socket
with wet hair and listening to nails being scratched against a blackboard.
I screamed so loudly, the
hygienist swivelled off her chair and I grabbed my dentist's hand
like he was Leo DiCaprio in the last scene of Titanic. What was
happening was this: when the bottom tooth with a gold filling
met the top tooth with a silver filling, the different metals
created an electric current. But the intensity of it perplexed
"I promise you," I mumbled defensively,
"I'm not lying! I can't close my mouth. I'm not making it
up. It's real. Why would I make this up?" He looked confused.
"I'm not saying you're making it up," he said. "I
believe you. I'm just not sure what to do." He kept saying
he'd never experienced anyone having such a severe reaction before.
Oh. I felt much better after that. I was a medical phenomenon.
At this point, the tears were rolling down
my cheeks and I was afraid to close my mouth. It was getting late
and I could tell the hygienist was growing impatient; the last
thing she wanted was to spend her Friday night holding a saliva
My dentist told me the options, starting
with what I couldn't get: a white enamel filling, because the
cavity was too large and would take a week to make; a gold filling
was too expensive. He said she could pull the filling out and
replace it with a temporary one, but I stopped listening because
all I could think about was how it could be that I am the only
one in the history of his practice - maybe in the history of the
world - that this has ever happened to.
"Sometimes you can't explain these
things," he said. "You're an unusual case." How
many times have I heard that one before? He decided I should sit
quietly to see if the shock disappeared. How could I not sit quietly?
I couldn't close my mouth. I was frozen in a perpetual state of
The hygienist, obviously bored, asked if
I'd been flossing. I nodded. It amused me to think that I was
lying through my teeth.
Thirty minutes later, he told me to "bite
down". I was tentative. Very slowly I began to close my mouth.
Very slowly. So slowly, he repeated "bite down" a dozen
times, and every time he said it, I'd have to open my mouth and
start again. "Stop pressuring me," I said. The anticipation
was too much.
But in the end it was, in fact, better.
My dentist told me it would take a few days for it to fully go
away, and every so often I might get a shock, but that I should
go home and eat lots of eggs because the sulphur would help.
How great it would be if only I could get
a metallic shock for other things. Cognitive filling therapy.
The way dogs have shock treatment in their collars to change their
behaviour, I'd have my fillings. For instance, every time I began
flirting with someone who was wrong for me, I'd get zapped. Or
just as I was about to press "send" on an e- mail that
should be deleted. Or buying a $600 pair of shoes. As I opened
the door to the shop, I'd be stopped in my tracks. I would be
at the dentist every day.