Damsel in Distress, Day 50
Waiting for what seemed an eternity for the next A train this evening, I thanked God that my new dental hygienist didn’t feel as though I had waited as long since my last cleaning and checkup almost three years prior. When I last visited a dentist, I had the benefit of dental insurance from my graduate assistantship at the University of Maryland and student loan money for the remainder. For several years before that, my parents took whatever money I gave them for utilities to live in their house after my divorce, placed it in a savings account, and gently prodded me to use the money for dental care. I no longer have these things.
Some people fear trips to the dentist because of the instruments, possible pain, lack of control, etc., even to the point of developing a phobia. As much as I do tend to trust people and generally have no fear regarding doctors and dentists, I do not do well with helplessness-financially. After today’s appointment, I now know for certain that my instincts about my last dentist in Maryland led me to avoid unnecessary and expensive procedures by a man who tried to con me. Quite honestly, before I went to Aspen in the summer of 2007, my previous dentist told me I had 2 cavities and one on the way that needed his “expert” care. Thankfully, I had scheduled the appointment so close to my departure that he had no time to cheat me on that front.
Unfortunately, he did have just enough time to sell me a $500 mouth guard because I grind my teeth at night and have TMD, which aside from the wear and tear on the teeth causes difficulties for singers. That night guard broke and found its way to a trash can on my flight to Paris in December, along with my pre-packaged airplane food. When the groupon for $59 for a complete dental visit including the cleaning, ex-rays, and exam appeared in my email inbox, I felt it irresponsible for me to pass on some well overdue care.
Finding my way to LLM Dental Associates at Rockefeller Center proved more difficult than the actual appointment itself (isn’t everything Rockefeller Plaza over there?). From the administrative assistants to the dental hygienist to Dr. Monterosso, everyone treated me kindly and understood my economic hardship in a way that calmed my incredibly heightened nerves. Yes, I do very much fear any financial responsibility beyond the massive weight of carrying debt as an underemployed classical singer living in New York city. I also do not like the new realization that enamel does not grow back. I did not enjoy hearing that I have, with my over-aggressive brushing, worn down that irreplaceable enamel on one of my teeth and exposing the dentin.
Sitting in that chair surrounded by instruments, a hygienist, and a dentist, I felt equally as exposed in full on damsel in distress mode. No wonder I avoid the dentist’s office! Thankfully, Dr. Monterosso comforted me about several things. First of all, he charges only $100 for that “$500” night guard (yes, the same type), and I may have one cavity, not three. I made an appointment to find out in a couple of weeks and either way, he has offered me a breathable discount. Still I had one odd but unfortunate concern. Strangely, I still have a baby tooth with an adult tooth far back behind my gum that Mr. Con Man back in Maryland insisted would decay and cause problems in (of course) a maximum of five years without his intervention. I breathed an enormous sigh of relief today when Dr. Monterroso explained how that could not happen and also all of my more reasonable options should the baby tooth likely fall out someday sooner or later. Since he also works at the NYU College of Dentistry, I will have some more choices financially.
Almost crying out of thankfulness today at the dentist’s office, I had to admit to myself my own weakness shining through my financial fears. I like to pridefully tell my mother not to worry and often very truly marvel at my wonderful life, doing what I love for a living. It does come at a price though, and does not include the high cost of personal security. Later in the afternoon, I compounded that feeling of financial inadequacy when mistakenly thinking I have another day left at New York Sports Club. After the front desk person told me my account read “inactive,” I had to speak with Andrew, the manager, to allow me to return tomorrow for my final personal training session with Nick.
For some reason, few things feel worse for me than asking for financial help or understanding, and it really doesn’t make it easier if I need that sympathy from a friend versus a stranger. Today, I intentionally placed myself in a vulnerable situation with strangers in a similar setting to one where I had been previously cheated and asked for help in the most sensitive issue in my life. Had my experience with LLM Dental turned out differently, I would have a very hard time writing a positive blog about coming out of today’s comfort zone. In the cold rain, after returning home late, I really did give thanks for the kindness of strangers.