Last night I dreamt I lost a tooth.

Last night I dreamt I lost a tooth. The fourth from the left on the top row, right behind the canine (i.e. right behind the pointy one). There was no pain, just "oops - something broke off! Oh, crap, that was a tooth." It crumbled like dried-out grout.

So naturally I went to the dentist to have it looked at.

Not my current dentist, whom I love, because he and his team of hygienists actually focus on preventive care. The first time I came in for a visit, he asked me how often I flossed, I said daily, and then he said, either you're lying or you're doing it wrong. And then he actually performed an experiment to distinguish between the two hypotheses, and asked me to show him how I floss! I was doing it wrong. He showed me how to do it right. The next time, the hygienist told me which mouthwash to use. The time after that, which toothbrush. Etc. I like that they are always thinking about how to reduce my need for future dental work, but parceling it out into bite-sized (sorry) advice that I'm likely to actually follow, instead of an overwhelming torrent of advice. And since I haven't had cavities yet, they let me go longer that usual between x-rays, which I like because who needs more cancer?

So, not my current dentist. Nor the previous one, whom I found through an anonymous tip posted on the wall of my office pantry. His office was in the building across the street from my office, so I figured I had to give it a shot. I visited once, but decided not to visit again after he "joked" that I should eat more candy so he can make money filling cavities.

Instead, my brain decided that I had had a dentist in between - one with a personality and appearance clearly modeled on one of my favorite math professors in grad school. He taught computational math. This professor was the kind who gives you assignments that keep you up and working the whole weekend, but absolutely no busywork. He assigned problems he didn't already know how to solve, just to give us practice doing something really hard. He took points off not only for code that wouldn't work correctly, but code that worked, inefficiently. At first I thought this was terrible and I'd get a B or something just because of stupid nitpicky code errors, but then it turned out that my code just got better in response instead. He was also the kind of lecturer who watched the students closely, and reacted immediately if someone's eyes glazed over - by reteaching us in 15 minutes a semester's worth of background material we needed a refresher in. I didn't really understand linear algebra until he explained it. In each course I took from him, I learned as much as in any other two courses in the program.

So this professor was my dream-dentist, with a dentist's chair in his living room in his home. It turned out that to operate on the tooth, he had to open up my skull (okay...) and stick a few pins into me just above my right eyebrow (Nooooo! Not near my eye!). I really don't like things stuck near my eye. But I figured, okay, whatever, as long as I'm out for the surgery, I don't care.

Tthe really awful part was next. According to dream-dentist, because I'm signed up for the DMO option (like an HMO for dental) through work, rather than the PPO option (pay per service, no referrals), general anaesthetic is not covered, only local anaesthetic. While dream-Ben is totally unconcerned with potentially extremely dangerous and unnecessary surgical procedures, he is still relatively frugal. So I seriously considered asking the dentist to do some kind of stopgap operation now, signing up for the PPO for the next benefit year, and then having the surgery done with general anaesthetic.

But dream-Ben also understands that dental problems can get really bad really quickly if they're not dealt with, and that there's a serious possibility that I could have the stopgap procedure, wait a couple of months, wake up one day in blinding pain, and still end up needing the surgery (after a few more days of extreme pain) before the next benefit year. So I decided to tough it out and go ahead with the surgery, under local anaesthetic only.

Then I woke up and checked my tooth. It was still there. Whew!

The whole ordeal reminded me of this SMBC comic:

Welcome to Tooth Fairy laaaaand! First you must navigate this insurance bureaaaaucracy!
SMBC Caterpillar Land

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