Fresh Breath, Nervous Boots

Certain combinations in my life don’t work out well for me.

Lack of sleep and skipping coffee are two of those things. I once went more than four years without a drop of caffeine. How I survived that, quite frankly, is a mystery, one which I do not intend to solve with future testing.

But, on this, the first morning of Spring, I was sprung from my slumbers by an alarm clock that remembered I had a dental appointment. I sure was glad, or maybe I wasn’t, that it remembered.

I had stayed up later than planned, and was getting up an hour earlier than normal, so it was a little like starting 40 feet behind the other runners in a 100 yard dash.

No problem, Ill just have coffee, two cups this time instead of one.

That would have worked, but I am extremely self-conscious about my breath when I go to the dentist (my wife will roll her eyes because I will sometimes skip brushing on Sunday just because I can, and I know it bugs her). I decided that coffee would be a bad idea, and besides, it could get me into trouble.

You see, I love Bailey’s Irish Cream in my coffee. On work mornings, that’s a bad idea, and milk is a better choice. But with all the alcohol-based mouthwash I would need to hide the coffee, the dentist might very well think I had an Irish coffee before going to work. (Oddly it occurred to me that if you want to have a coffee that tastes like it has booze in it, just use heavy mouthwash before you drink it.)

I was so sleepy, and so pre-occupied with making sure I had fresh breath for the doc that I failed to realize I was applying deodorant to my toothbrush.

After recovering from that debacle, I decided that I had better floss my teeth because every time I go to the dentist I get scolded. New problem – the only dental floss we had was hanging out with my coat and windshield scraper in Alabama (Read ‘Legend of the Pink Pantser’ for background).

This is a good time to point out that those little toothpick things you can buy with floss on one end, well, the floss is a good bit thicker than regular floss, and they WILL get stuck between your teeth. I should also point out that putting on a Navy-issue tee-shirt with a plastic toothpick protruding from your face is difficult.


When I finally made it out of the house, sans the new appendage on my face, I almost crashed the car backing out of my space, I missed a turn on the way to work, I handed the gate guard a credit card instead of my military ID card, and I found an outstanding parking space at the Army hospital on base. Not a single one of those things is likely on any normal day.

I was nervous. I hate mouth pain. Someday, I’ll blog about my experience getting braces, but for now, just know I have flashbacks. I would rather be tied to the train tracks than put in the dentist’s chair. Just the look of that tray of torture devices is enough to freak me completely out. (The random gallon jug by the window did not help matters a bit.)


By the time I was finally face-to-fingers with the doc, my boots were banging together and I had nearly ripped the arm rest clean off the chair.

Then comes the biggest surprise of the day. I had been thinking the biggest surprise was seeing 39 people in line at the dental clinic at 7:15a.m. and not a single one of them was Army (at an Army clinic you have to say to yourself, “What do THEY know that I don’t know?”)

But the real surprise: Nothing hurt. Not the X-rays, not the poking, not even the lame discussion he tried to have with me.

“So, what duty station you coming from Sailor?”

“Der ewe eh eh hay ehs tunan,” I replied.

“Oh, the Truman huh, she’s out of Norfolk, right?”

“U uh.”

“How long you been in the Navy?”

“Goon ah guy herss,” I wondered if he was actually going to keep this up. He wasn’t hurting my face, but I wasn’t feeling the small talk.

“Five years huh, what do you do here?”

By the time the twenty questions were over, I was expecting anything but what he said next.

“Well, it’s pretty boring in there, so you are good to go. I was in the Navy too, and for a Sailor, you take good care of your teeth. Floss a little bit more. Have a fine Navy day.”

Navy day??? This is an Army clinic. Well, at least that explained his outstanding, pain-free performance.

As my still-nervous boots took me out front to get an appointment for a future cleaning (something tells me that one is going to hurt), I am not sure, but I think I heard the doc say to the dental tech:

“Was it just me, or did that Sailor’s breath smell like Speed Stick?”



3 thoughts on “Fresh Breath, Nervous Boots”

  1. Very funny, and I can well relate to the nervousness of visiting the dentist! My dad instilled that hatred in me, and having had multiple fillings, root canals and gold crowns over the years does nothing to calm my nervous mind. We’ve all had days like this. 🙂 Glad you survived it!

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