Posts Tagged ‘dentists’

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

I have mentioned before it seems to me to be an odd year. Perhaps it’s just in my life. Aside from the weather, which continues to break records, the news itself is disturbing. The world seems a little uneasy on its axis, and I must admit I’m sensing the vibe.

My phone rings more often, and I am pulling out my shrink hat, dusting it off, and offering my invisible chaise for quick sessions at an alarming rate. Why, as I’ve said before, people seem to think I have any kind of handle on how to face the world escapes me. Maybe it’s the universe sending me a message? Possibly I should have leaned towards psychology as a major rather than computer science, I don’t know.

To add to the untidy mix, Friday is blocked out for dental surgery. Ugh. Even though I was a dental assistant, I view dentistry as barbaric. Why after all these years they can’t just knock you out and do it all at once escapes me. Part of the reason I was an abysmal dental assistant stemmed from accepting my first job in a orthodontic office. Most of our patients still had occasional bed wetting incidents. Like the guards in the background at an execution, I was the one delivering the needle.

Over the years I have suffered many an hour sitting in a dental chair. Although blessed with good genes in general, teeth were definitely not on the plus side while listing the pluses and minuses handed down by my ancestors. Teeth were not well thought out, to my mind, when the original plans for human beings were drafted. “Hmmmmmmm, let’s see. Teeth should grind food for the average life span. About thirty years should get er done.” Originally I don’t think it was expected we humans would be the clever industrious little beings we turned out to be. Living to be 100, once a noteworthy phenomenon, is certainly far less unusual of late.

Not being my first rodeo with dental procedures I have stocked the larder with soft foods and the freezer with ice cream. Once I had to live on soft foods for three months. So desperate was I for the taste of meat, my apologize to the vegans out there, I actually ground some cooked meat up in the food processor just to savor the flavor on my tongue. Euwwww. I know. Talk about addiction, but that’s another blog.

In my early twenties I’ve written about my year on the road. Traveling with my husband and two toddlers we meandered across the country making an untidy run at seeing as many states as we could until our money ran out. Our vehicle of choice was an ungainly yellow station wagon, which served often as “home”, and managed to get us from Southern California to as far east as Lynn, Massachusetts breaking down only twice. The first mechanical issue arose early in the trip. The morning found us waking up in Casper, Wyoming. What a gorgeous piece of American real estate Wyoming is. Each round in the bend looks like a landscape painting suitable for mounting over a cabin hearth. I have heard people go there to lose themselves, and after touring the area I can see how easy that would be to do in that part of the world. For me it’s a bit to cold in the winter, and although I enjoy peace and quiet along with the next guy, I need a little more civilization around me than some parts of the state would provide.

Aside from the fact the car was showing some signs of a problem, I had a tooth ache. On the road this is not a good thing. We hadn’t thought ahead and invited an oral surgeon to share the back seat, so finding one on short notice where we were wouldn’t be a snap of the fingers.

Small towns were strung out along the highway between Casper and Cheyenne like clothes on a line. Many you passed through before realizing you’d entered. Sputtering, the wagon indicated going on without an examination wasn’t going to possible, so we pulled over at the first populated area with a gas station in place. In the 70’s gas stations were full service. Most of them, not all, had repair bays in the back. Fortunately for us this was one of them, as it was the only game in town. The patient was to remain overnight. Asking the location of the nearest motel, and learning there were two, we chose the closest one several miles away. Offered a ride to the lobby, we checked in.

Inquiring at the motel as to dentists in town, the cheerful clerk said there was one, but he was a ways out of town. Not able to stand the throbbing much longer, we called the number given us and thankfully someone answered on the other end. Because I was becoming an emergency, the gruff voice identifying himself as Dr. Wilkins suggested coming right out and gave directions on how to do so. How, with the wagon up in the stirrups, was to be the problem.

Inquiring again with the clerk in the lobby about transportation, she once again came to our rescue. She was off shift shortly, she told us, and lived near the dental office. If we’d like a ride out we could go with her and she would send her son to bring us back. The chances of that happening now are nearly as likely as picking the winning numbers on Power Ball, but I digress. As promised an hour later we were dropped off at the end of a long dirt road at a lone building standing nearly in the middle of nowhere.

We were greeted at the door by a man clearly long past retirement age. The office was limited to one examining room and the lobby, but it was clean and the equipment relatively new. As it turned out my tooth was beyond saving and had to be extracted. Of all the extractions I’ve suffered in my life, this one caused me the least pain. Dr. Will, as he called himself, far nicer than his voice belied, was only willing to accept $10 for his trouble. Shortly we were picked up in an old Ford truck up concealed by a swirl of dust by the clerk’s son. A dinner invitation was offered but I was in no condition to accept. The following day, swollen but better, the wagon was retrieved and thanking them all we made our way down the road.

I assure you for this procedure on Friday, $10 wouldn’t allow you to sit in the lobby and read the out-of-date People magazine waiting for you. Ah well.

This was the best vegetable pasta ever. Love, loved it. I had a lot of veggies on hand, and it was the perfect way to put them to work.

Spring Garden Pasta

1 bunch broccoli
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 slices Coppa ham, sliced thin
3 large mushrooms sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
4 yellow tomatoes (small) sliced 1/4″
2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely diced
1 lb. thin spaghetti
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 large basil leaves, sliced in strips
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cut broccoli into florets. Place in top of double broiler or steamer. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Cook until fork tender. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Keep warm.

Saute garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until slightly browned. Add Coppa ham to pan and saute until crisp.


Add mushrooms an zucchini to pan. Cover and allow to cook over med. heat, checking occasionally and stirring, for 5 mins.


Bring water to boil for pasta and cook as directed. Reserve 1 ladle of pasta water.

Remove saute pan from heat and add wine. Continue to cook over med. heat until wine is reduced by half. Stir in tomatoes, lemon juice, basil, pepper flakes and cooked broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Drain pasta reserving 1 ladle full of pasta water. Add pasta and water pan and toss.

Serve topped with lots of shredded cheese.

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I am sad to report that my exercise program seems to be in the dumper. Lofty thoughts of sweat stained shirts and hours on the treadmill entertained the night before, just never sound quite as good in the light of day. I am reminded monthly by my other half that the money is still being deducted from my account whether I am present for the workout or not.  Fine.  Sigh. Further I’m told that although vacuuming (which I count as exercise) is actually light cardio, based on the fact that my carpet lines are immaculate I shouldn’t hold out for that call from Sports Illustrated regarding their upcoming swimsuit issue. Drat the luck.

Last week wouldn’t rank in my top ten best.  Tuesday sucked and Thursday was worse. When I think of that week I’m only going to include all days not beginning with T. I took two of my granddaughters to their dental appointments after school on Thursday. The dental office lobby was huge, and yet there weren’t many empty seats. After getting in line, the receptionist presented us with an entire pine tree’s worth of paperwork to fill out before they could be seen. After checking “no” to everything from pregnancy to gout, we stood in line to give the paperwork back to her and returned to our seats, which were now occupied. Exactly one hour and a half later, the first girl’s name was called.

Finally finding a seat, I noticed there was one magazine in the lobby, a medical journal, and it was more popular than a single man at a wedding. Even I found myself eying it as it was laid down.

Two and a half hours later after exploring every possible position in that chair and unable to locate one suitable for the backside, both had both x-rays and exams and were free to leave. Well, not free, I’m sure the sizable bill would be arriving in due time.

In my list of past accomplishments, I can include dental assisting. A brief, foray into the scintillating world of molars, autoclaves and mint flavored dental floss. School was great. We all wore uniforms and it all felt very official and clinical. Applying myself, I did well and was asked to keep in mind continuing my education and becoming a certified hygienist.  It was something I considered strongly before actually working in a dental office, and tossed out with the contents of the spittoon after several weeks on the job.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I think it’s a great profession and I admire people who are accomplished at it and enjoy their work, it was just not for me.  To begin with, I hate going to the dentist, so why I thought I would enjoy a working environment where the very smell of the office makes me want to cut and run, escapes me for the moment.  After graduating, I took my state test for x-rays and immediately got hired by a thriving orthodontist’s office close to home. For me, the best part was the uniforms.  As his practice was geared mainly towards children, we were encouraged to wear colorful prints in youthful themes. I was a riot of pink bunnies and swinging monkies carrying bunches of bananas.

What I didn’t take into consideration was that although their parents may have been enthusiastic about their little one’s dental health, their little nose miners, not so much.  Also, small mouths are difficult to place x-rays in and should have a sign hanging from them reading, “proceed at your own risk, loss of digits may occur”. After several weeks I began to classify my young patients.  The biters, their opposite numbers the teeth clenchers, the screamers, the thumb suckers, the squirmers and a small percentage of little angels with big eyes who never uttered a word, shed an occasional silent tear, and just opened their mouths on cue.  I always snuck them an extra treat on their way out.  It interested me that a dental office gave their small patients their choice from a bowl of candies afterward. Perhaps it was to keep new business moving steadily through the door.

In school, the proper use of the suction device was heavily touched upon.  Even though the wand is small it has a powerful enough suction. If it’s resting on the soft tissue or you suck on someone’s lip it can leave a sore or a blood blister.  One day I had a white knuckled lady in the chair who, as was well noted on her chart, suffered from extreme dental anxiety. While clipping the bib around her neck she grimaced three times and began to wring her hands. Personally I’ve never considered fastening the bib to be one of the more painful dental procedures, but her acrylic fingernails digging into my arm ranked definitely high up there on my pain threshold. A crown procedure was lengthy, so in order to keep her in the chair and calm she was administered a low dose of nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas”.  Soon she was as giddy as a school girl and after proposing a number of inappropriate activities to our dentist, a married man with three children, she became as flexible as Gumby under the broiler, making it difficult to keep her still while the drill was on.

Between trying to suction, managing the instruments, and reaching up to pull her arms down, I heard her mumble, “owche”.  This followed by a soft tinkling in the wand.  When she’d walked in the door I noticed she was very well-appointed style wise.  At the time I had admired the delicate wires dangling from her ears each with a tiny gemstone. After checking my suction and not finding a problem, I once again turned my attention to the woman.  Immediately I noticed there was now only one stone in place.   Oh-oh. As the stone, which turned out to be a small diamond, was probably about the same size as dental waste from old fillings we suctioned from patient’s mouths it probably passed through the filter and into the waste receptical below.

After the procedure was done, I informed the dentist, who in turn informed the patient, who, feeling pretty good about life in general at the time, thought that was the funniest story anyone had told her, and laughed until she got home and regained her senses.  In the end, the dental office insurance covered the loss, I decided to retire my swinging monkies and pink bunnies, and went back to pounding the keyboard which better suited me.

Wouldn’t do it again, and wouldn’t trade it.

These are really good for a quick appetizer.  If I’m just serving heavy appetizers, I leave them whole, but if they’re before a big meal I cut them in thirds.  Yummy.

Asparagus and Brie Roll-ups

12 slices good quality sour dough or white sandwich bread
1 wheel of brie cheese
1/3 cup Dijon mustard (you may not need it all)
12 asparagus spears, cooked
4 Tbsp. melted butter
Grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Using a rolling pin flatten the each slice of bread as much as possible. Trim crusts. Place on large cutting board and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave for 10-15 mins.

Cut brie into similar shape as asparagus spears. Spread one side of each piece of bread evenly with Dijon mustard. Place one asparagus spear and one slice of brie on far left side of each piece of bread and roll.  Brush liberally with melted butter. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Place rolled pieces on buttered baking sheet and place in oven for 15-20 mins. or until bread is nicely browned and cheese is bubbly.

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Our bodies are amazing, truly.  They process our food, according, of course, to how badly we’ve treated them over the years, in a way that only someone greater than a mere mortal could have conceived.  It reminds me of archaeologists trying to recreate the aqueducts of Rome with no success.  Sometimes, perfection cannot be rethought.  However, I’d like to take a moment to discuss teeth.  Our family has been blessed with so many things, but good teeth were not pencilled in on our side of the slate when our family tree was being rooted, no pun intended.  Heredity delineates to a great degree what we inherit as far as health problems.  In my case, I got dental issues and eye problems. 

Surprisingly, with my total distaste for everything associated with a visit to the dental office, I opted to go to school in my mid-twenties to become a dental assistant.  With two small children and a secretarial background moving me forward into the future, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  More surprisingly, I graduated top of my class and after passing my finals took a job with a local orthodontist.

Orthodontic offices, although certainly not totally focused at those of us under the age of twenty, are largely focused in that direction.  Most of our patients were children, teens, and pre-teens, with a smattering of adults.  The office was a busy one, employing three chairside assistants besides myself.  Dental exrays are difficult enough to do in an adult mouth but in the smaller versions presented in children can cause you to lose a digit.  Children are less likely, though not exclusively less likely, to appreciate having a stranger poking around inside their mouths.  I was bitten on several occasions, kicked on more than I can count, and actually had to consult a doctor after the aggressive behavior of one of my small patients actually broke my ring finger.  For me, the worst was that I was the deliverer of the demon “needle of death”, which they all hated, and this distaste was quickly transferred to the messenger, namely me.  It took me a full year to realize, after being chastised for making unfortunate faces during surgery, that this, most definitely, was not the profession I was chosen to follow.

In the years since, I’ve spent a good deal of time memorizing the tile patterns on the ceilings of dental offices and enduring rubber dams, drills, and so-called “painless dentistry”, until the end result is that I have a number of bridges and am able to eat when they are in place.  Perhaps initially we were only slated to live for thirty or so years and so the original plan worked, but I find it could use some rework as we’re all getting longer in the tooth, again, no pun intended, in our old age.  Also, back then we chewed tough meat, rustic breads, and roots so our gums and teeth were healthier.  Now we have oatmeal, avocados,Ben & Jerry’s and a Cosmopolitan to firm those babies up.

Several months ago a friend of my mothers had a dinner party at her home.  Being equipped with a full set of dentures and well buoyed by a bottle of wine, she was scraping the dinner dishes in the sink when she managed to lose her lower plate down the drain which was quickly ground up along with the leftover spaghetti in the garbage disposal.  I guess that’s a good lesson for stopping at that second glass of wine.

I can remember having a job interview at a Bay Area restaurant back in my early twenties.  I met with the two owners of a local moving company at a Hauf Brau  for mysecond interview.  I had a bridge on my lower molars which had recently been put in place.  I ordered a knackwurst for lunch with a side of sauerkraut.  Yum.  As they were firing questions to me about my qualifications for the job, I bit down on the sausage and my bridge dislodged and was now stuck in the meat.  With both men looking at me and my mouth unusually quiet for a loquacious girl, I began issuing a series of hand signals as if I was ushering a plane into the hangar.  Unable to say what the problem was, I pushed one of the men out of the side of the booth and made my way to the ladies.  The only thing to do was to remove the bridge which left the right side of my mouth wide open.  Okay, should I run out the door and hail a cab or go back into the lion’s den?  I chose the latter.  I also got the job, although I did take some serious ribbing about it down the road.

I mention the teeth issue, number one because cooking and eating are high on my list of guilty pleasures, and secondly because of what happened two weekends ago.  Our neighbors extended us an invitation to a “welcome to the neighborhood party” for a couple that had moved in one street up from us. My portion of the program was to make scalloped potatoes and my “Susie Salad”, as they call it around here.  All good.  I got up early on Saturday morning to pull things together.  For me, the earlier I prep things the better my day goes, usually, that is.  When I woke up I smiled at my other half and didn’t get the usual response.  Rather, he was staring at my mouth and reaching for his glasses.  It appeared during the night my upper bridge had developed a crack.  Now, this involves my front teeth, and being a female, and having some sense of pride, this did not bode well for the day ahead.  After surveying my image in the mirror it became apparent that a crevice had formed between my two front teeth that  a ferret could have safety navigated without touching a hair on either side.  Damn.  Also, it was Saturday, so hope of repair until Monday was the best I could expect. 

The people attending the party, many of whom I hadn’t met, I’m sure would assume that I was currently living under a bridge on the outskirts of town, but I’d accepted the invitation and on top of that was expected to bring  food.  Forge ahead.  Some days just start badly and proceed downhill from there.  I put the potatoes on to boil and pulled the peeler out of the drawer.  While they were boiling I washed my hair and prepped the salad for twenty people. 

After determining that my new blouse would most definitely have looked more attractive pulled over my head, I dressed and we headed down the street.  Getting out of the car I opted to carry the salad and my other half managed the dish with the potatoes.  Walking down the path determining to smile only in emergencies, I caught my foot on a length of hose.  Doing a dance straight out of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice,  the large glass salad bowl took flight.  Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, buttermilk dressing and glass were liberally spewed all across their newly planted entryway garden.  Last I looked the garden gnome had  a large piece of gooey avocado eclipsing one eye. 

Everyone raced out the front door.  What was I to do?  I smiled. 

Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed!

Scalloped Potatoes

2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. Canola oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup milk
1 jar 7 oz. roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 cup Jarlsberg cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Mix together salt, pepper, dry mustard, and cayenne. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Spray 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange potato slices in layers overlapping rows. Drizzle each layer with oil and salt, pepper, mustard and cayenne mix.

Bake for 20 mins. Remove from oven.

In small saucepan, heat mil to low boil. Pour over potatoes. Sprinkle with red peppers and top with cheeses. Return to oven.

Bake at 450 degrees for 25 mins. longer until potatoes are tender and cheese is bubbly. Top with parsley. Let stand for 10 mins. before serving.

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