Visits to the dentist don't usually bother me. No, I'm not a masochist, despite the fact I've been known to have fillings done without benefit of Novocain or laughing gas.
Truth is, the six-month routine teeth cleaning is something I look forward to. I always feel guilty when I have something to eat after that, but anyone who has seen my girth also knows guilt does not last long. Still, there's nothing like a visit to the dental hygienist to make a 54-year-old mouth feel like a fully restored 1937 Packard.
So, Tuesday should have been a fairly routine day as I entered the dentist's office at 9 a.m. Should have been.
There was the usual chit-chat before reclining in the chair. Then there was the additional chit-chat that was more like a one-way conversation using sign language, eyebrow motions to indicate "yes" or "no" and sprinkled with the intermittent words I could utter in between the scraping and suctioning.
When it came time for what I call the sandblasting phase of the cleaning something didn't seem quite right. There was water, but no grit.


SO, THE HYGIENIST STOPPED and checked the equipment. Sure enough, the sandblaster was without sand. She promptly filled it up. To the brim.
Now most of you know, I trust, it's not really sand they use to strip those stains off your teeth. Not sure what it is, but it could likely take a tooth down to the root in short order, sort of like turning a pressure washer on full force and holding it two inches from the boards of a deck. If you've never done that or seen it done, it's not good. In one blast you can turn a deck board into a box of toothpicks.
I'm fairly certain the solution is a mixture that includes salt. A lot of salt.
Bear in mind this particular dental visit took place the morning after Hurricane Sandy had walloped the East Coast. What an appropriate name for that storm, it turns out.
When the hygienist turned on that newly reloaded device, it felt like my mouth had become a section of the Jersey Shore, only without Snookie and, thankfully, without Gov. Chris Christie touring my mouth to survey the aftermath.

MY GRANDMOTHER WAS a nurse whose remedy for a sore throat I follow religiously: Gargling with a mixture of warm water and salt. Oh, but this was no gargle. It was a tidal surge! My mouth felt as though half the Atlantic Ocean was flowing into it right along with sandbags that had burst open.
Despite my best efforts to retreat my tongue to a safe haven, it too was being pelted with the mixture. I am fairly certain any and every germ that had been sought refuge in the crevices between my tastebuds had been blasted out and suctioned away. In fact, I was fairly certain the tastebuds themselves were gone from the tip of my tongue.
As is the routine during these procedures, the hygienist had draped me with a paper towel to cover my face from my nose to my forehead. Even with a normal amount of blasting materials, the stuff flies out and can get in the eyes.

BUT THAT DAY WAS THE FIRST time I not only got a good dental cleaning, but also a facial. Well, at least my upper lip, cheeks and chin were well exfoliated. It would have been nice if she had included a couple of slices of cucumber for my eyelids, but the insurance company probably wouldn't have paid for that.
I'm looking forward to my next six-month visit. That will be in May, just a week shy of the official start of hurricane season. But I'm betting the hygienist will oblige me with another superstorm in my mouth. Especially after reading this.

Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email rwhiting@indexjournal.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.