Walterberry pie

I had a bet with Susanne, over no amount of money, that after she neglected to see a dentist for 8 years she’d have at least one or two cavities in her mouth. She disagreed, which is how I suppose I came to the prospect of “betting” her on the issue. I’d been tardy in seeing a dentist for just a couple of years, and lo and behold, I had three cavities to fill. So come on, her mouth must have been worse, right?

Xrays were taken, results analyzed and nope, the good doctor was nary any issues with her enamel. She patted me on the back to show both comfort and a certain degree of smugness, which if our fortunes had been reversed, I would also have communicated nonverbally to her. And so I trudged into the dentist’s office, contrite and humbled.

Teeth for me have a checkerboard history. I wore braces from 5th to 8th grade, and while I’m glad I avoided having them when I was in high school, I’m not sure middle school kids are any better. Train tracks, silver streak, motor mouth, they had a litany of names that I dodged about as well as the red balls in gym class. Thank goodness my income has never been based on dodgeball capability. I was used to the repeated trips to the orthodontist, who had blanketed the walls with smiling, cartoonized teeth so that we’d have something to stare at while he twisted our train tracks to painful levels. I couldn’t even bite into a French fry for the next four hours, it was so excruciating. And still, I would return, driven by my mother who read Women’s World out in the lounge while she allowed a guy who looked like Telly Savalis to perform sadism on her child. At the end of three years of rubber bands shooting off like errant fireworks in the middle of World History, the retainers that came undone and jabbed me in the face while I was sleeping, and the lesson learned the hard way that eating salt water taffy was way off limits, he looked at me, my face in his hands and pronounced that well, I still had a little bit of a cross bite, but nobody would notice.

I sucked it up and thanked him. I THANKED him for making me the target of other people’s orthodontia-ism, because my 13-year-old self was a cowering wuss. My 39-year-old self, well, let’s just say that if he tried to leave me with anything less than utterly perfect dentition, I’d be doing my own “almost perfect” surgery on his Yul Brenner face.

So dentists and I aren’t exactly the best of friends, but the one I found in Walla Walla does a nice job and tries very hard to be as pain-free as possible. When Susanne and I were relocating to Walla Walla, I felt a filling fall out of one of my upper molars. Well, I didn’t feel it fall out so much as I felt it go crunch crunch as I was attempting to chew something. And we still had four days to go before we pulled into town. So my first phone call was to a dentist who had been recommended by one of Susanne’s colleagues. They didn’t seem to understand the urgency of my situation when I called them.

“She’s booked until late October,” said the receptionist, as dryly as the desert air outside.

“But I have a hole in my tooth,” I said. To me, this meant “what else can you do for me? Another dentist in your office? A recommendation for another practice?

To her, however, this meant, “I AM STUPID. PLEASE CONDESCEND TO ME.”

“She’s…booked…until late October. Do you want to make an appointment for then?”

And I thought people in the health care industry wanted to be helpful. Silly me. I made the appointment, even though it was August 22. In the meantime I’d look for another dentist.

Meantime didn’t happen. The next week, lazy about continuing to eat on only one side of my mouth, I broke the tooth in half. Pain soon followed. I held in my hand what had until only very recently been stuck in my head, and saw red. Not my blood, just red anger. I called the receptionist back.

“I need a dentist and I need one now! My tooth just fell out of my head!”

“Why don’t you try Dr. So-and-so?”

Really? Did I move to a higher level of reception service or was I just not saying the right password the last time around? I thought I heard giggling and the exchange of money on her end of the line.

I called the other dentist’s office expecting not much more than nothing. But when they heard of my plight they told me to come right in. Now. I hopped in the car and realized, for the first time of many, that nothing in Walla Walla is more than 5 minutes away from anywhere else in Walla Walla. This apparently is a tradeoff for the fact that Walla Walla itself is extremely far from anything else, except Milton-Freewater, across the Oregon border.

And so my relationship with this dentist began. She gave me a temporary crown, and a week later, a real one to replace the good chunk I’d lost.

Fast forward to this morning, to get two cavities fixed and filled. She stuck some anesthetic in between my teeth and gums, and I was reminded of the woman on Intervention last night who had a problem with fentanyl lollipops. Now that woman had some dental issues, sadly. The taste of this stuff was strange, kind of fruity, kind of like cheap bubble gum.

“Wha is that flava,” I asked, identifying that I sounded like a lush after a bender.

“It’s called Walterberry,” she said, smiling as she put on her magnifying glasses, “it’s the best of the worst flavors they make.”

I wanted to ask why not procure the best of the best flavors they made, but that required too much diction, so I let it go.

Thirty minutes later, I didn’t feel the lower half of my face. But heck, who needs to feel 100 percent of their face 100 percent of the time? I hadn’t eaten breakfast, and now it was after noon. Maybe I could deal with soft food or something to drink. The hygienist, after all, had sucked out a good portion of my saliva, so I was on my way to either a crisp headache or becoming a human-sized prune, neither of which seemed like a good option.

My favorite coffee house beckoned. It was, of course, only 5 minutes away. This turns out not to have been enough time for the numbing medication to wear off, so I wound up wearing most of my tea and only realized I still had food in my mouth by placing my hand in between my cheek and teeth, and moving it to the back of my tongue where I could then swallow it. It was like manual eating, and certainly the aesthetic appeal of this can not be underestimated. I may have just discovered the next diet. Eat all of one’s food with one’s hands deep in one’s own mouth and double check to make sure there aren’t big chunks just sitting on one’s tongue. Do all of this in public. I can see the book title: Redefining Eating.

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Categories: ponderings, transplanted


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4 Comments on “Walterberry pie”

  1. Your Mother
    April 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    That wasn’t “Women’s World” I was reading. It was
    “Vanity Fair”.


  2. August 30, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    The previous decade I worked in a practice where Walterberry was the preferred flavor of topical anesthetic. It was good-ish. No one seems to actually like any of the flavors at the dental office. Maybe I’ll be writing a top 10 of WORST dental flavors tonight. In the meantime, thanks for the good story.

  3. Brenda
    January 22, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    I’m still scouring the office for the elusive mint flavored topical anesthetic … or any other flavor really. There has to be other flavors around there somewhere! 😉

  4. Cheryl Frazier
    September 3, 2021 at 7:59 am #

    That was a long not so great story to find out if there is truly a Walterberry. It is a great topical anestic we have used for years. I understand it’s not available anymore.😠I really thought I was going to find out about Walterberry Pie and where the berries are found. Sorry I didn’t.

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