The whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

A while back I realized it had been about two years since I had last been to the dentist. So I went to one close to my apartment. He grabbed the metal stick with the little circular mirror on the end and told me to open wide.

After a cursory inspection he told me I had seventeen cavities. He said that he couldn't fill all of them that afternoon, but he could do three or four of them at at a time over a series of appointments. He would charge me a certain amount of money for each filling.

I was nonplused. Admittedly I had let too much time go by since my last visit to the dentist. And although I flossed most nights before going to bed, I may have missed a night here and there. But seventeen cavities?

If he had said three cavities, or five cavities, or maybe even seven cavities, I would have probably said, however glumly, "Okay, go to work." But seventeen? That's more than half my teeth. I asked him to give me a cleaning and that I would call him back after thinking about when to begin getting the cavities filled.

So I went to another dentist. I didn't say anything to her about the one I had just visited. All I told her was that I had let a couple of years go by since the last time. She took a look. "Your teeth are very clean," she said. This was no surprise, as the other dentist had just scrubbed them. She cleaned them again anyway. "By the way, doctor," I asked. "Do I have any cavities?" She took a good look. "No," she said.

"Are you sure?" I asked. "Could you take another look?" She took a good long gander inside my mouth. "It's been a long time since I last saw a dentist. You don't see anything there?" She shook her head. "If you want I can take x-rays, but I don't think you have any cavities. I suggest you come back in six months, or earlier if you have any problems."

I suppose this could have happened anywhere. But it happened here in Mexico City.