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  • Kristan Higgins

On the lam

Updated: May 2, 2022


This week, I exhibited one of my greatest life skills: dodging the dentist. Don’t judge me. I don’t have a lot of fears in life—I love heights, don’t mind spiders, think snakes are beautiful. I’m not a nervous flyer. I like meeting new people and think small spaces are cozy. In fact, I can only think of two things I’m really scared of—hummingbirds, and the dentist.

Because I like having teeth, however, especially strong, healthy teeth that excel at chewing things, I floss every day. I brush thoroughly. And yes, I get my teeth cleaned. But here’s how it goes:

Liz from Dr. C.’s office: “Hi, Kristan! It’s Liz from Dr. C.’s office. I’m really sorry, I know you hate this time of year, but—”


She calls back. I let the machine get it.

Around her fourth or fifth attempt, she usually gets one of my faithless children. Phone messages are not a particular strength of theirs. Nor is lying.

Faithless Child: “Mommy? Phone’s for you.”

Me: “Who is it?”

Faithless Child: “I don’t know.” They then hand the phone to me, and I once again hear the cheerful voice of Liz.

“Got you!” she says.

“Damn. Fine. I’ll do it. But I hate it, and I resent you being so good at your job.”

Liz: “I know. You’re—” (there’s a small snort)— “very brave.”

So we make an appointment. Which I then cancel.

This year, just to change it up a bit, I had McIrish cancel it. To my credit, I had a cold and didn’t relish the thought of Dr. C. stuffing tools, his hands and the occasional tennis ball in my mouth whilst I tried to breathe. (I may be wrong about the tennis ball, but that’s what it feels like, and I usually have my eyes shut tight.)


Liz, who’s as persistent as a Saint Bernard sniffing out avalanche victims, calls back, and eventually, worn down by her relentless niceness, I go in. Grumbling. Clenched. I have my iPod on high, they give me nitrous oxide, I try to picture myself in a happy place, and nothing works.

Dr. C. extols the benefits of valium. I don’t answer, because I’m pretending he’s not there (though once, I bit him. He was asking for it, let me assure you). They give me the fastest dental hygienist in the East. I leave fingernail marks in the armrests. I swear, when I leave, sweaty and shiny-toothed, they all go out for a drink.

Patient of the year, I am not.


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