November 2018
I Love the Dentist

Election day. 

“Anxiety” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I’m slipping off a precipice. It’s hard to breathe.

So, to keep my mind off the crazy, I’m going to tell you a story about the dentist because I went to the dentist yesterday. And I love the dentist. 

I used to go to the Dentists to the stars in NYC. It was by accident really, a referral when my husband and I moved from LA.

On any given day, you might walk in and see Daniel Craig, or Arianna Huffington in the waiting room. Michael Bloomberg.There are great looking hygienists, dentists in scrubs, assistants in white coats. Glossy features in New York MagazineTime Out and People line the walls. It is always bustling. Everything feels very, very high end and important. 

There are three principals. One of them is a super fan. Of mine. I had no idea until…

My first visit, before I’d even given her my name, the receptionist trilled “Hi Jonatha, it’s so great to finally meet you!” Steady Pull, one of my albums, was playing in the background. Everyone seemed to know me. I was ushered directly to Dr. Lituchy’s chair. I asked the hygienist what was up with the royal treatment.

She, tell-it-like-it-is, from Queens groaned, “You have no idea, Lituchy’s been playing your entire catalogue non-stop for the past two weeks to prepare us.” 

Dr. Lituchy sprinted in. “Oh my god, Jonatha, finally I get to tell you, the HARMONIES – you have no idea, I sing along all the time.” (He’d been in an a cappella group in college)

I love the dentist.

Over the years I got to know all three partners. Dr. Lowenberg was the dry one. He’d make fun of Lituchy. (and me) Cantor was more serious but gave the best Novocain shots.

They’d come to my record release parties. They’d buy 100 CDs and hand them out to their clients. They brought the entire office to “My Mother Has 4 Noses” off Broadway. 

Lowenberg in particular was very forgiving. He would always tell me, “you have such lovely teeth” (even though I have a lot of gum recession, and a long term love affair with coffee and red wine.) He was comforting, “Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw. Recession is hereditary. You’re doing fine. You’ll probably die with your own teeth.” 

He was generous too. One year he comped me a thick retainer to help with my nightly grinding. “I like to support the arts” he’d say. Four years ago, he bleached my teeth for free. “It’s time,” he said. I can’t even imagine what that would have cost. 

So, obviously, one of the hardest parts of leaving NYC was having to find a new dentist. How would I ever top these guys? 

I went to see Dr. Baumgartner my first fall in Minneapolis. She was all business. No more royal treatment. I had to wait. No one in the office could get my name right. “Jo-NAH-tha-nah? Jona-THAN-ah? Jo-NAY-tha?” Jewel was mewling “Who will save your soul” over the sound system. 

When I finally got into the chair? She was unimpressed. And disconcertingly thorough: She took exhaustive x rays. Then 25 or so photos - of my face, neck, mouth, gums. She skewered each and every tooth and the gum in between to document the erosion. There were even a few tut tuts about the staining from coffee and red wine. Each step of the assessment felt like a judgement: “You’re not in cushy New York City any more, sweetie.” I couldn’t even get an “atta girl” for my diligent flossing routine. I was hot with shame.

The irony has not escaped me. You’d think New York would kick your ass, and they’d be a little sweeter in the Midwest. Nope. 

Yesterday, when I offered, “I think the recession is hereditary,” Baumgartner and my hygienist swapped an eye roll and handed me a gentle electric toothbrush. (150 bucks) When she started with the supersonic scraper that sounds like a drill and makes your nerves stand on end, I was determined not to flinch.
Baumgartner rattled off the three teeth that will eventually be crowns, showed me the recession on either side of my palate, and handed me a mirror so I could see the ancient filling that is slowly cracking its sheath of tooth.

“Well, I’m holding steady, wouldn’t you say?” Silence. “I promise, no hard candy!” Silence, and more probing with that sharp poker. 

I finally realize I will not win her over. Dr. Baumgartner will never come to my record release party. She’ll never follow my fan page on Face Book. She doesn’t really care about my last tour in Denmark. 

But that’s just fine. She is a badass, a super thorough dentist, I'm thrilled that her practice is almost all female, and I have a new toothbrush. 

So, no worries. I can handle the truth, Minneapolis! 

And I still love the dentist.