Let's say there's this middle-aged guy who takes a job at a small start-up, which doesn't pay all that well, and--let's say it doesn't have dental insurance either. But the guy figures, you know, whatever, his teeth are pretty good, and by the time he's due for a dental check-up he'll probably have a different job at a bigger company. Why stress about such trivialities?
So that strategy is going pretty well for the first couple of months. But then, because of the stress of the job and his personal finances, let's say he starts grinding his teeth at night.
Within a few months he can tell that he's chipped away a couple of teeth way in the back. The one on the right side hurts when he chews, and whenever he takes a drink of cold Coke Zero it's like, holy crap.
But he figures he'll just ignore it for now--eat on the left side--that's why you have two sides of your mouth, after all.
Then the same thing happens on the left side, and suddenly he has to eat like a 90-year-old, kind of delicately biting into things with his front teeth.
He finally complains to his wife, who, instead of being sympathetic, acts like it's his fault. "Go to the dentist. Make an appointment and go to the dentist." Very slowly, like he's a toddler and doesn't understand words very well.
He says, "I'll just wait until I change jobs and have dental insurance. It doesn't hurt that much."
"I'm making an appointment for you at NYU dental school. It's cheap because the work is done by dental students."
The guy says okay, because he's kind of intrigued by the idea of getting a bargain. And, hey, if his wife is gonna make the appointment....
A week later he goes. The dental student gives him x-rays. She says, "You need a root canal on the right side. And on the left side? You need another root canal." She calls in the dental professor. He looks at the x-rays and nods.
At this point the guy doesn't care any more. He would've preferred to go bankrupt by doing something crazy like buying a DeLorean for his seventeen-year-old. But, you know, he's worn down. Take the damn credit card--who cares? He'll be dead soon enough.
It's also uncomfortable. The dental student stretches this weird rubber thing over the guy's mouth so that only his tooth is exposed, like it's open-heart surgery or something. And it makes him feel like he's swallowing a wet balloon, which makes him gag. And when he's not gagging he's accidentally closing his mouth too far and the air suction thingy that's in his mouth keeps going WWWWUUUPPPP. And the dental student has to stop and say, "Are you okay?"
He's okay. The dental student hasn't inadvertently stabbed him or burned him or done a root canal on the wrong tooth, so far as he knows.
Still, he can feel his own wet saliva all over the rubber thingy, which presses against his face and smells like spit and he's quite sure is going to leave a rash.
Which is not nearly as bad as when the dental student opens the infected tooth and the stench of tooth decay is like walking into the community room of an assisted living complex. He realizes his breath is going to smell like this every day when he's ninety, and that makes him think about dying.
Suddenly--BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
He panics. "Code Red? Did I just go into cardiac shock and I don't realize it yet?"
The dental professor comes running by shouting, "Let's go! Fire alarm! Everybody out!" He pauses in front of the middle-aged guy and the dental student.
"NOW!" he screams.
The dental student quickly yanks out the saliva-covered rubber face mask, which sets off a gag reflex. Then she shoves an entire box of cotton into the gaping wound where the guy's tooth used to be, and off they go. Down the fire stairs, the dental student and the middle-aged guy who reeks of decay and wonders why he had to go work at an effing start-up.