Last week I met a new patient who, as it turns out, was actually a very familiar old friend. Upon meeting him I discovered he was a nice jolly elderly man with a long white beard. A younger dental ninja would have recognized him immediately, his street clothing notwithstanding. Yet in my present condition as a grown-up, I didn't realize who he was until he informed me that he would be seeing many children at the mall during the next few weeks and that he didn't want a toothache to keep him from this vital task.
While waiting for Santa to get numb, I made casual conversation and mentioned how excited my sons would be to hear that not only did I see him, but I actually fixed his tooth! Also, it wouldn't hurt to name-drop and let it be known that our dental practice serves such high-profile clientele.
Once Kris Kringle was good and numb I got to work removing the root of his mandibular canine. The adjacent teeth had enough gum disease that I thought it wise to attempt the extraction without elevating (using the other teeth for leverage). My plan worked beautifully except for one small hiccup - I had such a firm grip on the forceps that once the root was sufficiently "loose" it slipped out of the forceps, came flying out of his mouth, and ricocheted off my chest and leg before coming to rest on the floor!
The good news was that I had removed Santa's tooth, and he was on his way to a speedy recovery and a holiday season free of dental pain. The bad news was that I now found myself sitting there with Santa's blood on my light blue scrubs, and I still had a few more patients that day (including some little kids). Luckily the extraction happened so quickly that I had plenty of time to go home and change.
On the way home I couldn't help but feel like the worst super-villain around. Think about it, if you saw some guy walking around with a bloody shirt you would wonder, but if you knew that the blood belonged to St. Nicholas? Yeah, pure evil. Thus is the plight of the dentist - willfully enduring the label of the bad guy when his only intention is to help others. When you get your Christmas presents on time this year, along with Santa Claus, you can thank your dental ninja.
PS, I realize that by naming Santa Claus in this post I am in clear violation of HIPPA, so Santa, if you're reading this, all I want this year is for you to not sue me for sharing your private health information. Well, that and a Red Ryder BB gun.