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02/07/2007: "hate the dentist? learn origami"

One of my molars has been sensitive to pressure for the past couple of months. A few weeks ago it escalated into a temperature sensitivity as well, so I finally got around to seeking dental help. My first appointment didn't really do much - they took some x-rays, and gave me a week's worth of antibiotics to see if it was an infection. No dice there. So last night I came in for my follow-up, where they finally diagnosed it as a cracked tooth.

While I was glad for the diagnosis and am now enjoying chewing on both sides of my mouth with no temperature or pressure sensitivity, I don't exactly enjoy being in the dentist's chair. I noticed that my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. Thankfully, I figured out how to occupy myself to the point that I became very relaxed: I did some origami.

I've always enjoyed origami, but my knowledge of it waxes and wanes over the years. I only just recently re-taught myself how to fold a paper crane. It's hard to believe I forgot, I've done so many over my lifetime. Regardless, I know enough to be able to keep busy with a square piece of paper when need be.

While waiting for my freezing to take effect, I noticed a pad of square sticky notes on the desk in the room. When an assistant came by I asked if I could have a piece. I figured folding a crane without being able to look at what I'm doing (and doing it with a sticky note) would prove enough of a distraction for me. Sure enough, it was!

Boy, doing origami without looking sure makes things interesting. I couldn't have asked for a better way to keep my attention on something other than what was going on inside my mouth. Just try folding a square in half along two axes and then along two diagonals, with only your fingertips to tell you when all the edges and vertices are aligned. Sticky notes aren't exactly the biggest pieces of paper, either, which added to the challenge. Regardless, between the start of drilling and final shaping of the filling, I managed to produce two cranes, a box, and one other creation I don't have a name for but that pretty much every grade school child knows how to make as a "fortune teller".

At the start of it all, my hands were shaking and my heart was pounding. When the dentist was all done with me, I was bordering on sleepy, and had to rev myself up a bit to get out of the chair and out the door. So if you hate visiting the dentist, allow me to suggest learning a bit of origami, and taking a pad of sticky notes (square ones, obviously) with you. Heck, make paper planes if you have to, it's better than freaking out listening to the drilling going on inside your head.

Replies: 1 Comment

on Friday, February 9th, Auntie Meow said

Hi Andrew,

I just wiggle my toes - especially during the freezing procedure. I figure that focusing my attention on that part of my body farthest away from my mouth will make me less likely to tense up and hopefully the needle will be less likely to encounter a tight muscle - achhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Really glad that you got that problem fixed up.

Take care and God bless
Auntie Meow

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