The Loh Life

You Can't Handle The Tooth, Part Three: Going Viral

Sandra Tsing Loh finds a dentist.

So I posted a plea on Facebook for a dentist referral.  I had postponed seeing my own very nice dentist for too long.  Now, a chunk of tooth had fallen out - It was an emergency situation.  There was no longer any pretending.  I was in trouble and ashamed, and needed the sort of dentist who specialized in adult babies wheeled in on gurneys and hysterically screaming.

Being a middle-aged person relatively new to Facebook, with Internet instincts that are the very opposite of viral, my page is relatively sleepy.  If I post anything and it hits double digits - you know, if as many as 10 people like it? - that's a major seismic event.

So, I was totally unprepared for what happened with my dentist search.  I hit "post" at 6 p.m. and instantly the tsunami hit.  From some friends I do know and some I don't, although I am quickly learning fascinating details about their bridgework, names of favorite dentists start pouring in.  Within two hours, I have the telephone numbers and addresses of 36 dentists - that's more than one for every tooth - from Marina del Rey to Rancho Cucamonga.

And, as the comment thread keeps growing, from 20 to 40 to 70-plus, my dental emergency starts turning into more of a dental Internet café.  There is riffing on the word tooth, the whole tooth, nothing but the tooth, you can't handle the tooth, and - of course - in deference to my half-Asian heritage, Chinese dental time: tooth hurty.  Friends who I haven't heard from in years are suddenly surfacing... and interrogating each other, i.e. "How can you go to a dentist named Devoree Prepsky?  No, you need my dentist, Dr. Alma Vilkus-Stockus in Montrose-"  "Heh?  What kind of a name is Dr. Alma Vilkus-Stockus?"  There is rapturous discussion of favorite medications - from Valium to Ativan to Tylenol 3 - in 2 milligrams, 5 milligrams, 10 milligrams.  People go from describing dental emergencies they've endured to posting favorite dentist scenes from movies.  These range from Jack Nicholson as the crazy patient in Little Shop of Horrors to Tom Conti as a poet with bad teeth in Reuben, Reuben to Dustin Hoffman being tortured by his Nazi doctor in Marathon Man.  Thanks a lot!

At this point, new arrivals are marveling at the expansive thread.  When folks start requesting that I dress my piece of tooth in a top hat and costume and photograph it like Mr. Peanut, I am forced to say: "Oh my God, this tooth has gone viral!"

The bottom line: out of all these wonderful L.A. dentists in my brand new Rolodex, I decide I will go with Anna Hubler in Glendale, who - and I'm quoting here - "specializes in terror."

Next week: The terror specialist.


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