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Monday, January 2, 2012

Introduction to Dentistry

Many years ago as a child, my mother thought that it would be prudent to send me for a dental checkup with our family dentist. She had made an appointment for me earlier in the month and the big day had finally arrived. Yep, the big day.  The day when I would find out what a dentist was, what he did and how he did it.

So we hopped into our VW Dasher and began the drive downtown.  The trip seemed  longer that day than most and my mind continually wandered onto thoughts about what this experience would entail and how my experience would compare to other stories I had heard.  Terrible!, terrible stories had been told to me by other family members. Including stories from my often animated Uncle Mark who could put the fear of God into a five year old boy with his dazzling talents.

Well the trip ended a  few minutes later and we made our way into the office parking lot finding a nice place to park near the front of the building.  Have you ever noticed you can always find a great parking place at the dentist office?  We entered the office through the side door and into an area I later was told was the reception area.  Entering this room, I glanced around to find fake plants, patients fidgeting and old torn, probably uninteresting, magazines littering  tables in each corner.

I took seat on one side of the room and my mother took the seat next to me.   The next half hour, I carefully watched each patient as one by one the poor souls  were called back to take their turn with the dentist.  Even at the tender age of five, I knew something was not right in this place.  Perhaps it was the look on the faces of the patients or the strange odors wafting in from the long hall whenever the hygienist opened the hallway door.

Well, it wasn't too long before my name was called and off my mother and I trudged down the hall and into an empty examination room. It probably wasn't that cold in there  but it seemed that way to me. My arms had goose bumps and my face had that funny tingly feeling you get when you have had too much sugar.  My mom tried to keep my mind off where I was, and told me I had nothing to worry about and that everyone has to go to the dentist.  Later, when I became a parent I found out that this tactic is about all a mother can do to help her poor child get through bad experiences and that the parent wants to get out of there just as much as the child.

 After a few minutes of sitting in the chair and looking at the pictures of teeth plastering the wall, I was greeted by the dentist.  He made a couple jokes that I smiled at even though I had no idea what he was saying or the meaning of what he said.  The man had short hair and seemed middle age to me, but he was probably in his early thirties at most. At five, everyone looks old.

The dentist began by shining a light in my face and examining my mouth with some kind of pick.  Every once in a while he would stop and scrape the tool on a tooth then tell me to spit in a little bowl mounted to the chair (this was before those suction things they use now).  After the exam  he turned toward my mother and informed her that I had a small cavity and should have it filled.  "Filled? Oh no!", I thought. "I remember this from those horrible stories my uncle told. I believe, in those stories, he may have mentioned something about a drill and horrific eye bursting pain." Before I could utter a word of protest,  a high pitched sound broke through my thoughts.  There it was, in front of me. What I now know as an instrument of pure evil.  It was...  The drill!  Now some of you are reading this wondering if I missed something.  Perhaps I missed the part about needles and numbing my mouth. No, no I didn't forget to mention that, this boy was being drilled without novacane, as they called it then.  Yep this guy didn't give me one drop of pain killer. He was going 19th century on me.

Of course, it only took a few seconds of drilling before I began to feel the pain. The smell of a dentist who had smoked too many cigarettes  combined with the smell of burning decayed tooth filled the air. I must have been turning white, because he glanced at my mom and  assured her that people my age do not feel pain when drilling and if the do it is very minor.  I can now and could at that moment say that was utter and total nonsense.  My job, however,  at this point was to be the tough little man and hang in there.  Pain was part of life, my Marine father often said.  This was one of those times where I would have to push through the pain and be a tough little Marine.

I don't know how long it took.  It seemed like maybe 15 or 20 minutes, but it was long enough.  When I sat up from the chair I was exhausted and laden with sweat.  I now completely understood what a dentist was, what he did and how he did it. All of my questions had been thoroughly answered without uttering a word.  He was a sadist quack!

My feelings toward dentists have not changed.  They continue with each visit to reinforce my ideas formed at a young age.  Perhaps there are good dentists out there but I doubt it.


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