Friday, February 19, 2010

I Avoid Going To The Dentist

I went to the dentist today. It's been seven years since my last appointment. Yeah, I know. But it's not like I am neglecting my teeth, I brush and floss everyday. And it's expensive to see a dentist. High cost is a reasonable excuse, but it's not why I don't go. My number one reason is fear.

Growing up, I had horrible looking teeth. My baby teeth were shades of beige, brown and black. According to my mother, they got this way because of sugary cough syrup. I was sick a lot with flues and colds as a toddler.

When I was five, I had to have a tooth pulled. One of my baby molars had a giant black crater right down to its nerve. And below it, in the gum line, there was a red, swollen bulb of pus. My mouth radiated with tooth ache.

My poor mother was instructed to give me sedatives to make the extraction possible. As the story has been told to me (a few times), I was too drugged to walk, but once I got into the dentist chair, I fought to keep my mouth shut. But with my mom's tight hold around my body, a shoot of novacaine was pressed into my jaw, and the tooth was easily plucked with a little wiggle, and a small tug.

My muscles tense up when I think back to my childhood dental visits.

Just walking towards the building with the dental office made me want to run and hid. The smell in the elevator gave me stomach cramps. The anxiety filled waiting room. I got so nervous. I couldn't pay attention to the books and comics my mother read.

I can't remember my dentist's name. But I have a clear picture of what she looked like. Her gray hair was cut into a geometrical-shaped bob (sharp lines) that gave her face a firm expression. There were rarely any smiles. I don't think she liked kids. Or maybe she just didn't like difficult ones.

If my terror was moderate-to-bad in the waiting room, it climaxed as I watched my dentist perform her predictable ritual in the exam room: wash her hands, dry her hands, sit down on the roll-stool, tie the paper mouth-guard, adjusted the light on my face. I knew all the steps. When she reached for the metal hook tool, and the little mirror-stick, my heart jumped inside my chest, and my mouth locked shut. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

Today I am thirty-seven, but I still feel like a little kid when I get into a dental chair. I fear it's going to stick with me until I die. Few innovations have been introduced to make dental procedures less uncomfortable for patients.

The smell is the same. And "gentle dental" still means sedatives.

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  2. Oh Ann, I am so sorry that you have such fear. I did too, as a child. My family used to have a great laugh over me refusing to open my mouth for the ogre, Dr. Fine (what a name, right?) Finally, I am okay with the dentist and I do all the right things, as you do. I went many years without care, due to fear and I am really thankful that I still have my teeth. On a lighter note my father (who had false teeth) used to say, "Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you." Hah!

  3. The Ogre! That's funny! And Dr Fine --which was the total opposite. Yeah, I will have my teeth too --but I had several cavities that need to be fixed.

  4. Pam. Wrong word choice again? Help!

  5. Argh, the dentist. I hates them, I do! My poor unfortunate children have seen the dentist more than I ever did at that age (my folks didn't have the money), but so far, no phobias.

    I pray this continues.

    I'm sorry it was such a terrible experience for you, though. I don't blame you one whit for avoiding them.

  6. Jen,
    I feel for your kids.
    My ten year old daughter has had few issues, so far. I am so glad for her sake.

  7. You are so not alone on this one. I hate going to the dentist also.