It is no secret I don’t like dentists. I live in fear of their tools the same way the characters in my books fear being caught by the protagonist.
I don’t actually dislike the people who are dentists. I have very good friends who are dentists, and I like them as the person they are but not the career they have. It’s not their fault I fear their tools. It is a deep-seated fear from childhood and the old ways of the dentists back in the ’50s and ’60s.
My fear of dentists began the summer after I finished eighth grade. A fun game of badminton turned into the last time my real two front teeth inhabited my mouth. A little swing of the racket, my coming forward with my racket, and the meeting of my friend’s racket with my mouth as my friend swung at the birdie, sent pieces of my teeth probably flying over the net or somewhere never to be found. I remember my mom’s angst when she saw what happened. I wasn’t too upset until I visited the dentist. What was left of the teeth had to come out, a root canal had to be performed and pegged teeth had to be cemented in my mouth.
We didn’t have the technology we do today, so the first month of that summer, every few days was spent in the dentists office. I had a month of no front teeth. There were no TVs or music to drown out the noise of the drills. And I remember a lot of pain when he was working on my teeth.
Again, the man behind the drill was a very nice man and a caring man, but he wasn’t trained in gentleness technique. And his hands always shook, so occasionally they missed their mark.
My old school friend and I were comparing dentist notes from our childhood. She always wanted to go to my dentist, and I always wanted to go to hers. Must be the grass is always greener on the other side of the street thing. I wanted her dentist because they got cute plaster Disney statues for going to the dentist, and she wanted my dentist because hers sometimes had imbibed too much before working on patients. It was the shaky hands from being older versus the shaky hands from having a few fun beverages.
There was an upside to my accident; before the accident I had spaces between my real two front teeth. My new teeth were great.
Because of all this I have avoided the dentist for years and years. Yes, that many years. Add to the fact I have no dental insurance and it cemented my resolve to stay away from the imaginary torture chambers in my mind.
Over the years I have tried to make it to the dentist. I have made the appointments, and the office has made bets on whether I would make it. In the past weeks I could no longer avoid the dreaded dentist. I was in a dither. My broken tooth sent me into a panic. Yes, I know, a small thing for most people but remember the torture chamber of my youth.
I remembered the restful feeling I had when accompanying my husband to his dentist this past year. He is a veteran and this dental office had a day when they provided free dental work for veterans. I thought possibly the restful feeling was the fact I was not the one undergoing the work, but I bit the bullet and had my husband make an appointment. They got me in right away.
The office was as I remembered it, peaceful with restful decor and a quiet atmosphere which calmed my nerves. The staff, knowing I was nervous, took time to make sure I was calm and comfortable. I had a TV right in front of me as I sat in the spa-like comfortable chair. This was not the dental office of my childhood.
And then I met the dentist and the dental assistant who were the essence of calm. I had my teeth examined — not as bad as I thought — and the gentleness made me quit shaking. I made the next three appointments. The truth was in the pudding. Would I make it back to actually have the work done? I canceled the first appointment because we had a blizzard, and the dentist was 40 miles away. I made it to the second appointment.
As I sat in the chair and watched “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on television, the dental hygienist worked on my teeth. I almost fell asleep. I was able to daydream and plot my next book, and I can’t believe I am saying this: It was a relaxing time. I have two more appointments, and again I can’t believe I am saying this, but I actually am looking forward to getting my teeth fixed.
I have always loved new technology, but I haven’t thought about it in the terms of dentists. Technology has come a long way in making the torture chambers of my youth into a better experience for those of us that have dental aversion. My fear made the thought of the experience into a bigger terror than it was. I think I need to ponder that and wonder where it might carryover into the rest of my life.
“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” — Henry Ford