I went to the dentist today to have my teeth cleaned. The hygienist is so gentle I usually doze off, but this time she said, “If you feel any discomfort, just raise your hand.” Uh Oh! Her admonition got me thinking. To be more precise, she had me clenching my teeth. She told me to relax but I was plagued by vivid memories of prehistoric torture.
My mother hated dentists so refused for years to send me in for checkups. This was fine with me of course, until about age 11 or 12 (after all those years of chocolate bars and bubble gum) when I was plagued by a sensitive tooth. Mom had no choice then, so off to the dentist we went.
Diagnosis: A cavity.
And not only one cavity, but a mouthful of cavities.
I seem to recall there were a total of 14 cavities!
Now this was back back back in time – waaaaay back in time. Novocaine was available but probably only for extractions, and there were no little irrigating machines like we have today. “Rinse,” was the operative word between drilling. Am I dating myself here?
Anyway, for 14 cavities, I was scheduled for 14 weeks of drilling and spent one dreadful day after school each week in the dentist’s chair. “Raise your hand when it hurts too much,” said he, just like my hygienist said today. And up went my hand unbidden even though I tried to be so brave and stoic.
A raised hand spelled instant relief as the dentist would stop drilling for a second or two. Unfortunately, he would begin his grisly business again. Blessed were the times when my mouth filled with saliva and he would stop on his own and say, “Rinse!” And I would bend over a bowl and swish as slowly as possible.
Fillings were that amalgam stuff too, now considered dangerous due to mercury poisoning. I was being poisoned! No wonder Mom hated dentists! But, most of my original fillings are now replaced with something supposedly better that doesn’t last as long.
THE PRIMITIVE EXTRACTION
So this afternoon in the dentist’s torture chamber I was wandering down memory lane in a kind of nightmare of recollections. There was the time I had all my wisdom teeth pulled. Thank goodness there was Novocaine for that, but the dentist had to put his foot on the chair for better traction and even called in another patient to help hold the chisel! This is a true story.
But, dentistry has “come a long way baby,” and aren’t we lucky now? They even play distracting music in some offices. I was feeling pretty smug about all the marvelous advances in modern dentistry until I heard those dread words once again, “Just raise your hand if you are experiencing any discomfort!” Uh oh! I must have had a terrified look on my face because the hygenist kept saying, ” Are you o.k.?”
Never did raise my hand though. Bravery runs in the family.