Smiley Face……

My first trip to the dentist occurred when I was eight. My mom took my brother and me at the same time.  We thought it was cool to get out of school in the middle of the day. There were several visits to the dentist’s office resulting in two  mouths filled with silver amalgam. I clearly remember Mom telling us we would not be drinking any more soda or Kool-Aid for a very long time. She was correct, although, it might have also been a cost cutting measure.

The very utilitarian dental cubicle, uncomfortable chair and bright, shiny instruments are burned into my memory. There is a nasty metallic smell associated with the use of the scary looking drill. I do remember thinking the rinse and spit routine was kind of cool.

The other memory I have is my Dad going to the dentist just before we went. His teeth were not in very good shape either. They found out he was allergic to Novocain in the dentist chair. The discovery required an ambulance visit to a hospital emergency room. After that experience, the dentist decided to not use Novocain on my brother and I. Years later another dentist did use Novocain on me. I am happy to report there was not a trip to the emergency room for me.

Over the years I have had a lot of work done in my mouth.  I had at least four permanent teeth erupt and grow in front of or beside baby teeth too stubborn to fall out. When I was around 16 my Mom found a dentist to pull several of the baby teeth. There were still several baby teeth with no permanent ones in sight. I was very self conscious about my gaps-between-crooked-teeth and jutting-out-front incisors. For years I would not give a full smile or smiled with a hand over my mouth.  

When I was in my early thirties I decided it was time to fix this glaring problem. Our family dental insurance did not cover orthodontia for adults. It did cover the oral surgery necessary to get ready for the metal tighten and turn routine in my mouth. I went to work at a local Girl Scout council to pay for the orthodontic work. The metal came off and the retainer went in the same month I resigned from my job.

The post oral surgery recovery was the worst physical pain I ever went through. I remember telling a friend I would rather have “do over’s” on birthing all three of my children than go through anything like that again. The two positives, other than the many years and fading pain memory thing, coming out of the experience are: I go to the dentist prepared to endure anything because I have already survived the worst and I brush and floss religiously. There are way too many personal and material resources tied up in maintaining my smile.

My current dentist is the most wonderful young woman. She is funny, bright, competent and extremely compassionate. And that is a good thing. My husband has a dental phobia.  We are working on this problem. There is a website for people like Mike.  I am glad someone had the foresight to set it up. There is a little bit of humor on the site. Anyway, I find it humorous. Mike finds nothing humorous about dental work.

When I had my teeth cleaned yesterday, Dr. Davis asked me how we were going to get Mike in for a check-up.  She offered to meet him in the reception area and not even look into his mouth for the first visit. Or, she says she has met fearful patients at Starbuck’s for a cup of coffee and conversation about sedation dentistry. I will keep you posted on the outcome.

I like her. I wonder if she meets resigned-to-the-inevitable patients at Starbuck’s…………………….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved

About Lily

Born in Topeka, Kansas in the middle of the 20th Century, daughter, granddaughter, niece, sister, cousin, mother, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, reader, spiritual, writer, cook, crafter, junker...... twice-married, former non-profit executive in retread mode... currently living a bucket list life in a remodeled schoolhouse.....
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