Don’t Complain to Me About Dentists

Nobody likes the dentist, but  the dentists today are nothing like the dentist we went to when I was a kid. Remember your first dentist? He was a pediatric dentist and he let you choose the favor of toothpaste—watermelon, grape, bubblegum-flavored. You each got a few nickels at the end of the visit for his prize machine. You all loved that and I don’t think you feared him.

Dad and I went to a dentist in New York who gave us head phones so we could listen to music rather than the nail-on-the-chalkboard-sounding drill that they all have. We have never met another dentist who provided that wonderful service.

We have tried out many dentists in five different states. Some of our dentists have had televisions over the chair to distract us, some have had massage chairs, and at least one gave us nice warm towels to clean our faces at the end of our visit. And there is always the goody bag filled with a new toothbrush, floss, and Chap Stick. Dentistry has come a long way since my first dentist in Boonton.

He was a pleasant enough man, but once you sat down in that chair, you were doomed. Music, television, and massage chairs (okay, those were not invented yet) were not part of that office visit. He worked alone—no hygienist or receptionist. I remember going to his office, often alone, on my way home from school. Grandma did not go with us. We were on our own. That was just the way it was.

I would sit in his chair of torture and he would begin his exam, which almost always ended with him telling me that I had gotten a few cavities. since my last visit. He had twelve kids to support! That is why I have a mouth brimming with more silver fillings than white teeth.

What made my visits so awful, you ask? First, there was no little tool to suck up the spit. He worked in your mouth and didn’t stop to let you spit until you started to gag—just minutes before you drowned in your own saliva. But the worse thing was that he never gave me Novocain. No siree! I sat in that chair as he drilled away, while that screeching machine whirled away in my mouth and my body stiffened in pain. It was nasty.

So today, when I go to my dentist, and the hygienist hands me sunglasses so the light doesn’t bother my eyes, and then the dentist carefully dabs numbing cream on my gums so the needle of the Novocain doesn’t hurt (as she replaces the old fillings), I think back to the days in that chair in Boonton. Those were not the days!

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