Can We at Least Agree on This?

Our country, and maybe I should say our world, is filled with anger. We cannot seem to agree on anything. Last night Dad and I were chatting, and I believe I finally found a subject which may have bipartisan agreement: Going to the dentist is not fun.

I pulled out your baby books to try to determine what your first impressions of dentists were like. (I know I have discussed dentists before, but never in such detail.  See Don’t Complain to Me about Dentists)

I tried to make tooth brushing fun so that when it was time to see the dentist, he would not be feared. The first time I brought Kelly and Jamie to have their teeth examined, I admit now I was being extremely deceptive. It was complicit in a plot hatched by the Montville Recreation Department.

It was St. Patrick’s Day 1989, and I told the two of you that we were going to an Easter Egg hunt—which was not a lie. What I failed to mention was that when you were done gathering your eggs, a dentist would be available to examine your teeth. Kelly cooperated, and Jamie, you did not cry and were quite friendly. You just refused to open your mouth and kept your teeth clenched tightly together.

Kelly, when you went for a more extensive exam which included x-rays, a fluoride treatment and a cleaning, you loved the experience so much that you were upset when you learned we would not be going back the next next day. Seven months later, when we did return, you were very excited. Somehow, I think your enthusiasm for dentists has diminished.

Casey, you wanted to brush “all by myself” at the age of three, and you loved to floss. Like your sister, you could not wait to go, although you said, “I’m apprehensive.” You were three. After the cleaning, check-up, and fluoride treatment, you were allowed to run the train and got nickels for the prize machine. Dr. Weiner’s bribery contributed to your love of dentists.

Now you are all grown up, and I suspect,  like all the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, not one of you is fond of going to the dentist. Still, I have a lot of money invested in your mouths from years of dental check-ups. I hope that now that I no longer hand you the nickels for the prize machine, you still force yourselves to visit the dentist once or twice each year.

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!