Tuesday, July 5, 2005

On Dentists

I’m terrified of dentists. I have been since I was a little girl. I remember going to see a dentist when I was about four. I remember sitting there in the large pale green chair, shaking, while the dentist showed me his instruments and explained what he was going to do with them. When he held up the pick instrument, the one that’s curved like a hook, my eyes got wide and I clamped my mouth shut. There was no way he was getting into my mouth. The dentist tried all of his techniques reserved for the difficult child, promising me that it would be quick and that it wouldn’t hurt. Hah! That was the first lie. The second was that it wouldn’t take long. I finally did open my mouth, slightly, enough for the dentist to do his work.

It hurt. Maybe I just have highly sensitive teeth but as he scraped them, I winced and gripped my hands into the armrests. When he finished he said, “There. That wasn’t so bad. Have a sticker.” I remember looking at the sticker, which was a star sticker, and I actually did say, “This is all I get? You lied to me. It hurt.” Then when he brought me out to my father I pointed to the dentist and said seriously to my father, “He lied to me. It hurt.” I can’t quite remember what happened next. But I do know that ever since then I’ve had a terrible fear of the dentists.

I haven’t ever had a cavity either so I’m not quite sure why they terrify me so. Maybe it’s because of the fact that their instruments look frightening. Or maybe it’s because they talk to you and expect you to answer, when they’re digging happily into your teeth. Maybe it’s that horrible hospital smell that lingers on your clothes after your dentist appointment. I honestly couldn’t tell you. I guess everyone has fears and the dentist happens to be one of mine.

I had braces for about five years. When I went to the first appointment to get them on, I had a slight panic attack. Then I had one every time I had to go see the dentist. I’d have to take deep breaths and I’d find I’d start to shake uncontrollably. And you know what? The dentist always says the same thing that made me want to cram his scraper down his throat.

“Hah already scared? I haven’t even touched you yet.”

Braces really turned me off on dentists. It’s not easy to lie back in a chair with a device that keeps your mouth propped wide open for at least an hour. You feel exposed and worried that some hot guy will walk in and see you like that, mouth wide open, paper bib around your neck to catch your spit. And oh yes, I drool a lot when dentists are working on me. I’m like a water factory in there and they always have to stop and suck out my excess drool like, every minute. If they forget to do this, it dribbles down my chin and sometimes they’ll wipe it off for me. Most of the time it just sits there, white bubbles and all, like a large zit that won’t go away.

And of course, there are the conversations dentists insist on having with you while your mouth is propped open.

“How are you?” is a favorite as they scrape at your teeth.
One time I didn’t even answer. I figured the dentist would get the hint that now was not a good time to talk. He didn’t get the hint. He said again, “How ARE you?” as though I were deaf.

“Ineeee,” I replied. (Fine.)

“You do brush three times a day right?”

“Essssss.” (Yes.)

“Because it doesn’t look like you do. You have to realize that plaque builds up and it causes the tooth to become unhealthy. Do you want unhealthy teeth?”

“Ooooo.” (No.)

“So what are your hobbies?”

What is this guy serious?

“I ite ooks.” (I write books.)



“Good for you.” (I bet he didn’t even get what I said either. Hell, I could have said, “I hate dentists. My hobby is torturing them,” and he probably would have still replied with, “Good for you.”)

My gums bleed too. I realize it’s disgusting. I realize it means I have unhealthy gums. I realize I need to floss. But, okay, truth is, I don’t want to. And apparently a lot of other people agree with me because most of my friends didn’t floss either. So I never felt that I was doing something wrong with not flossing. However, the dentist did. He’d lecture me on flossing then he’d get the floss out and make me floss while he watched me. I hate that. I hate when people stare at me when I’m doing unpleasant things.

“Wrap the floss around you finger like this…”

“Screw you dentist,” I would always think.

“Then you go down each tooth like this…”

“No really? I thought the floss was used for my ass,” I would continue to think.

I never said this out loud. I’d always nod with a fake smile on my face. Then I’d pretend to be thrilled when a new toothbrush was pressed into my hand after my appointment for a job well done. Oh boy. A new toothbrush for me. Cling, was the sound it made when I tossed it into the trash on my way out.

After I had my braces off I didn’t bother wearing the retainer. It’s why my front teeth overlap each other and why some of my bottom teeth are still crooked. When I got my braces off I was 17 I think and I couldn’t be bothered with sticking something else into my mouth. So, in turn, my teeth got slightly crooked. My parents are ticked. Still are. Whenever they see me they’ll sigh and say, “If only you had worn your retainer. You’d have such pretty teeth.”

So why am I writing about the dentist anyway? Well. One of my wisdom teeth is popping up. And it hurts. Not to the point where I can’t eat. It’s just sore back there. My husband keeps saying I need to see a dentist to get it removed but do I have to? I mean can’t it just come up and, I don’t know, be? I haven’t been to the dentist in over three years now.

I know, I know, you should go every six months. But you don’t understand how much they terrify me. You’d think after giving birth I could do anything. I mean I pushed an eight-pound human being out of me. I had my legs splayed open for all to see. You’d think going to the dentist would be an easy feat because all I’d have to do is open wide. Rather than, um, spread wide. But I’m terrified. I mean my teeth aren’t bugging me to the point where I can’t function.

I don’t want to go.

I’ll give this wisdom tooth another week. If it’s still sore back there then I’ll make an appointment.


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