Monday, August 23, 2010

The Dentist, Revisited

I have been afraid of going to the dentist for as long as I can remember. Maybe it has to do with my first experience with a dentist, which occurred when I was around six years old. It was not a good experience, and left me with nightmares for years to come. I had to have a tooth pulled, a back molar which had decayed, and the dentist, perhaps using common psychology of the time, frightened me, on purpose. He convinced me that all my teeth would fall out if I didn't brush them better. I remember him showing me pictures of toothless children who (he said) didn't brush their teeth. I don't remember actually getting my tooth pulled out (they must have put me under general anesthesia), but I do remember the dentist as a scary old man waving giant pliers in front of my face, just waiting to pull out all my rotten teeth.

How things have changed.

I am not a novice dentist patient by any means. I have had subsequent cavities (before most water was flouridated) that have been filled with mercury, half a dozen crowns, and several root canals, the crowns and root canals done in my later years. The young people of today probably don't even have cavities, never mind the subsequent crowns and root canals. They just get their teeth straightened and whitened and off they go on their merry, smiling way. Not so for the older generation.

Five years ago, I needed a crown to replace one of my ancient mercury filled teeth. This summer, that crown broke, while I was in Europe (naturally) and despite my efforts to save it to be "glued" back on, it was taken by the pickpockets who emptied the contents of my purse in a crowded Paris subway station.

But, hey, no worries, this is 2010.

My dentist can re-create the missing part of my tooth, thanks to some high tech photos he took of the remaining tooth, with an instrument about the size of an ordinary toothbrush, and with the help of some holographic technology, courtesy of 21st century software. And, he can do all of this painlessly in one visit. Did I say PAINLESSLY? This is a serious change from the painful, terrifying memories of my youth.

Just hearing the dentist drill used to make me wince. And sitting in the dentist chair, I would get white knuckles from holding onto the arm rests for dear life as soon as the dentist entered the room. But guess what? No more. No more wincing. No more white knuckles.

As for the nightmares - I still have them, occasionally. That ancient fear is buried deep in my psyche. But, you know what? Two out of three isn't bad.

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