There have been many times in my life where I’ve had to gather up my courage and do things I did not want to do. My hesitance was sometimes based on my fear of the thing (changing an electrical receptacle in my bathroom wall with no defibrillator on hand and no one else in the house to operate said defibrillator in the event my DIY project went horribly awry). Some were occasions where I had to muster up the courage and do what I knew was the “right thing,” even though I wanted to do the exact opposite “wrong-but-easy thing” (tear up and mail back the shreds of a $7,000 “guilt” check from an ex-boyfriend to help pay off my credit cards after he broke up with me and married his ex-girlfriend mere months later … still can’t believe I did that).
One of these fear-based occasions is going to the dentist. If we are the sum of our experiences, then I justifiably have an absolute excuse as to why I think the dentist is pure fucking evil in physical form. My childhood dentist was either The Devil Incarnate or a Nazi war criminal hiding out in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I am not equating my little traumatic (and overly dramatic) trips to the dentist to being a prisoner in a concentration camp and I mean no disrespect; however, when I was a child, I had a strong, palpable fear of my dentist. He scared the shit out of me. I would have tummy troubles on the morning of the appointment, I would be nauseous, and upon setting foot on that most unholy ground of his office, my feet and palms would begin to sweat and my heart race like a rabbit’s. I would brush my teeth that morning like I had no other morning. I know now that was not going to remedy or mitigate any cavity that already had established its foothold in the enamel of my teeth, but I sure gave it one hell of a try. I remember most of my appointments being in the morning, but on the rare occasion that my mother would absentmindedly book that afternoon appointment and pick me up from school, I made sure she brought my toothbrush so I could scrub away in the waiting room restroom. When they finally called my name after what seemed like everlasting eternity, I had to force my legs to make the walk to the door of the waiting room that led back to the Chamber of Torture. I would always look back at my mother for some reassurance who more times than not had her head already buried in the February edition of a Family Circle. We were probably well into May. Their office didn’t even keep their waiting room reading material current … because they didn’t care. They had your child. What was a parent going to do? Complain about the reading material only to have your child come whimpering from the back, the tracks of tears born from agony dried on an angelic face, sporting the latest in head gear torture. Once behind the door, I was at the mercy of my non-merciful dentist and his malevolent minions cleverly disguised as “dental assistants.” Yeah, I had their number. They didn’t fool me for one bit. I knew exactly who they were and what they wanted to do to me. It reminds me of the movie The Devil’s Advocate when Charlize Theron’s character catches a glimpse of the other wives’ true evil faces. I caught a glimpse every now and then. They thought I didn’t see. They were not nice, but they were deceptively soothing. Their voices calm and hushed lulling you into false sense of security. Everything was going to be all right … until they got you in that contraption they called The Chair. “Go ahead, baby, hop on up,” as they invitingly patted The Chair. So innocent. It is not a chair; it is a torture table with instruments of pain dangling from the ceiling for easy access of The Devil Incarnate. Heaven forbid The Devil Incarnate was inconvenienced and had to reach for an instrument of pain. He wore glasses and I could see my gaping maw in the reflection of his glasses. It also allowed me to see every instrument that was poking around the delicate buccal tissue that was my mouth. These are sights a child should not have to see. Children are too impressionable. I felt overly vulnerable at that tender young age sitting in that chair with my mouth held open by yet another device. Did anyone else experience the ratcheted contraption put between your top and bottom teeth that held your mouth open? Or was that just my own private hell? Cruel. Cruel and tortuous rituals performed on innocent children (with cavities).
I’ll spare us all the gory details I have stashed away in the dark recess of my mind of the pain and humiliation I endured. Going on about it does no good. I will say that as a result of these memories, when I broke my tooth the other day, it took every ounce of courage I had to make the call to the dentist and even more courage to actually make myself go to the dentist … like drive myself … all by myself. But I did it … like a full-on grownup and everything. I go back on Thursday, so in less than 48 hours, I will have sat in The Chair in The Chamber of Torture and had The Devil Incarnate wield his gnarly instruments of woe upon me.
Fortunately, since my childhood I have had some orthodontic work and some oral surgery performed by compassionate, gentle people who have somewhat redeemed my faith in the dental profession. It doesn’t wipe away the horror that was my childhood dental experience, and trust me, I am not looking forward to Thursday when I will voluntarily allow them to file away at my tooth. Shouldn’t modern-day dentistry be more advanced than medieval drills by now? I mean, they might as well just put a leech in my mouth … or maybe try a little oral bloodletting. They can ultrasound kidney stones, radiate cancer and microscopically perform ACL surgery, but still must use an antiquated drill in your mouth! Quelle dommage! But I will go knowing that I am taking care of myself even if it entails a little pain that I, now as a courageous adult and brave big girl, will proudly suffer, saying confidently to the frightened child and scared little girl in me, “Um, it’s really no big deal. Just make fucking sure you get a pain pill script!!!!!”