My Dentists’ Office: West Shore Dental Associates, Warwick, RI
He breezed into the room, extending his hand to me, as if we were in an Orbitz commercial. You know–the one when the person smiles and bling! The whiteness of teeth dazzles. And I remember thinking: “He’s waaayyy too cheerful for me.”
He pumped my limp hand and introduced himself, and all I could think was: “This is the guy who’ll hurt me.”
He exuded happiness, and I tried to wrap my brain around the puzzling interplay: I was sitting in the execution chair in the inner chambers of my least favorite place—the dentist’s office, about to embark on a journey with a dentist I didn’t even know.
To me, he was none other than Mr. Rogers with a Jackhammer.
He was a replacement for my regular doctor, the one I’d gone to for the last several years, the one I’d learned to accept in small doses (but he was away, and I suffered a dental crisis). Years earlier, he’d helped me recover (in steps) from a traumatic dentist event, in my youth, the way therapists help agoraphobics, by bringing them first out the door of their home…then down the walkway…then into a car…and finally on the roads.
My “Awful Dentist Episode” happened when I was 8.
At one point, our family dentist determined I needed a surgical procedure he’d perform, without putting me “under,” with general anesthesia. The plan was to cut the portion of my gums that grew down over the top of my two front teeth (a common problem for many children).
My parents both accompanied me that day, a situation I found suspect from the git-go. We crowded into his little office, with my father standing behind the chair. The dentist gave me local anesthetic—a shot to the gums to numb.
Next, he directed me to “Open,” while he came at me with a knife (scalpel). I began screaming (as any child would). This prompted my father to hunker down and bear-hug me from behind, simultaneously covering my eyes, with his hands, holding me forcefully in the chair. He doubtless thought: “What she can’t see won’t hurt her,” while I thought: “They’re killing me.”
I howled, kicked, and writhed in the seat.
Finally, after a half hour of wrestling (where the adults all tried to get the small child to comply), the dentist announced that he thought it best I go to an oral surgeon, after all.
To this day, I recall the older woman (probably my age now) sitting in the waiting room who commented as we left: “My, you were a naughty little girl, making all that noise in there today…giving the dentist a hard time.”
If I were bigger, I would have ripped her apart.
That experience as a child makes me fully understand statistics that show only 20% of the public seek proactive dental procedures (they only go to “put out a fire” in their mouths.) They doubtless had my childhood dentist or one cut from the same floss.
I’m happy to report that the dental industry, today, is nothing like that of the past.
Dentists swab on a local numbing agent before they inject the Big One. They’ll numb up more, too, if one claims pain.
Regis/Kelli entertain, from a patient’s eye-level screen, while doctors engage in friendly chat with their assistants. But, they periodically check, “Colleen, are you OK?” saying, too, “We’re almost finished.” They don’t ask me stupid questions, forcing me to leap-frog gauze wadding and metal instruments in my mouth… but they don’t ignore me, either.
Now, if they’d only silence the high-pitch whirrr of that drill. However, if they killed the noise, I’d imagine where it was, how close it was to the root, and when it would hit a nerve, thus catapulting me to the ceiling.
Then, I’d be right alongside that cute plastic amphibian mobile staff hung from the ceiling, to divert patient attention……….as if that’s ever going to happen.
Biddy applauds today’s dental profession: It’s worked hard to overcome problems and poor work practices of (some) dentists of the past.
But, she also wonders: “Which camp are you in? The 20% who go regularly (every 6 months) to the dentist’s (warding off future problems), or the group that only goes “to put out the fire in their mouths?”