Nightmare on Dentist Street
I have been afraid of the dentist since I was a child and it's only gotten worse over the years. The disinfectant smell of the office and the beige basin where you were supposed to spit would put me into an immediate state of nausea and fear. The truth? I was terrified of sitting in a chair where a person was going to come at my mouth with instruments of torture in his hand. The noise, the drill, the vibration, it was like a scene from a horror movie. Speaking of, I saw 'Marathon Man' when I was too young to know better and it left an indelible mark on my psyche regarding espionage and teeth. I still don't know how I sneaked in to the movie theatre with my best friend Betsy without adult supervision.
I was fortunate to have inherited my father's choppers; he had maybe two cavities filled throughout his life. My sister was not so lucky and had to get braces when we were growing up. That orthodontist saw me and said I needed braces as well. This gave my parents pause and a second orthodontist determined I absolutely did NOT need braces because my teeth were in fine condition. Dad would only go to the dentist once every five years and because of my dread, I decided to follow suit. Marriage and Colombia happened before I went to see a dentist in Bogota. He took one look at my mouth and said I was in trouble. He replaced the mercury fillings i had with safer materials. He was kind and patient with me until I stopped squirming in the chair. To save me money, he did some less extensive work on three lower teeth. In the end, it looked like a hatchet job but he assured me it would be safer.
"Marathon Man left an indelible mark on my psyche regarding espionage and teeth."
Is It Safe?
I moved to Miami;10 years went by. Once, while having coffee with a friend, I casually asked how often she went to the dentist."Every six months, of course! Don't you?"
"Oh yeah, around that." Around that, my ass. It was 2012 and I could no longer keep myself in denial. Time for a cleanup. A dentist's office In Sunny Isles, Florida was offering a $49.00 teeth cleaning and x-ray special. In the chair I was informed that I had a cavity and it would cost $600.00. The dentist looked at me quite sternly after I told him how much time had passed between dentist visits. After an hour and a half of work and not enough novocaine, i was left with a huge sensitivity to hot AND cold in that cuspid. Some days I had to drink on the other side of my mouth. When they sent me a 6 month renewal text reminder for a teeth cleaning, I blocked them. The terror was back.
Even after moving to Los Angeles, I was still talking myself out of dental visits. In 2021, I felt it was time. I was referred to a 'biologic' dentist who sat with me for two and a half hours, explaining what food and minerals are good for the teeth. He gently told me there was one filling that would need to be replaced. He explained everything before touching my mouth. I was grateful there was no sensitivity afterwards. When my six month renewal came up, his office wrote that they were no longer accepting insurance and I would have to pay up front.
In desperation I asked a friend, "Where can I find a good dentist who doesn't charge an arm and a leg?"
"I have the perfect one for you," she answered without hesitation." I've been going to him for over 20 years and I've told him he can't ever retire. He's very kind and professional." I made and canceled the appointment twice. I was terrified but I knew I needed that botched job fixed. When I arrived at the office, a dog greeted me. This was definitely different.
"She's gorgeous. Can I pet her? Is it safe? " I asked the receptionist.
She smiled."You can pick her up if you want." I held her like a baby. She smelled like a comfortable blanket, her coat was soft and warm. A calm pair of brown eyes looked back at me, as if to say, "we'll get through this together, don't worry."
"I see you've met Gracie," Dr. Alan said, greeting me.
"Is it ok if I bring her into the room with me?"
"That's what she's here for. Gracie is our therapy dog."
After examining my teeth, he assured me the problem was fixable but it needed to be done soon and I would also need a teeth cleaning, of course. Gracie and I moved to the hygienist's office and I was transported to another place while she poked and drilled me. I didn't care; I had a 12 pound gift of love on my lap. Three weeks later, I hardly felt anything when the doctor drilled and replaced the botched job. Just like that, the terror of being in a dentist's chair abated. On a scale of 1 to 10, the anxiety level had plunged from an 8 to about a 3.
I got the bill a few weeks ago. It was very reasonable. Instead of sending it by mail or over the phone, I went directly to the dentist's office. You can never have enough Gracie love.