Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dental History

It is occasionally startling to realize that I lived my childhood in an era that is now considered historical fiction material.

Last week I went to the dentist.

Those two sentences seem to have no connection, but in reality there's a nasty thread that weaves them together.

I grew up going to a dentist who didn't believe in using Novocaine. I didn't know modern dentistry existed until I was in high school, where I heard stories of friends who talked of shots in their mouth. After years of gripping the arm rests of the dental chair while the metal bit ground into my teeth, I could only imagine shots in the mouth as some sort of terrible icing on the cake of torture.

When I was about 18, I revolted (maybe bolted would be more accurate) from the family dentist and tried a modern guy. My days of sick anxiety the night before an appointment didn't go away immediately, but eventually I learned to stop gripping and relax.

My dad told me last week that when he grew up, dentists believed you couldn't use Novocaine unless you were going to pull a tooth. He grew up gripping the chair, too. Once when the dentist wouldn't let him spit out the water in his mouth, he coughed it up into the man's face. I laughed. His mom didn't. She nearly wore him out!

So I guess my childhood dentist was a throwback to those earlier days. As a result, I'll probably never "enjoy" getting my teeth cleaned, like my very sweet dental hygienist friend, but at least I'm not living in ancient history any more.

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