Just the thought of having a dental procedure conjures vivid images of sweaty fingers plucking at damp, shredded Kleenex and jaws wrenched open in a hideous rictus of terror. The sight of shiny, sterilized (I feverishly hope!) metal instruments, lined up with a watchmaker’s precision on a tray instantly evokes a sheen of perspiration on my forehead.
The tools that inspire dread? The Carbide Ball Burr. The Diamond Bud Burr. The Cylinder Reamer. The fact that modern dental care is virtually painless does not lessen my panic when I ponder the fine dust of tooth enamel — floating on the air rising from my open mouth — created by one of those gleaming tools rotating at the speed of light. [Insert prolonged, full-body shudder here.] Even the seemingly innocent routine dental cleaning entails a fascinatingly slender, curved stainless steel probe called The Explorer.
My dread of all things dental began with my first filling: I was around 7 or 8 years old and my left eye-tooth had a cavity. I protested, to put it mildly, when the dentist drilled into my tooth without benefit of Novocaine. He said to me, “Don’t be such a baby!” The dentist I saw during my teen years pulled my mother aside at one point and suggested to her that I was obsessed with my teeth. (Duh.) This, after having performed an “occlusal adjustment,” again, without the benefit of Novocaine, on my sensitive teeth. (Google “occlusal adjustment” and see if you don’t cringe!)
Fast forward through a menu of various dental nachtmares to this morning — the first fillings with my new dentist. The fact that she bears a remarkable resemblance to the actress Holly Hunter was an effective distraction. That, and a massive overdose of Bach’s Rescue Remedy lulled me into a compliant state. I clutched a handful of Kleenex, squeezed shut my eyes and she began. She was finished injecting Novocaine before I even knew she was doing it! The Tooth Fairy favored me throughout the procedure and I practically sailed through the drilling and filling.
I won’t say my appointment was entirely without discomfort. But I have been through much worse with far less-attractive dentists.