Disclaimer: This is not a dental rant… or maybe it is.
It could just be a groan.
I’ve been familiar with dental chairs since I was six and my front baby teeth refused to give up the ghost and fall out the way they should. Apparently, (to my mother, if not me,) my permanent teeth were starting to grow in behind my baby teeth. She became concerned, and off to the practitioner we went.
I went, free from preconceived notions or fears. Unlike my doctor who had to chase me around the room and hold me on the table to give me my immunizations, and my father, who promised me two silver dollars if I held still, I thought the dentist was my pain free friend. I remember sitting in the very big chair, and the dentist saying, ‘I just need to take some xrays.’
After throwing a heavy, lead lined jacket onto my body, and shoving cardboard wings into my mouth, he and my mother left the room. All I heard was a pinging noise. He returned to pull the saliva soaked invaders from my mouth and went into another room.
‘Long roots,’ he said, coming back a few minutes later. ‘She has long roots. That’s why the baby teeth haven’t fallen out. They’re loose but they need some help.’
I didn’t know if that was bad or good.
I looked at my mother who smiled benevolently at the good dentist.
‘I can get them out today if you like’, he said to her, his smile wide and amiable.
Even then, I thought he was flirting.
My mother was a tall, slim, dark haired beauty, and she didn’t mind the attention of men.
In retrospect, those baby teeth symbolically represented a portion of my personality, the one called, ‘I’m not letting go. I’ll hang in there until I’m forced to make a decision.’
These days, I call it the ‘Rottweiler Effect,’ something my family and a few friends have witnessed with shock and awe.
Twenty minutes later, without anesthetic, my front two top and bottom teeth were in a plastic cup for me to take home for the tooth fairy.
My consolation prize?
A lollipop. How incongruous is that?
In my day, dentists actually gave out sugar filled suckers to their patients. I got to pick out my favorite colour. No doubt a ploy to bring in future business.
Since that visit, I have spent more hours than I care to count in dentists’ chairs. Fillings, cleanings, bridges, caps, abscesses, periodontal treatments, special toothbrushes,whitening, inter-dental cleaners, you name it. I have done most of it, and in many different countries.
Today I went in for my six monthly hygienist treatment, and something was wrong with the gum around my back crown.
Let it be known I have had that bridge for 40 years, a testimony to the dental craftsmanship in my…well, let’s say earlier life, and I plan to die with that gold bridge in my mouth if at all possible.
The hygienist spoke to the periodontist who said, ‘call in the dentist, she’s his patient.’
I like my present dentist a lot. He is on the cutting edge of dental care, but I LOVED my former dentist who was not only a fellow traveler in third world health, but someone who became a friend and a professional provider. His wife, the hygienist, used to rip my gums out and pour water down my back while telling me all the family gossip.
My former dentist was willing to take chances with my teeth that more conservative dentists who had never practised third world dentistry would take. He and I were fearless.
As a result, I still have the bridges and the teeth I showed up in his chair with.
He called it ‘heroic measures.’ I’ve seen his heroic measures while working with him in Africa, and let me say now, he is the hero.
Anyhow, what started out as a routine hygiene appointment ended up with a consultation involving most of the staff.
It was decided I needed some gum surgery to see what the haps are in my lower back molar. I was advised of the possibilities, the cost, and given a free (not after I settled the bill) a set of inter dental flossing devices.
I was shown, on a pair of plastic gnashers, where the issue is.
I was x-rayed.
My dentist checked the strength of my teeth.
‘All good,’ he said.
‘Hmm,’ the hygienist said, ‘Something’s going on there.’
I have an appointment next week to surgically explore what’s going on at the tips of my ‘long roots.’
All this to say, I still plan to die with this 40 year old bridge in my mouth, so no one, and I mean no one will take it off me.