Thanks to fellow blogger Jerry whose recent post reawakened one of my deepest fears and dredging up the following memory.
Few things used to strike fear into the darkest depths of my soul than a trip to the dentist. I confess that I have fainted only twice in my life, both times I was in a dentist chair.
The first time was when I was a kid. I was trying to be a brave little boy; to psych myself through the ordeal I recall I was imagining myself as an astronaut. Brave and confident, the countdown commenced when the doctor walked into the room. But soon the g-forces caused me to pass out. I woke up tilted backward in the dental chair, my feet above my head.
The second experience was as a married adult. I needed a single wisdom tooth pulled. Even though I knew my insurance wouldn’t pay for it, I requested (demanded) general anesthetic which I was more than eager to spring for. As they started a drip IV in my arm, I recall the translucent window across from me began to blur then undulate, then...
The next thing I noticed was the dentist's assistant patting my hand saying, “Robert…Robert… wake up”! With a great sigh of relief I said, “Great, I’m soooo glad that’s over with”. “No, I’m afraid we haven’t even started yet… you just fainted”, She said.
So in some great leap of contradiction, during junior college, I found myself taking the college entrance examinations at the University of California Dental School. How I got there is a long story in itself involving an overbearing mother and a dearth of self identity… best saved for another post. Suffice it to say; there I was, supposedly poised on my first step to becoming a dentist. I certainly had the manual dexterity skills, I was very adept at making things. But beyond that, I had absolutely no business whatsoever even considering a career doing to people that which I was in mortal terror of having done to me.
The examinations took all day. I had brought a lunch, so after the first half of the exams I retreated to my car to eat. As I munched my bologna sandwich, I contemplated the absurdity of path I was supposedly going – I finished my sandwich then started the car and drove home without completing the remaining half of the exams. When my mother asked how my dental school application was going I told her I wasn’t accepted because they were “full”.
Now I am sure, at this point, you have questions so I will preemptively address your concerns: Yes, I do regularly go to the dentist every six months. I have adopted this behavior pattern, not from any admirable sense of self-discipline, but rather out of fear, as a survival mechanism – my rationale’ being that if I go in for regular maintenance, I will less likely be facing the specter of major “repairs” in the future.
Alas, my best efforts not withstanding, my dentist has occasionally found the need to repair one of my old fillings or build a crown. I routinely remind him that my tooth nerves are so sensitive that they can actually detect his presence when he walks into the room. I therefore request sufficient Novocain injections that cause me to limp when I walk out of the office.
My dentist really is great; I love the guy. Unfortunately he doesn’t do Nitrous Oxide so I’ve never had the experience. I know there are dentists in town who do use the gas, but I can’t bear to hurt my dentist’s feelings by taking my sissy teeth somewhere else. Really, he has never hurt me and that holds a lot of significance for me.
Still, having taken up skydiving in my mid 40’s, when asked which I would prefer, jumping out of an airplane at 10,000 feet or going to the dentist… yup, the skydive every time!
A few years back my cousin’s husband (a dentist) stayed with me while he was taking some dental school continuing education requirements at Oregon Health Sciences Dental School in Portland. One evening he and I went to the Laundromat to do our clothes. He was studying one of his textbooks for an upcoming test while I was reading a magazine. Being the curious and scientific sort that I am, as we sat together on the clothes folding table, I asked him what specifically he was studying.
“Extractions”, he said. And he proceeded to explain how sometimes during an extraction, the root breaks off and you have to chip away the jaw to dig it out. “Here, let me show you.” Then he raised the book up, turning the open page toward me so I could see the photographs accompanying the explanation.
“Interesting”, I replied… Then the room started to slowly undulate; I closed my eyes and lay back down on the table. “Really really interesting...”, I mumbled.