04 November 2009


"If suffering brought wisdom,
the dentist’s office would be full of luminous ideas."
~Mason Cooley
{Photo credit: "Say AHHH!" RedChelli76}

Why is it that when I go to the dentist I feel completely inadequate?

I mean...I brush and floss {okay, not as much as I should, but I do} and I use special toothpastes and rinses and vibrating brushes...but every single time I go to get my teeth cleaned I feel that I have the worst looking mouth on the planet. And just about every single time I go I have a new cavity.

Perhaps the enamel on my teeth is exceedingly thin.

Perhaps some over the counter medication I took made the surface of my teeth filled with microscopic holes in which all the bad things get in and can't get out.

Perhaps I overestimate my brushing, flossing and rinsing commitment {that may have some truth}.

Perhaps my teeth are exceedingly large and my jaw is exceedingly small {that definitely has truth since I had to have many teeth pulled just to make room for them to all play nice when I had my braces...and they still pushed back and aren't 100% straight much to the chagrin of my parents}.

I hate going to the dentist.
I hate the smell that greets me when I open the office door.
I hate the sounds of drills and suction tubes.
I hate trying to keep my dignity while drooling on myself while wearing a paper bib.
I hate it when they strike up a conversation with you that requires more than just a head nod when I have all sorts of appendages and tubes and hands stuck in my mouth.
Don't get me wrong...I know that it is a necessary thing to being healthy {necessary evil, maybe}. My dentist is a very nice man and my hygienist is sweet. I hate the entire experience nonetheless. If they didn't keep hounding me every six months and call me every week to set up that appointment {that I am adept at dodging since I have caller ID}, and if they didn't just keep persisting by setting up the appointment for me and then sending a remider postcard and phone call, I know I wouldn't go. But I have to be a good role model for my children, right?

When I moved to the area I am now back when I was 9 I had been going to a dentist in another state that gave me laughing gas practically from the moment I walked in the door. My mother never questioned why I never seemed bothered by the visits as other kids undoubtedly were. I can recall the feeling of weightlessness and floating around the room. I actually liked it. {Perhaps they were giving me way more gas than was appropriate for one so young, or the gas is a different kind, because I have never felt that "high" since. Ah...the good old days.}

My uncle was a local dentist in our new town. He was someone I only saw once or twice a year at a family function and was married to my father's sister. So when we moved here, it was obvious that we would be going to him. On my first trip in it was apparent that I had cavities. Lots of them. What wasn't apparent to my mother was what all the screaming coming from the exam room was all about.

My uncle did not believe in laughing gas. In fact, I came to learn that he didn't believe in novocaine either {my mother continued to go see him and never had any anesthesia when she had procedures done, perhaps to make up for my transgressions}.

And here he was coming for my mouth with a drill in his hand.

After a few minutes of wrangling and swearing {under his breath} on his part and dodging and crying {quite boisterously I might add} on my part, he thrust me back out into the waiting room, shoved me toward my mother and loudly professed to all in that room that I was not welcome back there. Ever.

Not that I blame him. But I was not interested in coming back their either, whether they had the latest Highlights issue or not.
So we shopped for other dentists in town before we found my dentist {who incidentally did believe in laughing gas...and novocaine...and letting you listen to headphones with your favorite music turned up loud enough to drown out the sounds of the drill}. And I have been there ever since.

When it came time to choose a dentist for my own children we gave them the choice: go to Dad's dentist or Mom's dentist. Thankfully, they chose the former {because that meant that Dad had the duty to get them there and make the appointments since the relationship was established through him. Brilliant "unwritten" rule.}

And that also meant that I didn't have to be the brave little soldier with my own dental adventures. I just have to be the one to harp on brushing and {ahem} flossing practices.

So I have to go back to have a filling drilled under an existing filling {for the record, this has been happening to me in the last two years... loads of fun to have one old filling cleared out and more drilling and then restructured new filling}. I am sure that my dentist sees me as a renewable resource for him. Which is probably why they have become so efficient in being sure that I set up that next 6 month appointment.

Perhaps they will not be able to find me when I move across town to my new home soon. {Drats. I recall that I told them my new address.}

What areas of your life do you feel that constant nag of inadequacy?
How do you overcome or compensate for those feelings?
Are they real or imagined inadequacies?

Do tell!


I have to apologize for the "radio silence" of late. Last Friday when the heavy winds made the power flicker, my computer chose that moment to fizzle out. Now I am faced with the "blue screen of death" that won't go away {my computer "guru" says that is not a good sign} and I am not sure when {or if} the machine will be repaired {perhaps there is a new laptop in my future after all}.

I never realized before how essential my computer is to my daily life. There is a big hole where it used to be {literally and figuratively} and I miss it. It also means that it might take me longer to respond to emails, post to my blog, upload photos of all the new jewelry design I have done {including, but not limited to, designs for publications I had hoped to be submitting, Heather Powers' awesome Fun With Focals challenge, Art Bead Scene for October and November and a project that shall remain shrouded in mystery until I can make a big reveal...}
So if you are trying to contact me...keep trying...I can check the email and blog here and there. And I hope to be back at it again soon!

Check It Out::Serendipity Smiles
Because we can all use a little bit of that!


Some tortures are physical
And some are mental,
But the one that is both
Is dental.
~Ogden Nash

Enjoy the day!


susanc said...

I, too feel completely inadequate when I go to the dentist. I had to have a couple of back molars pulled with only novacaine - that was fun. Not. I was watching one the "reality" shows on Bravo over the weekend and one of the guys went to his dentist to have a root canal finished. The dentist actually gave him IV Demerol - can you imagine? For a root canal? I've never had anything stronger than shots of novocaine for any dental procedure I've had done.

Silver Parrot said...

Oh, I am so sorry to hear of your pain - both the dental and technological kind! I had the same issues when younger of always getting cavities no matter how well I brushed (and yet, my brother, who I don't think even knew where his toothbrush was kept, would come out with a perfect report every time) and having teeth pulled to make room in my mouth (twice!) and the braces and then teeth moving after they braces came off so they are still not straight and...well, there's a reason I have SEVERE dentist-phobia to this day. I give you major props for still going...even if you hate it.

Joann Loos said...

I completely understand your fear about dentists. I didn't go to see one for 20 years, I hated them so much. I finally found one that doesn't hurt (except when putting the novacaine in, and then only a little). Fortunately, I didn't have many new cavities, but we ended up replacing all my silver fillings with resin ones.

I hope you find one that works even better for you!

Barbara Lewis said...

OMG, I just got back from the dentist. He put in a permanent crown today. He charged me $1500 when he made the temporary and today he filled three cavities plus fitted me with a bite plane ($1000). In December I get an implant ($1500) and then a crown three months later ($1500). The area where I'm getting the implant, I call it the $8000 hole because, before the tooth was finally pulled out, I had had 2 crowns and 2 root canals, plus now having the implant and crown (of course, this was over a 20 year period, but still).

Anyway, I know what you mean about dentists, but I'm fortunate that the dentist and dental hygienist respect the fact that I can't get involved in the conversation when they're working on my mouth so they don't talk during the procedure. The hygienist told me that today. By the time I left my nose was so numb I told that dentist that he could just go ahead and give a nose job while he was at it. But I don't think anyone likes going to the dentist ... poor guy (or gal!) Love the post ... it is so appropriate to my life!

Kristen said...

I would have thought that I wrote this post myself! I don't think I would have changed one word (with the exception of the Uncle experience)! I am actually once again displeased with my dentist and on the hunt for another one. Can't stand my kids dentist either and I'm tired of paying an arm and a leg for dental work. The practice I go to recently changed hands and is now owned by one woman. Her fees increased to three times what I was paying before, and the last time I was there she had all these new computers in every room and a whole bunch of new high tech stuff. Nope...time to get out of there and look for a new dentist. But I'll keep going if you do! :)

Sharon said...

Oh yes, the Highlights magazine...brings back memories of the kind I will not discuss. The horror, the horror...

Lisa Crone said...

Oh my gosh, your writing is so clear, concise and so perfectly horrifying!! I had to forward this to my sister in law who was having her visit today, updating fillings and all! It is such a bummer!! All you can do is be proud of yourself for taking care of business for your health and setting a good example for others :) while you swear under YOUR breath as you make your next appointment!

SummersStudio said...

Oh, I hate going to the dentist. I have childhood trauma as well that seems silly but is very deep seated. I have been 'evicted', I have bitten, I have been 'bad.'But a good dentist that understands the all too often deep seated fear of his patients is worth his weight in gold. I just wish I could find one again!

stregata said...

The dentist - horror! I will never understand dentists that believe you can stick it out, there is no real pain involved. Everyone has a different pain threshold...

Alice said...

I don't feel inadequate when I go to the dentist, I feel terror! I had a horrible experience when I was a child (me a young small-town girl sent to the dentist on my own. Dentist an old man (quack) trying to pull a wayward tooth because he couldn't get it in line via a homemade brace. Old man dentist with his knee on my chest trying to pull said tooth. Tooth not budging, gums bleading, me crying, no mother there to comfort me). Because of this horrible experience, when I became an adult I made the adult decision NOT to EVER visit a dentist. But things got pretty bad in my mouth, forcing me to go. This new dentist was great, but I still had a ton of painful work done, which never seems to end (I did notice my dentist purchasing a nice new house--and I didn't even receive a thank you note). To this day I shiver when I hear any sound that remotely sounds like a denit's drill. Heck even 'elevator music' gives me goosebumps since that's what old man quack dentist played in his office.

I, too, have a small mouth, and to make it worse I have the most horrible tendancy to gag. I have the best-working gag reflex in the world. So add in embarassment to the mix and you have a horrible, no good, very bad day at the dentist.

Just the other day my dentist suggested using soft kids toothbrushes to get to the parts that are difficult to reach. Works wonders. Also, using a soft brush doesn't destroy the enamel, and the soft bristles reach more places.

As for inadequacies in my life--well it's best not to go there. Too many (both real and imagined).

mairedodd said...

boy did you hit a universal nerve there! :0)
great post... i however feel inadequate when it comes to dealing with lawyers and courts... i went thru a very bad divorce many years of being battled re: the kids... when bold-faced lies are told in court, to lawyers, to everyone and anyone that will listen, insecurities and deep self-doubt prevails... it has been a long battle with myself... just trying to know that i mind my own business and am doing the best i can... that i never wanted to make my kids lives harder with my decision... there are both real and imagined...

Michelle said...

Thank you for the post. I don't have dentist phobias, but know many who do. I have been blessed...but it is time to go again...it's been over 5 years! I used to love my old dentist in HI...he had a small sign in the waiting room...."We cater to cowards!" A sense of humor and gentle hands!

Look forward to the new "stuff" you will be posting.

Doreen said...

I hate going to the dentist and I'm a dental hygienist!

Susan Marling said...

Oh, I am so with you - the dentist is my worst nightmare(and he's a really nice,funny guy and my best friend is his office mgr)- just getting my teeth cleaned is a HUGE ordeal. He wants to replace my old fillings with new no lead ones or whatever the new ones are. I keep asking him if he thinks I am crazy - why would I put myself through that. I would rather do anything else but that.

lunedreams said...

I too hate going to the dentist. So I rarely do. Fortunately I have lots of spit so I rarely have cavities--that seems to be key. Lots and lots of saliva. (At my last visit, the dentist nearly went hoarse calling out for "Suction!!") Maybe you're just not a drooler--it's not your fault! I would trade 10 encounters with a speculum over one trip to the dentist. And 10 colonoscopies. You're not alone--it's a primal, visceral thing.

lunedreams said...

p.s. i feel inadequate at parties or any other large, unstructured social gathering. feel like a total dork, i suck at small talk, i am frozen with panic and i go hide somewhere until i feel i can leave without being rude. i don't even like hosting a party. hide in the kitchen.

Joann Loos said...

quiltingjewel39, your dentist is concerned about the mercury in your silver amalgam fillings. I had all mine removed and replaced with resin and gold. I showed signs of mercury toxicity tho.

My consultant recommends that unless you are symptomatic to only replace the amalgam fillings as they need to be replaced normally. Most fillings only last 10-20 years.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me!

Jenners said...

I have to say, I don't have a problem with the dentist -- probably because I seem to have inherited my grandmother's excellent teeth -- I've never had a cavity yet. And she is 94 and still has all her original teeth. So I don't quite share your hatred or dread of the dentist, but I think it is awful for a dentist to not give patients as much comfort as they can!!!! Yikes! I hope it didn't ruin your relationship with your uncle.

But, I still manage to feel guilty whenever I go because no way do I floss near enough (or at all unless I eat popcorn). They do lay on the guilt. I tend to feel inadequate when around mothers that are very well put together (make-up, nice clothes). I wonder how they do it.

Lance said...

Hi Erin,
Well...I have to share my own dental experience (it's much different!). I actually like going to the dentist. We get fresh warm cookies when we leave (perhaps to promote future earnings for the dentist??). And it used to be even better - on Monday's he used to have a massage therapist come in - to give free chair massages (I always went on Monday's!). Sadly that part has ended. My kids, though, for some reason don't like the dentist at all (and they still get the cookies too!). Oh...and I've been avoiding scheduling an appt to get a cavity replaced (hey, I'm completely with you on that one!!!).

And good luck with the computer issues (or the new laptop as the case may be!)...

Leslie @ Bei Mondi said...

Sweetie, you've been scarred. I can't say that anyone would blame you for staying away from the dentist after the ordeal with your uncle. How mortifying! And everyone's mouths are different. I don't take care of my teeth the way that I should and never had a cavity until I was 30. But now things are catching up with me.

So sorry about the screen of death but doesn't seem like you can get so much more done when the computer isn't available. I have to limit myself on how much I use the computer each day otherwise I'll get sucked in and stay on it all day.


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